Islamism in France: Situation Analysis, Consequences and Strategy Options

The Islamist terrorist attacks in France over the last years have moved Islamism and its impact on French society to the heart of public discussion. With the rise of ISIS in 2014 and numerous French foreign fighters joining the terrorist militia as well as alarming developments endangering social cohesion, the threat of radical Islamists has become apparent.

Coupled with the notorious 2015 attacks against the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and later at the Bataclan concert hall, being with 137 casualties the deadliest attack on French soil since World War II, the situation of Muslims in France has become much more complicated. The situation in France is indicative of a wider European development and underlines the importance of states to come up with viable ways to responding to radical Islamist threats.

This study constitutes an attempt at systematically analyzing the phenomenon of Islamism in France and follows a three-step approach in this endeavor. Initially, Mathew Guidère provides a situational analysis of the current state of affairs in France. Serge Sur subsequently examines the consequences of current developments. In the end, Yves Boyer outlines the strategy options of the French state.


About the authors

Yves Boyer is Professor at the Ecole polytechnique, the most prestigious French Grande école, where he teaches international security affairs. He graduated from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris and has a doctorate in Political Science from Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne University. He was formerly a Senior Researcher at the French Institute for International Affairs (IFRI), and is currently Deputy Director of the Paris-based Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique (FRS) which interacts closely with various branches of the French MoD.

Mathieu Guidere is a full professor at the University of Paris 8 (since 2016). A scholar of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies as it applies to radicalization and terrorism, he has held other professorships at such prestigious institutions including the University of Geneva, Switzerland (2007 to 2011) and the Ecole Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, France (2003–2007). Guidere is co-founder of the Radicalization Watch Project based in Washington, D.C. and has been awarded a Fulbright Prize in 2006 to advance his research on the psychology of terrorism.

Serge Sur is professor emeritus at Panthéon-Assas University. He was Deputy Director of the UNIDIR, Geneva (1986-1996) and ad hoc Judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague (2009-2012). He is the founder and was Director (1999-2012) of the Thucydides Center-Analysis and Research in International Relations, and Director (2000-2020) of the French Yearbook of International Relations (AFRI). In 2008, he received the Edouard Bonnefous Award from the French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, Institut de France.


Islamism in France: Situation Analysis, Consequences and Strategy Options