Before the Arabo-Muslim conquest of 698, the Jews lived peacefully in North Africa with the other inhabitants of the region, except for a few brief periods of Roman and Byzantine rules. Under Islam, life was at times so good that some of the most important religious works since Babylon were written by North African Jewish scholars. Often, however, the Jews suffered because of the dhimmi status that the Muslims imposed upon them and through which they were discriminated against and even persecuted. Consequently, they welcomed the French colonization of their country from 1830 to 1962. Their enthusiastic adoption of everything French - among which the rejection of religion - came with a high price: the almost total loss of their Jewish identity, which caused them to feel so alienated in their native land that when the French left, so did they, mostly for Israel but also for other countries.
Sarah Taieb-Carlen was born in Tunisia and studied at the Sorbonne, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of Toronto, and York University, where she is presently teaching. She has lectured extensively and written numerous articles and book chapters on topics such as Jews in Muslim lands, Sephardi Judaism, identity maintenance, and survival of small minority groups.