The issue of French-Muslim violence has increased to dangerous levels in correlation with the escalating immigrant population, evidenced first the 2015 Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack. Ultimately, people have become more suspicious, if not afraid, of what Muslim immigrants could do in France. This has forced major political parties to adopt a sharper take on not only how to solve the problem of immigration, but also of its present Muslim population.
Indeed, France has come to a point where its present Muslim population is clearly becoming a more prominent ethnicity and culture: According to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies’ figures, the birth rate in French-Muslim women exceeds the one of any other French women. Those children often grow up with a more conservative and religious education (excluding pork from their diets, young girls covering their heads, legs and arms), which creates a power struggle between the culture of their parents and that of their schoolmates as they grow up. As a result, the French-Muslim population is often marginalized in ghettos and does not fit in due to a lack of means, education and cultural integrity. I feel that one main source of conflict is the problem of “laicite” which “prohibits the display of conspicuous religious symbols in public places”. This principle was largely ignored, however, to the extent that in 2004 the French parliament adopted a law prohibiting female students from wearing headscarves in public schools and another in 2010 that prohibits women from wearing face-covering veils in public places. Therefore, we already see a confrontational attitude from immigrants who do not want to compromise.
Apart from the cultural clash, there is also a discrepancy in higher education and employment opportunities between French-Muslims and non-immigrants as a result of their unwillingness follow the laicite law. For example, according to the Huffington Post, “the levels of academic performance of the children of immigrants are below those of other French schoolchildren. Ethnic minorities also suffer from employment discrimination,” which includes discrimination on family names. An employer will more likely hire someone like Jean Christophe Dumas than a Mohammed Ben Ali, regardless of the level of studies or qualifications. As a result, Muslim youth of second or third generation living in France have adopted a dedication to their religion as a way to demonstrate that they, too, belong to a specific culture. Some even leave France and are lured to join terrorists groups in Syria or Pakistan, or remain in France and recruit secretly other men in similar situations. According to the New York Times, “Islam has become more than a religion, to many French youths of immigrants origin, it now provides a culture that France itself has not managed to instill,” which I feel is not the solution to express their frustration toward the system.
To top it all off, France has to deal with an increasing flux of immigrants from countries of the Maghreb desperately trying to get into the closest European countries and flee the precarious conditions of their country of origin, be they terrorism or dictatorships. “Illegal migrants desperate to get in to Britain have exploited the closing of Calais and travel chaos on both sides of the Channel,” as written in an article in The Telegraph UK. For example, there were thousands of migrants who have massed at the French port used a wildcat strike by French ferry workers to try and clamber on to Britain-bound lorries that were left queuing for hours. French police has become more violent at borders as migrants get more determined to enter illegally and through different loopholes. Many have to be saved at sea near the Italian border as well and then sent back to their country. So we see where this is going, France cannot tackle the rebellious Muslim teenagers in land and at the same time shelter more immigrants who will more likely not integrate the society and end up as frustrated as if they never left. The main issue is that, with the increase of Arabic rebellions and terrorists attacks, French people start to resent their unwillingness to cooperate as a sign of disrespect and even, of possible danger or threat. Therefore what decision should France take on immigration and its Muslim population who do not respect French laws? What future can we predict for France? A clear distinction has been established between those who are ready for change and accept the new identity of France and those who decisively want to get rid of “suspicious” immigrants.
On one hand, some people such as Michel Houellebecq and his book “Suomission,” have pessimistically accepted the idea that the French identity and the significance of being French has been fundamentally altered by Islam disapora and that they have to “yield” to this change. Hooellebecq foresees French government run by Muslim people in 2022. According to Eric Zemmour, a television debater and a polemicist, “today, our elites think it’s France that needs to change to suit Islam, and not the other way around […] with this system, we’re headed toward civil war […] Sooner or later, civil war between Muslims and the rest of the population is inevitable.” It’s unfortunate to admit that if the French people remain passive to this cultural change, this could potentially happen.
A counter example, to which I partially agree with, is the political party, National Front, which is determined to instill their convictions that France will remain French and keep its culture, making those of immigrants secondary. As written in OnIslam.net, “74 percent of the French said that Islam ‘is not compatible with French society.’” The National Front also argue that those immigrants take advantage of France financial benefits and welfare with social security, public education and financial coverage and therefore they should close all borders. In August 2015, the first secretary of the socialist parti, Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, accused the National Front of saying “n’importe quoi” (which translates as “nonsense”) and argued that their plan will not succeed since it would mean sending back at least four million French-Muslims. So, from a pragmatic stand point, it is impossible to send back all the immigrants that are considered a “threat”, yet it becomes important to impose our own culture as the one they chose to move into and that they need to respect that even if we are accommodating and tolerant, they are not in the Middle East anymore.
On that note, improvements are being attempted, but yet again not from the immigrants’ side. The New York Times has issued an article in January 2015, explaining how the French government takes responsibility that it hasn’t paid enough attention to these marginalized groups of the society which explains recruitments to serve in Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan or Lybia. Furthermore, The president of the French Republic Francois Hollande has declared in December 2014 that French will pride itself to remain a country welcoming foreigners and even launch the opening of the National Museum of the history of immigration. France welcomes since 10 years more than 200,000 immigrants and 60,000 of them are students others are families, refugees or economic immigrants. Holland emphasized the fact that foreigners are necessary in order to ensure an economic ascension of France and inclusion in globalization.
All in all, I believe France has to find the right balance between tackling the issue if integrity for its Muslim population inland before accepting more immigrants. It has to reinforce immigration quotas and reforms to prevent violence and trafficking at the borders keeping in mind that most of these people are only seeking for a better life. In other words, France should remain a welcoming country to foreigners yet preserve its French identity and culture without yielding to the Muslim culture out of fear.