The link between ghettoization and Islamist terrorist attacks in France

An article by Alexandra Reinhild Berndt

More than 200 people died due to Islamist terrorist attacks in the five past years in France (Gennies, Meier & Jansen, 2020). The beheading of the French teacher Samuel Paty and the killing of three people in a church in Nizza demonstrated the increasing danger of Islamist terror. In this article, I will evaluate the reactions of the French government and the Muslim world. Furthermore, I will investigate the causes of the increase in Islamist terrorist attacks by focusing on the formation of parallel societies.

The French school teacher Paty was murdered by an Islamist terrorist as he showed caricatures of the prophet Muhammad in class (Safi, Makoii, Baloch & Ahmed, 2020). The French government reacted by defending the right of freedom of speech and press. Furthermore, the military presence was increased from 3000 to 7000 soldiers (Gennies, Meier & Jansen, 2020). Macron also promised to introduce a new law against “Islamic separatism” (Willsher, 2020). The objective of this law is to fight against Islamist extremism by facilitating the shutdown of “mosques and other organizations accused of fomenting radicalism and violence” (Burke, 2020). Among the additional new measures introduced by the president are: homeschooling, the oversight over religious funding and the enforcement of respect of “Republic values” (Sandford, 2020). Another important consequence is the further increase in anti-Muslim sentiments, not only within the population, but also within government (Hebel, Salloum & Truckendanner, 2020). The presidents’ remark that Islam “is in crisis all over the world today” even lead to a diplomatic crisis with Muslim countries in the Middle East (Fishere, 2020). Muslim states as Turkey, Iran, Kuwait and Algeria started boycotting French products (Hebel, Salloum & Truckendanner, 2020). Iran even summoned a French diplomat and accused France of hypocrisy and arrogance vis-à-vis Islam (Hebel, Salloum & Truckendanner, 2020). An important Egyptian religious authority, Al-Azhar, even accused Macron of hurting “the feelings of two billion Muslim followers” and hindering “the path to constructive dialogue” (Fishere, 2020). The president’s remark on Islam thus even led to a diplomatic crisis. The Muslim community is now very concerned about stigmatization, an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment and discrimination against the Muslim minority in France (Hebel, Salloum & Truckendanner, 2020). The remarks of Macron, stigmatizing “the entire faith” for “actions of a small number of extremists”, also brought back memories about colonial times when people were systemically discriminated on the basis of their religious faith (Safi, Makoii, Baloch, & Ahmed, 2002).

After having examined the reactions of the French government and the Muslim society, I will subsequently investigate the role of parallel society and ghettoization. After Samuel Paty’s murder, Macron admitted that the French government made severe mistakes in the past in terms of dealing with ghettoization and parallel societies (Wachs, 2020).  France has had important problems with the integration of the Muslim minority into the French society (Onishi & Breeden, 2020). The formation of ghettos and parallel societies are a symptom of this failed integration. In the ghettoes, Muslim immigrants “turn to religion as a defense mechanism and rallying point” (Burke, 2020).  The president now promised to solve this problem by threatening to shutdown “mosques and other organizations accused of fomenting radicalism and violence” (Burke, 2020). However, these political measures only aim at calming voters short-hand, but fail to solve the underlying problem (Wesel, 2020). A solution to the problem is much more difficult and a long process. Solving the problem would mean to invest a lot of time and resources into integration, education, infrastructure and housing (Wesel, 2020). However, if the ghettoization was one of the main causes of radicalization and Islamist terrorism, it would be in the interest of the French society to invest time and resources to fight against it. An anti-Muslim rhetoric is not solving the problem but rather contributing to a severe intersocietal, interethnic conflict.

In conclusion, the Islamist terrorist attacks are a symptom of the ignorance of parallel societies. Adopting a Muslim rhetoric is not helpful, but rather contra-productive and has serious repercussions for the relations with the Muslim community in France and worldwide.

photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash


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