Discrimination Against Muslims in France

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

The Al Qaeda-Islamic State inspired attacks by rogue individuals in Paris is a tragedy and a horrid crime that has led to the killing of dozens of innocent people. These acts, committed by individuals radicalized by their training in Yemen and by extremist propaganda they were subjected to both in Yemen and in France, caused them to commit their heinous acts. Yet the strange thing about the three who committed the massacre of 17 people (most of them at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo) is that they were born and raised in France. The two Kouachi brothers, Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi, and their friend Amedy Coulibaly, were clearly on the periphery of French society.

This is the sad part of the story. Despite French official claims that there is no discrimination against anyone over their religious beliefs in France, the reality is quite different. According to a Stanford University study done on job discrimination in France, French companies are more likely to hire a Christian than a Muslim even though the Muslim has the same or better qualifications. In fact, Muslims face 2.5 times more job discrimination than does anyone else in France. Another single problem is that Muslims have been discriminated against in education as well. Not allowed to wear any religious symbols of their faith, Muslim students are usually ridiculed by teachers and other classmates for showing any signs of their faith. Further, Muslims are discriminated in housing and in everyday life. In addition, France, like a growing number of countries in Europe, are limiting the number of mosques that can be built. This translate out into Muslims being stuck in poor housing, being unable to secure for the most part good paying jobs, and being forced to live on the periphery of French society.

It is this world that the Kouachi brothers and their friend Amedy Coulibaly were born into. Given these circumstances, it is not hard to imagine why they never felt particularly French, and why they were recruited by extremists at an early age. It is no surprise why these three went on to fight for extremist groups in Yemen and why they came back dangerously radicalized. The sad thing is that what happened will only feed into French chauvinism and nationalist hatred of Muslims and anybody else not considered “French.” I have an ugly feeling that there will be more terrorist attacks in France in the near future unless the French politicians see why it is necessary to do more to integrate France’s Muslim population into the larger mainstream French society. They may want to take the United States as an example. Of course, we have discrimination against Muslims and at times outright hate groups trying to attack the innocent because they are Muslim. But in the United States we do not have blatant discrimination against Muslims in job hiring, we do not have blatant discrimination against Muslims in housing, and we do not allow vicious attacks against Muslims because they are Muslim (or rather to let such crimes go unpunished). There are no real limitations on Muslims being able to build places of worship, and they are able to overall display their symbols of worship. In America, one can be a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, a Buddhist, and an atheist and also be an American. In an inclusive society like the United States, America’s enemies have trouble trying to launch attacks here because there are too many people who are not out on the periphery (although that does not stop Al Qaeda or the Islamic State from trying). I believe that the French government should try to change its strategy on how to deal with French Muslims.

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