French Muslims have been bent out of shape for some time.[1] In theory, France is a “secular” country that pays no attention to religion and allows no obvious expression of religious affiliation. In 2004, the government banned the wearing of veils by school-girls. As an afterthought, they also banned the (visible) wearing of crucifixes and yarmulkes, but everyone knew it had been directed against Muslims. In 2005, rioting broke out in the Parisian “banlieues” (suburbs) after the police chased a teen-age punk to his death in an electrical power distributor.[2] More than 10,000 cars were burned in the rioting—unemployed young Muslims not owning many cars. In 2011, the government banned wearing the “niqab” or the “burka” (which cover a woman’s face). It is illegal to deny the Holocaust, but is acceptable to mock the Prophet Muhammad. In January 2015 came the “Charlie Hebdo” massacres and in November 2015 came the attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Now, an estimated 1,200 French Muslims have gone to join ISIS. Is France a hot-bed of radical Islam, and, if so, why?

After the First World War France recruited a lot of foreign labor from southern and eastern Europe (Russkies, Poles, Spaniards, Italians) to make up for the huge wartime casualties.[3] After the Second World War, France recruited a lot of labor from its North African colonies to make up for a short-fall in births in the Thirties and Forties.[4]

France is a “secular” country that pays no attention to religion. So, it is hard to tell exactly how many Muslims live in France. The best guess appears to be about 7.5 percent of the population. That turns out to be about 5 million Muslims, the largest Muslim population in Europe. So, 1,500 jihadists out of 5 million people is a pretty small share. Today there are about 1.5 million people of Algerian origins, 1 million of Moroccan origins, and 400,000 of Tunisian origin. Most of the so-needed immigrants ended up in the tower housing blocks on the outskirts of French cities, especially Paris.[5]

How well do European countries assimilate Muslims? It varies. If you look at unfavorable views of Muslims (not Islam), then 63 percent of Italians and 46 percent of Spaniards, but only 27 percent of Frenchmen have an unfavorable view. However, 74 percent of Frenchmen also thought that Islam is incompatible with France’s secular values. (Curiously, in November 2015, only 56 percent of Americans thought that Islam’s values were “at odds” with America’s values.[6] Marine Le Pen, head of the National Front party, compared the Muslim population to the German occupation of France during the Second World War.

This may be the source of concrete phenomena. One 2010 inquiry found that job applicants of African origin who claim to be Christian are 2.5 times more likely to be asked back for an interview than are Africans who claim to be Muslim. The national unemployment rate in France is 10 percent, but the unemployment rate in the “banlieues” heavily populated by the descendants of Muslim immigrants is 20 percent. The unemployment rate in the “banlieues” for those aged 15-24 is 40 percent. Some 60 percent of the prisoners in French prisons are Muslims. “Religion is all we have left,” said one French Muslim.

[1] “France’s alienated Muslims,” The Week, 30 January 2015, p. 11.

[2] As is the case in the United States, being a punk is not formally a capital crime.

[3] So much for the Republican chicken-hawk derision of France. “How many troops does it take to defend Paris? No one knows. It’s never been tried.”

[4] OK, French people who “aren’t in the mood” is not a cultural stereotype. Still, it happened.

[5] Just for fun, see, “B-13:”:

[6] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 27 November 2015, p. 17.

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