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Project October 22, 2015

Muslim Youth in Paris: Growing up in the 'Other France'


Media file: 15_years_of_promoting_peace.jpg
On the Wall of Peace, erected near the base of the Eiffel Tower in 2000, the word ‘peace’ is inscribed in 49 different languages. The monument and its inscriptions are a call for action towards meaningful inclusion and a more peaceful reality. Image by Charlotte Bellomy. France, 2015.

Nearly a year after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, Paris still faces widespread tension related to the inclusion and socioeconomic status of its Muslim population. For youth, this conversation can have profound affects on their identity, whether or not they feel a part of France, and whether or not they thrive socially and economically.

Most often, religious tension is centered in disadvantaged suburbs, where some wonder if frustration between citizens of different backgrounds has more to do with income and education than religion. Unemployment, lack of opportunity, and poverty in these largely-Muslim communities can leave inhabitants feeling so alienated that some have dubbed them the 'Other France.' With recent studies showing Muslims 2.5 times less likely to be employed in France, the road to resolution remains unclear.

The sources of tension are diverse, controversial, and extremely intertwined. A strong desire to protect cultural identity requires determining what that identity is. The banning of Muslim veils in schools begs the question of whether or not France can simultaneously protect freedom of speech, state secularism, and female autonomy. Meanwhile, a tenfold increase in hate crimes against Muslims since January, when Charlie Hebdo was attacked, demonstrates the very tangible and dangerous results of Islamophobia.

Above all, the role of a new generation in addressing these issues remains to be seen.