In October 2020, a French public-school teacher named Samuel Paty was beheaded by one of his students for showing an offensive depiction of Muhammad. This event shocked the nation of France and lead to a wave of solidarity; However, it also revealed a dark issue that had been increasingly prominent in France in recent years which is the tensions between a western French society and a growing Muslim population. The beheading of Samuel Paty is not the last violent event regarding Muslim integration that will occur in the coming years.
France has historically had holdings in North Africa and in recent years the cultures of France and North Africa have come face to face. Migrants and new generations from more Islamic cultures have not become anglicized in the way that many French institutions expect. The failure to “fix” the new generation of Muslim citizens has been a disaster, while for Muslim citizens the policies are an attack on their identity. The education system has effectively failed for both sides of the equation and now sits in a limbo where its own usefulness has been questioned from all directions. Unfortunately, the perceived failure of the education system has popped up during the worst timing in decades.
Populations from the Islamic world have been migrating west in significant numbers which can partially be attributed to the chaos and instability caused by recent wars in the middle east. Middle Eastern migrants are now traveling and living in countries where they are a minority, and they have been targets of political fear mongering. Anti-Islamic rhetoric has been used to scare populations in Europe and the United States alike. This place the new immigrants in a situation where they are stuck between a chaotic mess and a hostile environment.
The interactions between the west and the middle east have had huge political consequences in recent years. Anti-western rhetoric has been used to recruit marginalized immigrants to join political causes. Muslim countries have taken diplomatic actions to punish western nations that offend or oppress Muslim minorities. Populist candidates have used the Muslim push back to help fuel fear-based political campaigns which has been proved to work in some countries.
The key issue with France is that the French model of society adores secularism and the movement toward a growing Muslim minority directly opposes the traditional French society. Samuel Paty’s beheading was due to improper display of a religious figure which directly threatened the secular French values. Secularism could be pushed even more after a slew of other Muslim related attacks that have hit the French media. How the Muslim integration issue is settled now could influence generations of Muslim immigrants to come.
The future of French society could look like a multicultural religious society or it could end up as a ultra-secular societal pyramid that places Muslims and other foreign religions at the bottom.
Sources: https://apnews.com/article/paris-france-emmanuel-macron-islam-europe-ea5e15bb651bbe443b27bc19948cae6b, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54764000, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/26/world/europe/france-beheading-teacher.html