The growing dislike of Muslims by the French, worry over their violence and aggression, their refusal (inability?) to integrate into Western societies, their insistence on imposing their own laws and customs on those whom they are taught, in the Qur’an and Hadith, to despise and to treat with murderous hatred, is not,Â according to Nabila RamdaniÂ in this article, justified. What is justified is the dislike of Muslims for the French, when they attempt to do such things as ban the burqa. That’s what makes young Muslimahs go off to join the severed-head fanatics of the Islamic State.
Teenage angst can cause all kinds of unfortunate behaviour, but when schoolgirls tell their parents they want to join the fight in Syria and Iraq, then society has a serious problem. Alarmingly, this isÂ increasingly happening in France, as young Muslims express their desire for jihad. Worse still, anÂ estimated 100-150Â young women and girls have actually joined groups such as the self-styled Islamic State (Isis), travelling to a war zone to devote their lives to setting up a highly militarised caliphate and, if necessary, dying for the cause.
The situation has been replicated in Britain, but in smaller numbers, and women tend to be far less hateful of the country where they were often born and raised. There are no verified figures on either side of the Channel, but anecdotal evidence suggests that, in France, alienation from society is a far greater incentive to join a conflict than it is in Britain.
Thus, in June,Â a 14-year-old girl known as SarahÂ disappeared from her home in a Parisian suburb for Syria. She texted her parents, telling them to search her bedroom where, under the mattress, they found a pained letter saying she was “heading for a country where they do not prevent you from following your religion”.
Rather than a fanatical interpretation of Islamic teaching, or anger at western attacks on countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, Sarah’s motivations were based on what she regards as homegrown discrimination. This is markedly different from British jihadis, who tend to position themselves in a worldwide struggle against aggressive interference in the Muslim world.
Numerous other girls in France regularly fill social media sites with reasons why they would consider fleeing abroad.Â Two, aged 15 and 17, are under judicial supervisionÂ after apparently corresponding with Sarah with a view to joining her in Syria, where they would almost certainly take husbands among the French combatants already there, as well as being trained in the use of weaponry. All of the would-be women militants rally against France’s distrust of Islam, which has manifested itself in a range of discriminatory legislation.
This prejudice is exemplified by the burqa ban. Introduced in 2011 as a way of stopping a small minority of women from covering their faces in public, it provoked a vindictive debate about the place of Muslims in French society.Â Vengeful attacksÂ on Muslim women became commonplace, ranging from assaults by rightwing vigilantes to people ripping veils off women’s faces as part of their “public duty”.
Politicians of both left and right have since supported a variety of measures aimed at curbing expressions of faith among about 5 million Muslims living in France. These includeÂ bans on praying in the streetÂ – a practice French Muslims are forced into because of the lack of mosques – and controls on the supply of halal meat.
Last year, a 15-year-old Muslim girlÂ was expelled from schoolÂ for wearing a headband and long skirt combination that was considered “too religious”. All conspicuous signs of religious affiliation, including Islamic headscarves, were banned from French state schools in 2004. This was in line with the secular nature of the French republic, but applying the restriction to a headband about two inches wide was considered absurd. The girl’s case was taken up by anti-discrimination groups, as yet another depressingly vicious debate about the role of Islam in society was launched.
The National Front, a party enjoying massive electoral success, uses all these cases to campaign for an end to what it views as the Islamification of French society. As in the social media messages left by the Syria-bound girls, young Muslims speak about being abused in the street, or worse. Their general perception is that the majority of the French do not like them and would rather they moved elsewhere.
Since the laws banning headscarves and niqabs were introduced, Muslims have regularly been accused of trying to get around increasingly restrictive legislation. Many believed that the French president, FranÃ§ois Hollande, nominally a liberal socialist, would display a more relaxed attitude to how Muslims choose to dress, but his administration is one of the most reactionary in recent history. It was Hollande who last year called for the rules in nurseries against Islamic headscarves to be toughened up and he is an enthusiastic backer of the burqa ban too.
Choice of clothing might rightly be regarded as inconsequential in the context of a terrorist movement carrying out atrocities against its western enemies but, as the French case shows, the influence of repressive and discriminatory legislation on vulnerable young minds should not be ruled out.