January 16, 2015
In the wake of the tragic massacre of cartoonists from Paris on the 7th of January, most major news services around the Western world, from The New York Times to The Guardian and Deutsche Welle, have highlighted in editorials the dire living conditions in which many French Muslims are forced to live.
To be sure, poverty, exclusion, lack of employment prospects or the harshness of ghetto life in the suburbs surrounding major French cities cannot excuse the killings that have taken place, nor any other terrorist action for that matter. They do, however, help explain them and at the same time they highlight the decades-old neglect displayed by French officials when dealing with the plight of citizens of Arab origin.
A closely related issue is that of intolerant secularism, which over the last few years has prompted actions such as legislative measures directed against the Islamic dress code and has condoned – through the Charlie Hebdo cartoons – repeated attacks against core Islamic religious values or symbols. Alas, the Catholic foe had been vanquished at horrendous human cost during the French Revolution: the republicans’ search for new religious scapegoats should relent before it is going to be too late.