In The American Conservative, Will Collins outlines the deep divide between Paris and its suburbs, known as “banlieues,” where much of France’s immigrant population has settled. Collins warns that France’s immigrant-heavy suburban housing complexes have become a breeding ground for gang violence and Islamic radicalism, and that between 15 and 20 percent of French citizens will be Muslim by 2050. He writes (abridged):
A black-and-white shot frames a deejay preparing his equipment. After a few introductory turntable spins, he blasts an eclectic mash-up of modern hip hop and one instantly recognizable classic from the top floor of a grim apartment block.
The film is La Haine (“Hate”) and the setting is the Cité des Muguets, a public housing project on the outskirts of Paris.
In the years since the film’s 1995 release, “banlieue,” the French word for suburb, has become synonymous with social dysfunction and failed assimilation.
From the 2005 riots that wracked the French capital to the 2015 Bataclan and Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks, the banlieues have been blamed for everything from crime to Islamic fundamentalism to a broader feeling of alienation within French immigrant communities.
At one point in the film, one of the main characters sees (or perhaps hallucinates) a cow meandering through an apartment courtyard, a reminder of both the physical proximity and immense cultural distance between the suburban housing projects and “la France profonde,” the historical, “authentic” France of the countryside.
The parallels between the French cités and America’s own inner-city housing projects is highlighted by the characters’ connection to hip hop.
Similar problems have erupted in idyllic Sweden, where immigrant-heavy suburban housing complexes have become a breeding ground for gang violence and Islamic radicalism.
But La Haine is also notable for what it doesn’t say about the French underclass. Alienated, easily excitable young men have been around as long as youth culture has existed. The dehumanizing effects of modern public housing were obvious at least as far back as 1972, when the city of St. Louis dynamited the massive Pruitt-Igoe complex.
And tensions over police violence did not suddenly emerge in France in the late ’80s and early ’90s. In 1961, Paris police killed approximately 200 Algerian protesters during an anti-war demonstration.
La Haine captures a transitional period in the history of French immigration.
Meanwhile, France has lost the gravitational pull it once exerted over earlier generations of new arrivals. After France’s World Cup victory, the French ambassador to the United States publicly scolded a late night host for joking about the over-representation of Afro-French soccer players.
It is difficult to gauge the impact of immigration or the growth of France’s Islamic community. Here is what we do know: according to the Pew Research Center, somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of French citizens will be Muslim by 2050.
Read more here.