Why ISIS hedges its bets on France’s Muslims: Addressing France’s long standing racial problem

The recent string of ISIS attacks in France has unearthed a disturbing pattern of French Muslims, mostly North Africans, pledging their allegiance to ISIS. Those attacks inevitably bring to question the underlying factors that make French Muslims susceptible to radical indoctrination.

To articulate this phenomenon, understanding the role of structural racism and mounting alienation is a critical imperative that must be addressed. However, before exploring the underlying cause to this problem, it is important to revisit a construct that has mostly been shaped through a dominant western lens. The use of framing by mass media holds an important role in shaping social constructs through selected imageries which in turn greatly influence public perceptions on an issue. This has led to a diluted understanding of issues rooted in a dominant western news frame that abridges complex situations.

Rather than simplifying ISIS attacks through constricted terrorist frames, it is indispensable to condemn the systemic villainization of French North Africans. For alienated French Muslims, joining ISIS is a tantalizing idea. The prospect of joining the Islamic State is a way to achieve wholeness and inclusiveness that could never be achieved in their adopted country. Years of oppression, racial profiling and pervasive unemployment rates have fostered a divisive climate. France’s disinterest in assimilating its North African population into the fabric of its society has given rise to profound disenchantment.

For disillusioned French Muslims, joining ISIS has become a way to find acceptance. ISIS knows this fully and is capitalizing on heightened racial tension to lure oppressed factions of society. Additionally, for French Muslims joining ISIS embodies a romantic idealism and a historic extension of the now dissolved Algerian FLN party whose bloody war waged against the French occupancy led Algeria to win its independence following 132 years of French colonial legacy. This romantic idealism holds many parallels with ISIS.

Similar to the FLN party, ISIS is now calling on French Muslims to join a noble cause that pushes for the institution of a legitimate Islamic state. However, unlike the FLN who spearheaded a movement to liberate Algeria against the grip of French colonialism, ISIS’ macabre agenda couldn’t be vastly starker. Committed to creating an Islamic Caliphate, ISIS has waged a war against anyone who opposes its views, challenging western hegemony and its disciples. The Islamic States has also been successful in courting disenfranchised French North Africans arguing that salvation and equality will never be achieved in France, urging French North African to join its movement.

To achieve this goal, ISIS has waged an offensive campaign to pitch its wartime propaganda while inoculating Muslims from a failed French narrative. ISIS’ use of emotional appeals to persuade French Muslims to join their struggle has proven to resonate dangerously well. At a time, where French nationalism has reached unprecedented height, assimilating into a pluralistic and egalitarian French model amounts to smoked mirrors.

This stark reality collides with French republican values which bear very little meaning to disenfranchised French North Africans who have been stigmatized and discriminated against by a society that has made very little efforts to integrate them. The end result of this dichotomy has given rise to a profound sense of alienation amongst children of working class immigrants.

To this day, an overwhelming majority of French Muslims continues to leave in immigrants ghettos, unable to find gainful employment let along achieve equality.

Running counter to its beloved republican values, France long-standing racial problem underscores a confluence of flamboyant paradoxes and clashing cultural values, bringing France to a state confound contradictions, trapped by its toxic nationalistic ego and unwillingness to grapple with the immensity of this problem.

With the unremorseful rise of French nationalism and prevailing anti-Muslim sentiment in France, failure to institute inclusive policies and dismantle systemic structural racism will deepen ethnic tensions at the enjoyment of radical Jihadists who are hedging their bets on volatile French-Muslim relations to continue waging its hateful rhetoric and draw sympathey for its movement.