This is a fascinating article on the factors that drive young Muslims in France to identify (as they are accused of doing) with Islam more than they identify as citizens of France. Obviously, there are some parallels. It boils down to this: immigrants and children of immigrants are locked out of jobs, and effectively locked out of the democratic process. In search of basic dignity and increasingly facing open hostility because of where they were born, they further identify with their own religion and culture. Pushed to extremes, some of them become extremists and commit horrible crimes. Knee-jerk crackdowns begin, shutting out more people from the economy and painting all Muslims with a institutionalized suspicion. The cycle continues.
Obviously, this happens all the time, certainly in America as well — with Muslims, with immigrants and refugees, with anyone not white. And in a way, it makes sense. When you are afraid, you become more suspicious. It is human nature to want to protect yourself. But it is clear that this doesn’t work. Terrorism, extremism — these are symptoms of a deeper disease of inequality. Instead of only looking for more threats when terrorist attacks happen perhaps we should start looking for causes. It is not easy to recruit people who have hope into extremism. Institutional compassion IS practical.