As counterintuitive as it may seem, many of France's current problems with Islamic extremism actually have their roots in the Holocaust. How? After World War II, race became an extremely taboo subject in France. In fact, in 1978, the country banned any collection or computerized storage of data on its citizens' race or ethnicity. So, unlike the U.S. and most other Western countries, France now has no census. The goal was an admirable one: to make France's public policies more colorblind and, in doing so, make the country one. The problem is, however, that things simply didn't pan out that way.
"France is a very apt illustration of the fact that the road to hell is paved with good intentions," says Felix Marquardt, CEO of Youthonomics, a global think tank dedicated to investigating the circumstance of young people throughout the world. "The French Republic has made it illegal to count citizens according to their religious faith or their ethnic background, and that's a very laudable intent. But the fact of the matter is, you need data to change policy. And right now, no one knows ... what exactly it is like to be a Muslim in France."