France may not collect any census data on the race or ethnicity of its citizens; but if you look closely, the realities of certain immigrant populations can be illuminated by patterns of poverty and discrimination. What's more, the key to understanding the Paris attacks and the susceptibility of Muslim youth to ISIS recruitment may very well lie at the heart of those patterns.
"The truth of the matter is it sucks to be a Muslim in France," explains Felix Marquardt, CEO of Youthonomics and mYgration.com. "Muslims in France are poorer on average than the rest of the population. Their kids go to schools that are not as high quality as the rest of the population. They live in neighborhoods that are not as nice as the rest of the population. There is hardcore discrimination for jobs in France against Muslims, especially Muslim men."
Perhaps that explains why, according to French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, roughly 1,800 French citizens have now flocked to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside ISIS, a startling figure which has nearly tripled in the last two years. ISIS, like countless other gangs and violent organizations throughout the world, seizes upon feelings of isolation and disillusionment as tools of recruitment. And if what Marquardt says is true, those sorts of feelings are rife among Muslim in France.
"At the end of the day, a lot of the kids who radicalize they don't become regulars at the mosque, then start going to a wacky mosque," says Marquardt. "They go straight from, 'I'm in the projects, I'm f*cking getting stoned and selling drugs and whatever,' to, 'I'm a jihadist." As a trend, this recipe for recruitment is nothing new. But in today's global climate, it may be more dangerous than ever.