Just past the grandeur of postcard Paris, with its boulevards and old palaces, lies what seems like a different world: The banlieues, or suburbs, vast stretches of small brick shops and mosques, and crumbling high-rise apartment blocks, which were thrown up hurriedly 50 years to house the huge influx of immigrants from the French-speaking countries of North and West Africa, and now are home to hundreds of thousands of French-born Muslims.
Five decades on – and not for the first time – violent events are forcing the French and their government to grapple with the seemingly intractable problem of how to bridge the divide between two very different strata of French society: The powerful and the peripheral. France has about five million Muslims, Europe’s biggest Islamic popoulation. And it is within these low-income cités, or housing projects, outside Paris, where youth unemployment rates hover around 25%, that the
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