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Socio-Economic Discrimination and Processes of Securitisation as Catalysts of Radicalisation among Franco-Maghrebis


Chaim E. Narang

London Metropolitan University, GB
About Chaim E.

Chaim Narang is a graduate of BA International Relations, Peace and Conflict Studies from London Metropolitan University. His research interests include, the convergence of gang criminality and radicalisation, radicalisation within urban contexts, securitisation of post-colonial diasporas and the politics of trans-national identity and the legacies of migration.

Valedictorian of Class of 2017 for School of Politics and International Relations
Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities

-Recipient of University Recognition of Academic Excellence Award 
(Top 30 Student in FSSH Faculty - Highest First Class Award)

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In recent years, Western Europe has been gripped by a wave of terrorist attacks, perpetrators have been exclusively home-grown radicalised jihadists of European birth and nationality; a large proportion of which were of second or third generation North African (Maghrebi) origin. This emerging trend is placed into a wider continuation of historical susceptibilities among Maghrebis and their link to ethno-political and religious radicalisation and in some cases, transnational terrorism and Jihadism. This study examines how disproportionate socio-economic discrimination coupled with securitised media portrayals and domestic political debates have acted as radicalisation catalysts of this diaspora present in abundance across France and other EU member-states. This body of research also considers the impact and relevance of emerging geo-political influences such as a resurgent French far-right and a shift in modern jihadist narratives. This shift from direct to structural violence has enabled a renewed ideological penetration and tangible resonance among Europe’s Muslims of immigrant origin; many of whom reside within impoverished and disadvantaged urban peripheries. Susceptibility to radical narratives arising from the converging dilemmas of deprivation, discrimination and grievance have formed the basis for one of the most pressing threats to international security and social wellbeing for generations.
How to Cite: Narang, C.E., 2019. Socio-Economic Discrimination and Processes of Securitisation as Catalysts of Radicalisation among Franco-Maghrebis. Undergraduate Journal of Politics and International Relations, 2(1), p.4. DOI:
  Published on 29 Apr 2019
 Accepted on 04 Mar 2019            Submitted on 20 May 2018


In recent years, Jihadist terrorism has become increasingly planned and operationalised by closed Islamist networks based in European states. Modern jihadist narratives positing a civilizational clash are increasingly resonating amongst a section of disenfranchised second and third generation Franco-Maghrebi Muslims. The Marghebi demographic has been formerly and recently linked to acts of terrorism within Europe. From 2012 to 2018, multiple terror attacks in France, Belgium, Germany and Spain have been planned and carried by persons of Algerian, Moroccan or Tunisian origin born and raised in Europe, predominantly France and Belgium. Distorted theology and extremist intellectual discourse are known facilitators and essential under-pinners of the radicalisation process. However as unaddressed socio-economic grievances and recent political tribulations affecting European Muslims are coming to the fore; subsequent relative disadvantage is yielding an additional susceptibility factor to radicalisation. Persons of North African origin, who are most numerous in France, have been noted to face disproportionate and systemic socio-economic disadvantage and discrimination, in addition to being securitised subjects within French media representation, political discourse and certain sectors of public opinion.


This study seeks to examine the recent trend of Islamic radicalisation within the Franco-Maghrebi community. Although multiple push and pull factors have been attributed to the radicalisation process, this investigation extends beyond the common refrain extremist religious thought and practice; instead focusing on a dyad of experiences: First, socio-economic discrimination within housing, employment and income, second a process of securitisation within French political rhetoric and media discourse. Ethnographic research provides insight into discriminatory accounts from predominantly young Franco-Maghrebis living in France today.

The research hypotheses are as follows:

H1 Persons of North African origin in France face higher levels of socio-economic discrimination compared to other groups

H2 Persons of North African origins in France are subject to a unique securitisation due to their multifaceted socio-cultural and religious identity

H3 The combination of securitisation and socio-economic discrimination (perceived or actual) yields an enhanced susceptibility to, and risk of, radicalisation

Association between French individuals of Maghrebi origin and terrorism has been sought through quantitative datasets and studies that provide data of ethnic origin. Due to recent developments in this area since said datasets were published, a new dataset has been compiled by the researcher for the purpose of this study. Qualitative insights from persons of Maghrebi origin on socio-economic issues covered in this paper were obtained through an online survey. Bryman cites multiple advantages to their use; cost effectiveness, a near instantaneous response rate, an unrestricted geographical coverage and less or no transcription required. He also notes a downside that due to the self-administrative nature of this method, participation variables were near impossible to control. Participation criterion were threefold:

  • Second or third generation persons of Maghrebi origin
  • Resident in France
  • Speaker of English or French.

The survey received 15 responses, from males and females across France, ranging from 18 to 53 years. (See Table 8 in the appendices for further detail of respondents’ demography).

Snowball or opportunistic sampling methods were employed to find survey respondents. Unfortunately this meant there was little control of possible demographic variables. Lakhani (2014: 71) argues such sampling techniques “are usually applied when respondents are difficult to access for researchers”.

Low response rate can be explained by the sensitive, contentious and specific nature of the research, which may have provoked hesitation for survey participation or distribution. Bengry-Howell and Griffin (2012: 403) assert researching ‘social groups that are already heavily scrutinised, and associated with practices that are viewed as socially problematic’ may prove particularly challenging to gain access to.

From the outset, all respondents were made clear of the details the researcher required, why such details were of relevance to the research, how the data would be used and how their identities would be concealed. By continuation of the steps of the survey, respondents agreed to the terms of data usage set by the researcher.

Research was performed in accordance with the ethical principles set out in the Declaration of Helsinki. The Research Ethics Review Sub-Committee of London Metropolitan University have approved the ethics of this study (Reference Number: Mar16/FSSH/14042699).

North Africa’s contextual link to Islamist radicalisation and terrorism

Terrorism and radicalism from the Maghreb stretches back to the late 1950s; during the Algerian War with France (1954–1962), terrorism was perpetrated by the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) on French soil and towards French interests and settlers in Algeria. Terrorism during this epoch held predominantly sentiments and motivations of anti-colonial struggle and Algerian nationalism, albeit, with some Islamic connotations and revivalism. Terrorism scholar Martha Crenshaw wrote in 1972 on the style and tactics of the FLN labelling it a prime example of ‘revolutionary terrorism’.

Jonathan Githens-Mazer, an expert on North African radicalisation argues there are ‘many examples of links between North Africans and terrorist violence in Europe’. He assesses ‘individual North Africans and North African immigrant networks have contributed significantly towards radical violent Islamism in the UK, France, and Spain’, specifying ‘those of Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian origin have become radicalised into, and operationalised in radical violent Islamism’. Githens-Mazer views the identities of trans-continental North African communities ‘as a complex combination of the tribal, ethnic, national, regional, and religious’ (2008: 19).

Githens-Mazer’s assertion of a marked North African contribution to Islamism in Europe correlates with post-9/11 empirical studies. Edwin Bakker, a Dutch counterterrorism specialist and researcher comprised a dataset detailing jihadist terrorism in Europe over an eight-year period (2001–2009) analysing 336 individuals involved or linked to 65 successful or foiled terrorist incidents (Bakker 2011). His findings present a distinct and manifest trend between nationality and the individuals studied. From his analysis, those of Moroccan or Algerian heritage account for 126 of 304 individuals or 50.8%.1 Analysis into the ‘country of family origin’ turns up similar results, Magrhebi heritage accounted for 154 of 271 families; equating to 56.8%.2

A study of juridical proceedings relating to terror offences in the Netherlands, found of 93 men featured, 30 were of Algerian heritage and 17 of Moroccan, accounting for 50.55%; followed by Dutch with 11.

The study goes onto state it is ‘notable that within each cooperation the majority of people had North African backgrounds’ (De Poot et al. 2011: 59). Upon investigation of Hague-based jihadist Hofstad group, three-quarters of its core members were of North African origin (Schuurman et al. 2008).3

In a study by Reinares (2006) that examined individuals arrested from 2001–2005 on suspicion of Jihadist activity in Spain, it found persons of North African origin accounted for 142 of 188 individuals; equating to 75.5%. The overwhelming majority of suspects connected to and charged with the 2004 Madrid bombings were of Moroccan nationality or origin (Sandford 2005).

Islamic State’s recent attacks in Europe (2012–2018)

Since the publication of Bakker’s data in 2011, Western Europe has been gripped by a renewed wave of jihadist terrorism; a threat mainly arriving from new geo-political actor: the Islamic State (IS). What can be seen in the Table 1 is the frequency of those of north African origin being drawn into extremist groups and/or radicalised views and going on to perpetrate or attempt terror attacks.

Table 1

Terrorist incidents in Europe involving persons of North African heritage since 1st January 2012.

Suspect Name Incident/Location Date Country of residence Heritage/Origin

Khalid Zerkani (Preacher/Recruiter) Molenbeek (Belguim) Belgium Moroccan
Abdelbaki es Satty (Preacher/Recruiter) Barcelona/Cambrils attack (Catalonia) Spain Moroccan
Mohammed Merah Toulouse/Montauban shooting (France) 19/03/2012 France Algerian
Mehdi Nemmouche Jewish Museum, Brussels 24/05/2014 Belgium Algerian
Chérif Kouachi Charlie Hebdo offices, Paris 07/01/2015 France Algerian
Saïd Kouachi Charlie Hebdo offices, Paris 07/01/2015 France Algerian
Yassin Salhi Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, Isère (France) 26/06/2015 France Moroccan-Algerian
Ayoub El-Kahzzani Paris-Amsterdam Thalys Train incident (attempted) 21/08/2015 France Moroccan
Brahim Abdeslam Comptoir Voltaire Cafe, Paris 13/11/2015 Belgium Moroccan
Foued Mohamed-Aggad Bataclan Theatre, Paris 13/11/2015 France Moroccan-Algerian
Samy Aminour Bataclan Theatre, Paris 13/11/2015 Belgium Algerian
Omar Ismail Mosterfai Bataclan Theatre, Paris 13/11/2015 Belgium Algerian
Bilal Hadfi Stade Du France, Paris 13/11/2015 France Moroccan
Abdelhamid Abaaoud November 2015 Paris attacks 13/11/2015 Belgium Moroccan
Mohammed Amri November 2015 Paris attacks 13/11/2015 Belgium Moroccan
Salah Abdeslam November 2015 Paris attacks 13/11/2015 France Moroccan
Mohamed Abrini November 2015 Paris attacks 13/11/2015 France Moroccan
January 2016 Brussels attacks 22/03/2016
Chakib Akrouh Attack at Abaaoud Paris apartment during raid 18/11/2015 Belgium Moroccan
Tarek Belgacem Goutte d’Or police station, Paris 07/01/2016 France Tunisian
Ibrahim El-Bakraoui Zaventem Airport, Brussels 22/03/2016 Belgium Moroccan
Najim Laachraoui Zaventem Airport, Brussels 22/03/2016 Belgium Moroccan
Khalid El-Bakraoui Maalbeek Station, Brussels 22/03/2016 Belgium Moroccan
Larossi Abballa Magnanville stabbings (France) 13/06/2016 France Moroccan
Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel Bastille Day attack, Nice 14/07/2016 France Tunisian
Khaled Babbouri Charleroi police officers attack (Belgium) 06/08/2016 France Algerian
Anis Amari Christmas Market attack, Berlin 19/12/2016 Germany Tunisian
Zyed Ben Belgacem Orly Airport, Paris 18/03/2017 France Tunisian
Karim Cheurfi Champs-Élysées attack, Paris 20/04/2017 France Algerian
Rachid Redouance London Bridge attacks; London 03/06/2017 England Moroccan
Youssef Zaghba London Bridge attacks, London 03/06/2017 England Moroccan
Farid Ikken Notre Dame attack, Paris 06/06/2017 France Algerian
Oussama Zariouh Central Station attack, Brussels 20/06/2017 Belgium Moroccan
Hamou Benlatrèche Levallois-Perret solders attack (France) 09/08/2017 France Algerian
Abderrahman Bouanane Turku stabbings, (Finland) 18/08/2017 Finland Moroccan
Younes Abouyaaqoub Barcelona/Cambrils attack (Catalonia) 18/08/2017 Spain Moroccan
Driss Oukabir Barcelona/Cambrils attack (Catalonia) 18/08/2017 Spain Moroccan
Mohammed Houli Chemlal Barcelona/Cambrils attack (Catalonia) 18/08/2017 Spain Moroccan
Mohammed Hychami Barcelona/Cambrils attack (Catalonia) 18/08/2017 Spain Moroccan
Ahmed Hanachi Marseille stabbings 01/10/2017 France Tunisian
Redouane Lakdim Trèbes and Carcassonne attacks (France) 23/03/2018 France Moroccan

Despite this correlation, it should be noted members of other ethnic origins have committed attacks on Europe during the same period (see Table 2).

Table 2

Terrorist incidents in Europe involving persons of non-North African heritage 1st January 2012.

Suspect Name Incident/Location Date Country of residence Heritage/Origin

Alexandre Dhaussy La Défense stabbing attack, Paris 25/05/2013 France French
Bertrand Nzohabonayo Joué-Lès-Tours Police Station attack (France) 20/12/2014 France Burundian
Amedy Coulibaly January 2015 Paris attacks 07/01/2015 France Malian
Omar Hamid El-Hussein Copenhagen shootings; Copenhagen 14/02/2015 Denmark Jordanian
Rafik Youssef Spandau Police Attack, Berlin 17/09/2015 Germany Iraqi
Mohammad Daleel Ansbach bombing, Ansbach (Germany) 24/06/2016 Germany Syrian
Riaz Khan Ahmadzai Würzburg train attack, Würzburg (Germany) 18/07/2016 Germany Afghan
Hicham Diop Brussels police stabbings, Schaerbeek (Belgium) 05/10/2016 Belgium Senegalese
Adrian Russell Elms Westminster attack, London 22/03/2017 England British
Rakhmat Akilov Drottninggatan truck attack, Stockholm 07/04/2017 Sweden Uzbek
Salman Ramadan Abedi Arianna Grande Concert attack, Manchester 22/05/2017 England Libyan
Khuram Shazad Butt London Bridge attacks, London 03/06/2017 England Pakistani
Ahmad Alhaw Hamburg stabbing attack, Hamburg 26/07/2017 Germany Palestinian
Haashi Ayaanle Attack on soldiers, Brussels 25/08/2017 Belgium Somali
Ahmed Hassan Parsons Green train bombing, London 15/09/2017 England Iraqi
Khamzat Azimov Opèra knife attack, Paris 12/05/2018 France Chechen
Benjamin Herman Liège police attack (Belgium) 29/05/2018 Belgium Belgian

With all this said, identifying the nationality or ethnic origin of a suspected terrorist is not a simple or uniform task. Within developed states it may prove easier due to methods of national surveillance, intelligence and record taking, however frequently the perpetrator’s nationality is first revealed through media channels whom themselves are afflicted by partisanship, conflict of interest, the usage of differing sources of information with varying degrees of authenticity and fact-checking. One’s nationality or ethnic origin alone doesn’t necessarily provide indication of involvement or sponsorship of specific groups or organisations. Claims of attack responsibility made by terrorist groups should always been regarded as a possible propaganda ploy and treated as dubious and suspicious until proved accurate by firm credible evidence.

Shifting narratives to the second and third generation: from active to passive conflict

Perpetrators of these recent attacks or so-called ‘soldiers of the Caliphate’ do not fit the traditional profile of the religious conservative radical, as was witnessed with earlier Islamist recruits. Islamist strategy has increasingly shifted its recruitment focus to a less religiously demographic; a shift which is evidenced in a report detailing a correlation between IS jihadist recruits and previous involvement in criminality. The report remarks on the reduction of religious pre-requisites during recruitment stating ‘unlike al-Qaeda, Islamic State required practically no religious knowledge or learning, and cared little about the complexities of theological discourse’ (ICSR 2016: 24). It is often assumed that a jihadist would ideologically adhere to a strict following of the Islamic faith, however in a number of cases the suspect’s religiosity is minimal, if, existent at all. This change of narrative basis from ethno-religious to social-economic is part of a wider strategic shift within global jihadism to appeal to a more technologically savvy demographic; more secular and westernised in upbringing.

Long gone are the grainy Bin Laden videotapes broadcast on Al-Jazeera in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Modern groups such as IS have shifted their marketing and recruitment strategies, modifying their propaganda tone, output and focus. IS differ from their Al-Qaeda predecessors who sought to frame their call to jihad predominately in terms of religious scripture and duty; highlighting active (directly violent) conflict against the Muslim Ummah in Dar al-Islam.4 Although IS emulates Al-Qaeda motifs, they have also recognised the worth of capturing and capitalising on the perceived thirst for change amongst Europe’s marginalised Muslim youth (Lyon-Padilla 2015). For many belonging to second and third generation immigrant backgrounds growing up in urban settings, such a change equates to an escape from the passive (structurally violent) conflict seen as perpetrated against Muslims by the dominant social group or the state. Such a conflict manifests as reduced socio-economic mobility or opportunities alongside societal power inequality, discrimination and marginalisation. Mahood and Rane argue ‘IS has been able to exploit the growing phenomenon of disenfranchised and marginalised Muslims in Western countries’ (2017: 18); arguments have been reiterated by Voas and Fleischmann (2012).

Both Stroink (2007) and Buijs (2009) reason later generations of immigrants perceive greater levels of discrimination than their first generation relatives. Although first generation immigrants to Europe faced severe actual economic disadvantage, rapid acculturation challenges and cultural dislocation, later generations due to their increased language capability and cultural identifications have come to hold a more optimistic and expectant view of their chances of success in their “host” country. Yet upon being confronted with structural discrimination (namely in the forms of barriers to the labour market, housing segregation, and racism) such optimistic expectations quickly transform into facilitators of grievance accumulation, societal disaffiliation, perceived economic inequality and exclusion. This is particularly apparent when their experiences and realities are compared to their peers belonging to other social or ethnic groups. This transformation into grievance has been referred to as the “integration paradox” (Buijs 2009).

French social scientists and commentators, Khosrokhavar (2005: 185) and Roy (2004: 19) describe such discrimination experiences coupled with identity disassociation within second and third generation Muslim communities in Europe as a ‘double sense of non-belonging’. British Jihadism academic Akil Awan contends Jihadist narrative ‘only resonates and has potency when it intersects with the very particular context and circumstances that some young Muslims in the West find themselves in today’, going onto identify such “circumstances” as a ‘mix of increasing xenophobia and Islamophobia, alienation and cultural dislocation, socio-economic marginalisation, and political disenfranchisement’ (2015: 68). Islamic expert Dina Al-Raffie argues jihadist narratives ‘work to both create and perpetuate a perception of intentional discrimination against Muslims in the European diaspora’ (2013: 76).

Khosrokhavar claims ‘the excluded and “disaffected” youth in Europe’ are facing ‘a combination of economic deprivation and cultural stigmas’ which ‘makes it much easier for them to become radicalised’ (in Cesari 2010: 236). Khosrokhavar continues, ‘their enrolment in terrorist networks is based on a strong feeling of victimisation which is rooted in their dramatic situation in Europe’. This situation alongside ‘their segregation in enclaves or ghettoes (or perceived as such by many of them) […] go hand in hand to make this population a fertile ground for radicalisation and in a few cases, terrorism.’

Interpol raised the issue of radicalisation susceptibility among second and third generation immigrants in their 2009 Terrorism Situation and Trend Report. On the topic of attraction to global jihadism, the report claimed:

‘One of the reasons for the attraction of the ideology of global jihad may be that it gives meaning to the feeling of exclusion, prevalent in particular among second or third generation immigrants who no longer identify with the country and the culture of their parents or grandparents, yet feel also excluded from western society, which still perceives them as foreigners. For this group, the idea of becoming “citizens” of the virtual worldwide Islamic community, removed from territory and national culture, may be more attractive than for first generation immigrants.’

An EU commissioned report into Islamist recruitment and mobilisation trends, Neumann and Rogers (2008) note a shift in propaganda focus and narrative output, claiming:

‘Islamist militants have skilfully exploited “crises” in order to produce cognitive openings. One of the most powerful triggers in the European context are experiences of exclusion and discrimination in Western society. European Muslims, especially the second and third generation, often feel that – despite governments’ inclusive rhetoric – Western societies have not offered them the full respect and equality they believe they deserve. Violent extremists have long realised that this sense of alienation and social frustration can be capitalised upon in order to attract recruits.’

Socio-economic discrimination vis-à-vis terrorism and radicalisation

The study of radicalisation is a relatively new discipline. Recent terrorist attacks committed by mostly but not exclusively Islamic fundamentalists have afforded this area of study a newfound level of legitimacy, relevance and urgency.

The radicalisation process is fuelled by a set of converging influencing “push and pull” factors. In regards to Islamist terrorism and jihadism, it is a common assumption that religious instruction or extremist narrative is the “core” influencer and facilitator of the radicalisation process. Although religious motivation is often cited as a justification for such acts or as a call to action; socio-economic and political influences often act as “periphery” factors, and in turn may heighten an individual’s susceptibility and resonation to a “core” narrative. In order understand what facilities radicalisation within the Franco-Maghrebi diaspora, these “periphery” must be investigated and considered.

Socio-economic discrimination has been specifically noted as a recurring causal factor of radicalisation by many academics and policymakers (Precht 2007; Silke 2008; Moghaddam 2005). Although prominent within literature it should be noted there is no one clear path to radicalisation; often a number of coinciding psychological, theological, socio-economic and political factors combine to initiate and facilitate the radicalisation process. Swedish radicalisation expert Magnus Ranstorp argues ‘Radicalisation occurs through different pathways, at different speeds and in different facilitating environments, there is no single trajectory into radicalisation’ (2010: 6). Despite this assessment King and Taylor ascertain ‘socio-economic status should not be discounted as a factor for radicalisation’ (2011: 610).

Terrorism as a response to social, economic or political discriminatory treatment is nothing new. Crenshaw attributes ‘concrete grievances among an identifiable subgroup of a larger population, such as an ethnic minority discriminated against by the majority’ as ‘a direct cause of terrorism’ but goes on to clarify ‘not all those who are discriminated against turn to terrorism, nor does terrorism always reflect objective social or economic deprivation’ (1981: 383).

Terrorism researcher James Piazza explores minority economic discrimination in relation to rates and instances of domestic terrorism by internal minority groups. This distinct form of discrimination is defined by Piazza as the following: ‘a combination of employment discrimination, unequal access to government health, educational or social services, formal or informal housing segregation, and lack of economic opportunities available to the rest of society’. A combination that Piazza attests is ‘a catalyst for the development of minority group grievances’. Piazza posits such grievances are often ‘directed against the state, economic status-quo, mainstream society, and the majority population.’ Discrimination in this context, Piazza argues ‘reinforces social exclusion and the sense of otherness among afflicted minority group members.’ Piazza concludes by asserting, ‘this leaves aggrieved minority populations alienated from the mainstream economic system, distrustful of state institutions and authority and, thereby, more susceptible to radicalization and fertile ground for terrorist movements to recruit cadres, raise money, and plan and execute attacks’ (2011: 341).

There is a growing consensus among radicalisation scholars including Marc Sageman (2004) that many jihadist suspects, in opposition to common assumption, in fact often come from higher than average educated backgrounds. Claire Richardson (2011) has noted this paradox, suggesting higher levels of educational attainment may actually reinforce the individual’s perceptions of social immobility. Upon graduation, the individual may encounter fewer available labour opportunities than expected. Coupled with possible accumulated debt and time spent, this realisation can quickly turn to frustration and dissatisfaction; even if employment is found, feelings of resentment due to perceived over-qualification for the post may affect the mental stability of the individual. Such a paradox mirrors similar contradictions concerning integration and ethnic penalties.

Referring to European Islamic diasporas, Al-Raffie ascertains ‘a combination of socioeconomic, structural factors such as unemployment, and a low social standing relative to the societal average, may ferment feelings of disaffection towards the host country’ (2013: 74). Just as with deprivation, disaffection, can be identified with on an individual level or on a group basis (ethno-cultural, religious or social groupings).

Racism and xenophobia contributes to individual and group grievances alongside feelings of victimisation and deprivation, both of which facilitate in identity crises and trauma. Abbas labels the relationship between Islamophobia and Islamic radicalisation as symbiotic in nature, adding ‘Islamophobia drives radicalisation, and vice-versa.’ (2012: 353). Islamophobia is defined by Stolz as ‘a rejection of Islam, Muslim groups and Muslim individuals on the basis of prejudice and stereotypes. It may have emotional, cognitive, evaluative as well as action-oriented elements (e.g. discrimination, violence)’ (2008: 548). Lyons-Padilla (2016) argues experiences of Islamophobia make ‘Muslims feel disenfranchised and discriminated against.’ She asserts, ‘We are actually planting the seeds for radicalisation and essentially helping IS recruit by fuelling the narrative that the West is anti-Islam.’ Al-Raffie claims ‘the ills and disenfranchisement of the individual are attributed to a larger, conspiratorial campaign launched against Islam and Muslims’ (2013: 75).

Discrimination against Maghrebis in today’s France: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité?

France colonial power had ended by 1962 in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, the last of which, France had previously occupied and fought an eight-year violent conflict against the FLN. To this day, bitter resentment and grievance are still held by some as a result of France’s treatment towards its colonial subjects while under occupation and subsequent behaviour during times of conflict. The war culminated in the Evian Accords that welcomed over the course of a decade, millions of Maghrebis to France as guest workers to fuel its post-war reconstruction efforts.

Despite efforts to address this inequality through integration programmes and assimilation policies, many Franco-Maghrebis still face disproportionately socio-economic discrimination; in addition to dual ethno-cultural and racial penalties alongside underlying class stigmatisation. Analysis will examine unemployment rates, labour market discrimination and income disparity, informal housing segregation and deprivation. Lastly the socio-economic relevance of the ‘banlieue’ will be considered with reference to social separation and radicalisation.

Unemployment and Income Inequality

Unemployment and barriers to the labour market have been a large source of discontentment among persons of North African origin. Various studies have shown that Maghrebis in France disproportionately faced employment discrimination. An EU Commission report claims the Maghrebi labour situation is ‘characterised by high structural unemployment’. The report continues ‘youth of North African origin are twice as often unemployed as their peers, even when they have obtained graduate degrees’ (ICMPD 2003: 32). Additional studies have shown that religious affiliation can influence recruitment chances and potential. Maghrebi women have been found to encounter increased barriers to the labour market; facing the added penalty of gender in addition to ethno-cultural limitations (Meurs and Pailhé 2010).

In longitudinal empirical research spanning 11 years, Silberman, Alba and Fournier (2007) examined labour market discrimination against the second generation (see Table 3). Their research found: ‘those that come from former French colonies and/or are dominated by Muslims, are disadvantaged in the French labour market. By and large, they enter it with educational credentials that are on average well below those of the native French, but their levels of unemployment cannot be explained entirely by educational differences.’ They conclude, ‘If one group can be said to epitomize this pattern of disadvantage and exclusion, it is the Maghrebins’ (2007: 22). Their findings suggest the presence of ‘persistent penalty for access to the labour mark and the existence of specific, lasting discrimination against them.’

Table 3

Unemployed percentage after 3 years of finishing school.

French Both parents French-born Maghrebi (2nd Gen) One of parents of Maghrebi origin

Males (N = 22311) (N = 1861)
    Employed 87.4 72.1
    Unemployed 7.2 18.7
    Inactive 1.6 4.4
    Other 3.9 4.8
Females (N = 21566) (N = 1649)
    Employed 79.0 65.8
    Unemployed 10.2 20.8
    Inactive 5.3 7.5
    Other 5.5 6.0

Later research also uncovered that on average ‘unemployment rates were often much higher in subsidized housing developments and poor districts generally, where disadvantaged groups are concentrated.’ (Silberman and Fournier 2008: 61–62). In reference to perceived employment discrimination, Maghrebi cohorts both felt discriminated in the hiring process more so than their French counterparts. Factors such as name and skin colour weighted heavy in Maghrebi logic for their discriminatory experiences (see Table 4). They conclude ‘that young people who report that they have been victims of discrimination are more likely to consider this discrimination due to their origin rather than to their just place of residence: the ethnic boundary appears converge with the social segregation boundary.’ (2008: 19). Similar research conducted in the wider Parisian region found that higher educational attainment does not compensate for Maghrebi ethnic penalty (Jones 2014).

Table 4

Comparison of perceived employment discrimination Native French vs. Maghrebi Origin.

Men Native French (N = 22311) Men Maghrebi origin (N = 1861) Female Native French (N = 21566) Female Maghrebi origin (N = 1649)

Percentage who perceived discrimination within hiring process 8.1% 40.8% 12.7% 30.8%
Attributed the discrimination to their name 0.5% 26.5% 0.5% 18.9%
Attributed the discrimination to their skin colour 0.8% 22.2% 0.7% 8.7%

Respondent F2 spoke of experiences of labour market discrimination due to covert xenophobia:

‘I have applied for jobs in the past and I’m sure that my foreign sounding name might be the reason I didn’t even get a response.’

Respondent M3 perceived a different treatment within interviewing procedures due to skin colour:

‘They ask if I’m legally allowed to work here, I understand but if I had white skin, I don’t think they would ask me this.’

Respondent M9 also comments on perceived discrimination during hiring procedures:

‘Often my profile is declined because of my name at the first step; recruiters open my application but they don’t take time to answer. For the same application, my non-Maghrebi friends’ applications are viewed and they get answers even if negative.’

Respondent M8 refers to a common refrain he encounters after job applications:

‘They tell you the position has been filled or you will be contacted.’

A separate study conducted by Institut Montaigne examined religious discrimination within hiring procedures (Valfort 2015). It found that Muslims, and to a lesser extent Jews, were discriminated against due to their religious convictions (see Table 5). The study had three hypothetical applicants, all of equal measure and competences; only differences were name and declared religion.5

Table 5

Call-back rate compared with religion affiliation, observance and profile quality.

Religious affiliation of applicant Islam Judaism Catholicism

Call-back rate for an interview 10.4% 15.8% 20.8%
Call-back rate for an interview Ordinary Ordinary Ordinary
   - According to if their profile was ordinary or outstanding 7.2% 11.7% 17.2%
Outstanding Outstanding Outstanding
13.2% 20.3% 24.8%

Call-back rate for an interview Observant Observant Observant
   - According to whether applicants appeared religious observant 10.4% 15.8% 20.8%
Secular Secular Secular
12.9% 16.9% 16.1%

Research by Aeberhardt and Pouget (2007) into French wage differentials found that those of Maghreb origin in the French labour market earn less than their French equals (see Table 6).

Table 6

Comparison of earned wage disparity according to parental origin.

Parent Origin One parent Maghrebi origin (N = 1193) Both parents Maghrebi origin (N = 2378) Both parents Southern European origin (N = 2504) Both parents French origin (N = 98369)

Average Monthly Salary (€) 1431 1384 1565 1648
Proportion Employed 60% 59% 79% 78%

The pair found male workers whose both parents are Maghreb-born typically ‘earn 7.6% less than a male worker whose both parents were born in France’. They argue as a result of lower education attainment ‘children of foreign-born parents are less likely to become executives’ with 16.1% of Maghrebis being executives, compared to 21.2% of those of French origin. They also link earning potential and lower educational attainment.6 They claim male workers of Maghrebi origin are over-represented in low-skill or manual labour occupations such as ‘construction, transports, services to businesses, hotels and restaurants’ (2007: 6).

Informal housing segregation and deprivation

Due to rapid migration influxes from the Maghreb to France during and after the Algerian War, much of the existing social housing stock available for those of low economic background was in short supply. This reality meant many Maghrebis arriving in France were forced to live in bidonvilles (slums) located close to the construction sites in which they found employment. By 1970, an estimated 100,000 people endured these slums that lacked ‘basic amenities such as heating, electricity, running water, drains or sanitation’ (Winchester 1993: 68).

From the 1950 to the late 1960s France underwent a boom of construction boosted by cheap migrant labour. Grande ensembles, ‘large apartment blocks of public hosing on vacant land at the edge of cities’ were built. Constructed of prefabricated low-cost material, these towering urban structures influenced by Le Corbusier brutalist architecture were ‘poorly built, and inadequately serviced by transport, shops, schools and other facilities’. This led to ‘an illness based on depression caused by these very difficult living conditions’ to be named after the Parisian banlieue of Sarcelles (1993: 150).

The 1970s hailed the mass urbanisation of former slums and the construction of large social housing developments. Many units were earmarked as rent-controlled housing or Habitation à Loyer Modéré (HLM). The out-migration between the 1970s–1980s of those living in the slums led to ‘an increase in the presence of immigrant families within the public housing sector’ (Hargreaves 2007: 64).

Come the 1980s many of these cités HLM (housing estates) were characterised by ‘physical deterioration, accumulation of disadvantaged groups, vandalism and social problems’ (1993: 166). Such issues caused them to ‘become synonymous in press and television with disadvantaged neighbourhoods featuring a dense concentration of minority ethnic groups and high crime rates’ (2007: 150).

Over the period from 1982 to 1999 the proportion of peoples of Maghrebi origin living in social housing HLMs increased by 13.7%; while the French native HLM contingent grew by only 1.8% (see Table 7) (Verdungo 2011).

Table 7

Comparison of HLM contingents by year.

Ethnic Group Census Year

Native French 17.9 18.7 19.7
Immigrants’ Origin
Maghreb (Total) 34.2 42.6 47.9
    Algeria 35.2 43.4 50.4
    Morocco 37.6 42.8 49.2
    Tunisia 27.3 37.8 39.1
Immigrant average 23.7 27.3 32.8

The banlieue, rioting and the urban revolt

Banlieue literally translates as suburbs and refers to the periphery neighbourhoods on the outskirts of major French cities. Usually urbanised, they host large immigrant communities mainly in HLMs. On multiple occasions these HLMs have been the epicentre of frustration of the socially and economically disadvantaged; issues of social mobility, living standards and the inequality of life chances dominate. Periphery living has caused some inhabitants to disconnect, emotionally and physically from the wider society. The term relégation entered French political lexicon to refer to this physical isolation (Wacquant 2007).

The 1981 Rodéo riots in Minguettes, Lyon shook France, they were marked by the burning of cars; a tactic which has continued to this day. From the beginning of the 1990s to 2009, multiple riots have taken place between the banlieues inhabitants and French police. In 2005, 20 consecutive days of rioting spread across France following the death of two boys fleeing from police in the north-eastern Parisian town of Clichy-sous-Bois located in the suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis.

Global Islamic affairs scholar, Jocelyne Cesari (2005) asserts the riots ‘demonstrated that such economic and social problems, far from having been resolved, have only worsened in the course of the past 20 years.’ Verdugo argues the ‘riots of 2005 in France highlighted the housing conditions of many first and second-generation immigrants in public housing suburbs.’ (2011: 171). Expert on disadvantaged urban localities, Cecilia Eseverri-Mayer contends arguments that seek to claim violence in Parisian suburbs is the result of lack of cultural assimilation and authority are reductionist and negate the complexity of the banlieues which are affected by issues such as: ‘the poor accessibility of young people to the labour market and the existence of covert mechanisms of discrimination, social and ethnic segregation that makes for permanent social inequality’ (2007: 194).

Commenting upon social segregation, Respondent F6 claimed:

It manifests itself in the urban landscape: some areas are clearly dominated by the North African population like the ’93 [Seine-Saint-Denis] or neighbouring 18th arrondissement. This makes school segregated too. Currently the North African community is so “urbanely” {sic} segregated, they don’t have access to the same offers or chances.’

Dependence on the limited or time-determined public transportation system coupled with physical distance to cities negatively affects access to the labour market alongside educational and social opportunities; as does social stigma of living in such places.

When asked about the banlieue and social mobility, Respondent M4 linked transport availability and access to the labour market:

There are some jobs I knew can not apply for because the transport will be an issue, if its a night job, I have no way of getting home, I feel like where I live automatically restricts where I could work.’

From urban to global revolt: radicalisation in the banlieue

Roy (2005) makes the claim that ‘neo-fundamentalist movements are thriving in the banlieues’. The Tablighi movement was brought to France by Pakistani preachers in the late 1960s, by the mid-1970s, the movement found a stronghold in the Seine-Saint-Denis and since been has been ‘very influential among immigrants from North Africa’. The Tablighi ‘has historically been a key actor in re-Islamization’ (Adraoui, 2014: 8). Cesari argues this is nothing new, citing the case of Khaled Kelkal; the GIA suspect of the 1995 Paris bombing. Algerian-born Kelkal grew up in Vaulx-en-Velin, a banlieue of Lyon, and was said to have been radicalised and recruited by the local Tablighi ‘Bilal mosque’.

Khosrokhavar (2015) identifies commonalties among the perpetrators of recent attacks in France, arguing they are from ‘the French poor suburbs, the so-called banlieues, where there is a concentration of populations mostly of North African origins, with a higher rate of joblessness and criminality, and a deeply antagonistic attitude of its male youth towards the rest of the society.’

Examples of recent radicalisation are demonstrated in the following cases: Mohammed Merah, the Toulouse-Montauban shooter hailed from the Toulouse banlieue of Les Izards (Sayare 2012). The Charlie Hebdo attackers came from the banlieue; Awan claims: ‘In the case of the Kouachi brothers, jihadism potentially offered a rejection of, and escape from, the banal and inane drudgery of daily life in French banlieues, which for many French Muslims is a heady mix of unemployment, crime, drugs, institutional racism and endemic cycles of poverty and disenfranchisement’ (2015: 68).

Another example includes Amédy Coulibaly, the Hypercacher supermarket attacker who grew up in a HLM, La Grande-Borne in the southern Parisian banlieue of Grigny (Chrisafis 2015). Both Coilibaly and the Kouachi brothers have been linked the Buttes-Chaumont group, a jihadist cell operating from the 19th Paris Arrondissement until 2005 (TRAC 2015).

Sevran, a deprived banlieue in Seine-Saint-Denis bordering Paris, a flashpoint of the 2005 riots, has become synonymous with jihadist recruitment, with some commentators comparing it to Molenbeek; a jihadist hub in Brussels. In recent years, Servan has “lost” over 15 young people to the ISIS’s call to jihad in Syria (Sergent 2016) However there have been recent positive developments, with grassroots projects tackling issues facing Sevran (Mandhai 2017).

Securitisation and the Radical

Securitisation occurs when ‘ostensibly non-security issues are transformed into urgent security concerns’ (Messina, 2014: 530). Within security studies, multiple and contending schools of thought have arisen. Security theorist Philippe Bourbeau claims prospective ‘securitisers’ are only successful if, they ‘possess social capital and power to legitimize their securitising moves’ and if the public ‘accepts proposed securitising moves as legitimate’. He further asserts ‘labelling something as a security issue imbues that issue with a sense of importance that legitimizes the use of emergency measures extending beyond the usual political processes’ (Bourbeau 2014: 190). Buzan et al. describe a securitizing move as ‘a discourse that takes the form of presenting something as an existential threat to a referent object’ (1998: 25). The referent object could refer to collective identities, nation-states or religions. Buzan classifies securitisation as a self-referential practice in which security is a subjective perception. Theiler contends ‘anything can be perceived as a security threat once it has been effectively securitised’ (2003: 252). The referent object in this instance is the French state itself, yet, its manifestations are subjective; ranging from France’s ethnic composition to the Republican value of laïcité.

Cesari argues ‘conflating factors such as immigrant background, ethnicity, socio-economic deprivation and the war on terror with Islam as a religion’ has ‘exacerbated the securitisation process’ (2010: 10). Securitisation of an ethnic group through its collective identities (religion, country of origin, cultural customs) exacerbate, solidify and vindicate perceptions held of stigmatisation, victimisation and, most importantly, targeted demonisation. These issues foster perceptions of the “Other” within the individual; in turn facilitating an identity crisis.

Abbas suggests ‘intrusion of the state into everyday life, legislation perceived as specifically targeting Muslims suggests that [such] communities may feel that they are under specific threat’ (2012: 5). Perceived threat to identities on an individual, group, national and international level may heighten susceptibility to narratives that play on identity insecurity.

If an individual perceives the consensus of the press, politics of state and public opinion as in opposition to their belief-set, the individual may choose to reject the State as they feel unrepresented by it. Overt Islamophobic or racist discriminatory rhetoric or policies may cause an individual and their group to “disaffiliate” with mainstream society; perhaps choosing to re-affiliate with their ethno-religious identity. This disaffiliation may leave the individual more susceptible to radical or anti-establishment narratives. Perceptions of public suspicion and State surveillance (due to securitisation moves) increases the fostering of distrust, resentment or fear of the State, its institutions and values.

Githens-Mazer (2012: 560) views radicalisation as a ‘subjective’ and ‘constructed’ risk; equating it to a securitising discourse:

The contemporary security discourse of radicalization represents the translation of a perception of social risk from Islamically-inspired terrorism into the concrete focus of a policy agenda.

Political scientist Roxane Farmanfarmaian (2013: 93) argues radicalisation ‘can be seen as a response to the rhetorical process of being rendered ‘Other’ in the course of securitising society.’ Farmanfarmaian views the phenomenon of radicalisation and securitisation as both ‘relying on the interplay of security and identity, in that the construction of the Other as the existential threat ultimately defines the Self’. She concludes by remarking that processes of radicalisation and securitisation are ‘symbiotic’ and ‘are intrinsically linked’ (111).

Securitisation à la Française

This section argues the Franco-Maghrebi community are subject to securitisation in the French media, political discourse as well as public opinion. Trisecting aspects of Franco-Maghrebi identity are commonly framed as security issues in France and its media: immigration, Islam and the banlieue. Maghrebi academic Nora Fellag (2014) argues the French state’s political and media discourse often labels and frames the Maghrebi community solely by its immigrant legacy and its ethno-religious composition or affiliations. Multiple examples of moves securitising the Maghrebi community can be seen in recent media discourses in France, intensifying after the 2015 Paris attacks (Vybíralová 2012; Uhlig 2015). Following an examination of securitising moves against the Franco-Maghrebis, the notion of suspect communities is explored.


Immigration itself is portrayed as an existential threat to France’s cultural fabric and traditions; subsequent immigrant generations are seen an internal threat (Bourbeau 2011) De Wenden maintains ‘securitisation of immigration reinforces the stereotype of the failure of integration, transnational networks, urban violence and radical Islamism’. (2014: 164) Particularly under Jean-Marie Le Pen, much of Front National (FN) propaganda and narrative until 2007, sought to frame the immigration as a raw threat to France’s economic prosperity and employment opportunities.

Appeasing FN’s voters concerns, an attempt was made to introduce an unprecedented immigration law that recorded DNA of prospective immigrants alongside the details of ethnic origin (Sciolino 2007). However the 2007 law was amended as the High Court’s assessed that the measure’s original draft breached laïcité (state separation from religion; resulting in the intentional non-collection of official ethnic data) thus deemed unconstitutional. Actors such as Le Pen have securitised immigration for many years, however of late; such securitising discourses have increasing come from centre-right parties such as Les Républicains.

Expert on the FN, Paul Hainsworth evaluates there has been ‘some evolution in the FN’s treatment of immigration’. He contends the issue ‘is very much associated with the theme of security and the FN endeavours to strongly make this connection’. He concludes that the party’s voters ‘harbour an overwhelming sympathy for the party’s stance of immigration and security.’ (2004: 108). During the 2012 election, Marine Le Pen used the attack by Mohammed Merah to ‘conflate immigration and terrorism’ (Shields 2013). However, Merah was not an immigrant, he was born in France; a detail that was almost deliberately missed or omitted. After the May 2014 attack on a Belgian Jewish Museum by a French national of Algerian heritage, issues of dual citizenship were a topic of discussion and debate. The Le Point online poll, the magazine posed the question ‘Should French nationals of Algerian origin be stripped of their dual nationality’. The poll concluded yes with 81% in favour (Le Point, 2014).7 Following criticism of Le Point led to the dismaying poll being withdrawn.


Firstly, it should be noted that official statistics on ethnicity and religion are prohibited in French, despite this France hosts the largest Muslim community in Europe. Although not exclusively an Islamic religious contingent, Franco-Maghrebi accounts for the vast majority of France’s Muslim population. There are very obvious pragmatic threats from Islamic terrorism for France with securitisation of Islam in France preceding 9/11, going back to GIA attacks in 1995 and Huntington’s 1993 ‘clash of civilisations’. Distasteful views of Islam find their roots in French orientalist colonial thought. In recent years, the media has securitised and labelled public religious observance by French Muslims as a threat to laïcité and thus the Republic as an entity. The FN loudly voiced their opposition of the so-called ‘Islamisation’ of France; one media commentator has even being described the Muslim communities of Europe as a ‘demographic time-bomb’ (Michaels 2009). Le Pen views the veil as the “tip of the iceberg” of the Islamisation of French culture (Shorto 2011).

In April 2015, the mayor of Nice, Christian Estroi spoke of a Third World War with Islamism; reasoning ‘The Judeo-Christian civilization of which today we are the heirs is threatened’. De Wenden argues ‘the amalgamation in the public opinion between Islam, delinquency and terrorism has been often largely spread, using the terms of threats’ (2007:164). French preoccupations about the growth of Islam in France are demonstrated in Ipsos-Mori research conducted in 2016 entitled the Peril of Perception. The poll found that France vastly overestimated its Muslim population relative to other Europeans states (Duncan 2016). Success of Islam’s securitisation can be evidenced in the satirical topic of Michel Houellebecq’s book Submission; coincidently released on the date of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Houellebecq envisions a France in which an Islamist party wins the 2022 presidential election and seeks radical changes in French society. After the novel’s release, Le Pen warned that it is a ‘fiction that could one day become reality’ (Le Figaro 2015). Recent attacks in France have been said to ‘have only added more fuel to Le Pen’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and have magnified the growing fear of Islamic radicalisation in France’ (Waters 2016).

Frequently the French media has framed Islam as a threat to the communitarian values of the French Republic; words and phrases such as ‘menace’, ‘fear’, ‘danger’, ‘threat’, ‘invasion’ and ‘failure of integration’ appear on the front covers and in the headlines. Right-wing media outlets such as L’Express, Le Point and in particular Valeurs Actuelles often feature sensationalist and Islamophobic cover stories about Islam, terrorism and integration; a common motif is the public enemy number one: women wearing Burqas. In 2003, the founder and 1972–2000 editor of Le Point, Claude-Imbert, declared ‘To be honest, I am a bit of an Islamophobe, it doesn’t bother me to say it’ (L’Obs 2003).

On the topic of radicalisation in French media, Respondent M7 argued:

‘The media have a tendency to exaggerate the radicalisation of French Muslims and often fuel stereotypes and prejudice. I would say this behaviour is especially prevalent among the poubelle (trashy) press.’

Respondent F5 remarked on the representation of Muslims and Islamophobia in French media:

‘The media coverage of terrorism engenders a very strong fear in the French population, and Islamophobia keeps growing. Muslims are very quickly associated with terrorism.’

Respondent F4 commented upon representation of the north African community within French media discourse:

‘Really strong stereotypes exist. We all are perceived as Muslim. Even the media call us the Muslims of France.’

Securitising Muslim women

The treatment and discourse surrounding Muslim women by the French state is often cited as an example of classic securitisation. The issue of the burqa or veil (and more recently the Burkini) is hotly debated in France and its media. Polls show that since the “headscarf affair” of 1989, the French population have become increasingly opposed to the veil. De Wenden remarks, ‘the visibility of Islam is often viewed by the public as a failure of integration’ (2007: 163). Cultural commentator Stenhouse, said around the 1989 affair, ‘the most fundamental question of all was being posed: can one be Muslim and French?’ (1997: 47).

On the topic of juxtaposing French and Muslim identities, Respondent F4 asserted:

‘As if we are defined by a religion. I’m French as much as anyone else. Islam is not in our genes. And as an atheist I find this even more offensive.’

In 2003, French President Jacques Chirac declared, ‘there can be no toleration, under the guise of religious freedom, of people contesting the Republic’s laws and principles’ (Chirac 2003). He later argued that without the law, France ‘would sacrifice its heritage. It would compromise its future. It would lose its soul’ (Sciolino 2003). In a poll taken after Chirac’s remarks, public support for the law rose by 14% (Vaïsse 2004). In 2004 French High Court ruling banned religious symbols in public places (Messlina 2014). The burqa was the target of a separate ban in 2010 (BBC 2010). Pubic support was around 69% in favour of the 2010 ban, with 90% favouring the ban in public places (IFOP 2010). In 2016, the French High Court suspended a ban on the “burkini” as it ‘seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms’ (BBC 2016). Nicolas Sarkozy defended the ban regarding the burkini as a ‘political act, a militant act, a provocation’ claiming ‘women who wear it are testing the Republic’ (Lough 2016). Both statements explicitly frame and reassert Islamic observance as threating laïcité and opposing Republican values.

Respondent F4 also commented upon her own experiences of Islamophobia:

‘Islamophobia is hitting hard. as I wear the scarf, I feel it. Once you go to tourist places, you feel unwelcome by the businesses themselves.’

After various bans on religious symbols and specific Islamic religious dress, ‘the Muslim community perceive laïcité as a form of discrimination that violates their right to freely practice Islam’ (Waters 2016: 3) These bans have been described as ‘indications of successful securitization’ (Vybíralová 2016: 38).

La banlieue

Since the late 1970s, the banlieue has become synonymous with drugs, delinquency and deprivation. Urban riots throughout the 1980s and 1990s further propelled a stereotype of the banlieue being a savage epicentre of violence and danger (Fellag 2014). More recently French media have presented such periphery suburbs ‘as linked with urban riots, delinquency and Islamic fundamentalism’; such stereotypes are built around the motifs of ‘violence, drugs, unemployment, communities, Islam, ethnic ghettos’. (De Wenden 2007:149). Hargreaves perceives the banlieue as constructed and construed by the media as places of ‘ethnic alterity, deviance and disadvantage’ (1996: 607). Leite views ‘being in the banlieues means having your identity constructed for you according to the geographic space you inhabit’.

Respondent F2 felt her suburban address hindering her job prospects:

I think that my address is sometimes an issue, I live in the suburbs of Lyon and I think people are judgmental or cautious about employing someone from outside the city.’

Nicolas Sarkozy‘s discourse in 2005 is an example of a series of securitising moves. Sarkozy, then Interior Minister, referred to the rioters, overwhelmingly habitants of the banlieue, as “racaille”; a pejorative phrase translated as “scum” or “rabble”. Sarkozy went onto suggest the banlieue and its residents needed to be cleaned with a “Kärcher”; a power-washer (Ohana 2007). Despite his derogatory comments and outcry, Sarkozy enjoyed an increased popularity and approval rating (Sandford, 2005). The 12th consecutive day of rioting across France provoked the rare enacting of the 1955 law invoking a state of emergency (Der Spiegel 2005). This law had not been used since 1984 in New Caledonia; originally introduced to quell disturbances in 1950s Algeria.

Securitisation’s enablement and creation of a “suspect” community

The term “suspect community” originated from the 1993 work by the same name. It discussed the effect on British social cohesion of 1970s Northern Ireland-related counter-terrorism legislation. In the work Paddy Hillyard (1993) argued such legislation subjected Irish people to different legal practices and scrutiny than other UK residents. Pantazis and Simon define suspect communities as ‘a sub-group of the population that is singled out for state attention as being problematic’. They conclude ‘race, ethnicity, religion, class, gender, language, accent, dress, political ideology or any combination of these factors may serve to delineate’ (2009: 649). Despite difference in demographic and political context, the pair suggests that Muslims (particularity in the UK) are regarded as the new suspect community in terms of policing and counter terrorism policy focus.

Application of the suspect community label upon the Franco-Maghrebis is not surprising considering the demographics’ tumultuous relationship with their colonial master (and with modern-day French judicial authorities). In the wake of decolonisation, coupled with the Algerian war (including domestic FLN attacks) plus subsequent mass migration to France, many Maghrebis were treated with suspicion and subject to different legal apparatus until 1962 (Stora 1992). This suspicion increased in the wake of new counter-terrorism laws after the 1995 Paris attacks by the GIA and later with the emergence of Maghreb-based jihadist groups, Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) and its offshoot Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM). In 2005, 22 regional taskforces were created and given legal jurisdiction to combat “radical Islam”. That year it conducted raids on 47 mosques, 473 Muslim-owned businesses and 85 cafes (Smolar 2006). In 1969, Fiche S intelligence surveillance database began to track individuals who were seen to threaten the Republic’s law and order. By 2016, the figure of individuals on the database, suspected of Islamism were around 12,000; although no demographic data of the database is published, it is likely many of these 12,000 are Franco-Maghrebi (Follorou 2016). In recent years, various laws aimed at curb infractions on lacïté only helped to engrain the image of a suspect community.

Many examples of political and social securitisation of the Franco Maghrebi identity feed into a culture of regarding the community through strict security lens as opposed to a social cohesion-oriented or communitarian approach. This culture ensures, maintains and enables a view of Franco-Maghrebis in which they marked by suspicion, mistrust and a question concerning their ethno-religious and nationalistic loyalties.


This study sought to account as to why the radicalisation of Franco-Maghrebis has been so prevalent over recent years.

There is clear academic and policy consensus that Franco-Maghrebis face disproportionate penalty and life chances arising from socio-economic discrimination alongside ethno-religious and class stigmatisation; scholarship continues to reiterate links between such varied disparities and radicalisation. Additionally the changing tone and substance within extremist propaganda and narrative has sought to exploit grievances resulting from said disparities. Securitisation’s role has been considered and how elements pertaining to the Franco-Maghrebi collective identity have been subject of a securitised debate within France, intensifying since 9/11 and the 2005 riots. Such a discussion was fundamental to appreciate how political climate and disource compounded with socio-economic disparity has engrained a sense of “otherness” within French society that fosters a mind-set receptive to radical narratives.

Qualitative input from Franco-Maghrebis goes someway to suggest that such life chance disparity and negative “securisted” societal experiences are still very much felt by the second and third generation in France. Yet such experiences, do not fully account for radicalisation per se. If this were true, many other demographics would hold radicalisation examples based on their socio-economic grievances. Multiple elements forming the Franco-Maghrebi identity are also largely present in other demographics such as sub-Saharan Africans, or simply anyone identifying as Muslim, living in periphery areas of deprivation while being of non-European immigrant origin. Despite this, France’s contextual colonial history with the Maghreb and resulting inter-generational grievance, should not be overlooked or ignored when examining sources of radicalised politicisation in the Franco-Maghrebi diaspora; such a theme is one of great understudy while of vital importance.

A study such as this, which correlates security-related issues and the actions of a minority within a demographic, may be seen by some to further such a culture and agenda of securitisation; leading to the creation of suspect communities. Yet in a climate of growing securitised discourse, it is vital that academics discuss such issues and explore understudied links. At the same time, Critical Security Studies must look inward as to know how it is used and for what purpose; securitisation research must understand it’s own role in the process. Ultimately this research has touched upon some major understudied themes with scant research undertaken. A clear symbiosis between securitisation and radicalisation must be explored further and to what extent the Franco-Maghrebis have become a suspect and securitised community within modern France.

Due to the complexities, sensitivities and scope of issues covered in this study, further multidisciplinary research focusing on underlying causes of systemic inequality and sources of grievance must be undertaken. Engagement must seek real meaningful consultation and contribution from the Franco-Marghebi community in order to best account and seek resolution for this pressing national and international security issue.


1Of 248 individuals ‘whom we could find information on nationality’ (N = 304 if dual nationalities are included, variable of 56), the two most prominent groups present were 68 Moroccans, 58 Algerians followed by 54 Britons. Figures concerning Tunisians were not present. 

2N = 275, this includes double count in incidence of mixed marriage; variable of 4, again North Africans feature prominently: 68 Algerians, 72 Moroccans and 14 Tunisians. 

3Of 12 members, 9 were Moroccan. 

4Ummah refers to the conceptual global Islamic community. 

5It should be noted that all of the applicants posed as French with Lebanese origins, as opposed to north African. 

623.1% of male workers of Maghrebi origin had no formal diploma, the figure was 11.9% of those of French origin. 

781.6% (7794) in favour and 18.4 (1757) against. 


Table 8

List of respondents’ details.

ID Name Age Gender Country of Origin Immigrant Generation Place of residence (Department) Response Received

F1 Lyla 19 Female Tunisian 3rd Nice (Alpes-Maritimes – 06) 17/11/2016
F2 Hadia 26 Female Algerian 2nd Meyzieu (Rhône – 69) 04/12/2016
F3 Zineb 27 Female Algerian 3rd Drancy (Seine-Saint-Denis – 93) 06/01/2017
F4 Fatima 33 Female Moroccan 2nd Aulnay-Sous-Bois (Seine-Saint-Denis – 93) 02/02/2017
F5 Shade 24 Female Moroccan 3rd Fontenay-Sous-Bois (Val-de-Marne – 94) 23/02/2017
F6 Nourddine 25 Female Algerian 2nd Sarcelles (Val-d’Oise – 95) 23/03/2017
M1 Saïd 26 Male Algerian 2nd Grenoble (Isère – 38) 07/11/2016
M2 Asaf 19 Male Moroccan 3rd Nosiel (Seine-et-Marne – 77) 14/11/2016
M3 Sami 28 Male Algerian 2nd Bordeaux (Gironde – 33) 24/11/2016
M4 Hakim 24 Male Algerian 3rd Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis – 93) 24/11/2016
M5 Omar 20 Male Moroccan 3rd Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône – 13) 17/12/2016
M6 Yusuf 21 Male Tunisian 3rd Aubervilliers (Seine-Saint-Denis – 93) 18/12/2016
M7 Malik 25 Male Algerian- Moroccan 3rd Mâcon (Saône-et-Loire – 71) 19/01/2017
M8 Ahmed 53 Male Moroccan 2nd Ermont (Val-d’Oise – 95) 14/03/2017
M9 Samir 42 Male Algerian 2nd Bourg-en-Bresse (Ain – 01) 19/03/2017

Competing Interests

The author has no competing interests to declare.


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