The American suburbs are pretty unique compared to suburbs in other countries. For example, a new study shows that residents in French suburbs are moving away from mainstream French culture:
Local communities in France’s immigrant suburbs increasingly organize themselves on Islamic lines rather than following the values of the secular republic, according to a major new sociological study.
Respected political scientist Gilles Kepel, a specialist in the Muslim world, led a team of researchers in a year-long project in Clichy-sous-Bois and Montfermeil, two Paris suburbs that exploded in riots in 2005.
The resulting study ? “Suburbs of the Republic” ? found that religious institutions and practices are increasingly displacing those of the state and the French Republic, which has a strong secular tradition.
Families from the districts, which are mainly populated by immigrants from north and west Africa and their descendants, regularly attend mosque, fast during Ramadan and boycott school meals that are not “halal.”
American culture is dominated by suburban themes and values while this study suggests the suburbs of France are the alienated portion of society. The study also looked into why the alienation is present, particularly following the 2005 riots:
While the resentment in the poor suburbs has social roots, essentially the residents’ virtual exclusion from a tight jobs market, the rioters expressed frustration in a vocabulary “borrowed from Islam’s semantic register.”
Islamic values are replacing those of a republic which failed to deliver on its promise of “equality”, and the residents of the suburbs increasingly do not see themselves as French, the researchers said.
American culture has some similar issues: we talk about equal opportunities, which is something different than “equality” in the French sense – compare “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to “liberty, equality, fraternity.” Of course, this doesn’t exactly happen: the American system is set up so that certain groups have fewer opportunities over time. The disconnect between official rhetoric and the actual situation on the ground tends to lead to problems at some point.
So which country will effectively tackle these issues first: the French dealing with immigrants in the suburbs or the United States with poor inner-city neighborhoods? Does either country have the political will to truly tackle the root problems rather than simply treating the symptoms?