I was a young boy in my early twenties when I started working in Paris. I was amazed by the art, culture, heritage and multi-ethnic way of life there. It has been 16 years since then and today I fail to recognise Paris. This isn’t the city I lived in. It has changed drastically! 

The definition of multi-ethnicity in Paris has changed phenomenally and now it has a different meaning. It is not just diverse races, now it has included a huge religious component in it. These groups have different separatist values who think of themselves as a nation and even wish to supersede the entire nation of France. 

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The immigrants in France accounts for around 15% of its population. Among them, around 8.8% are Muslims, who are predominantly African and Middle-eastern. Jean-Claude Chesnais, one of France’s leading demographers, doesn’t dismiss the reports on the claims of the radical Islamists as just another case of Islamophobia. And he analysed it way back in 1996. According to him,

“Migration trends are to intensify over the coming thirty years... All developed countries will be affected, including East Asia and the former communist countries. There will be an overall mingling of cultures and civilizations that may lead, as far as France is concerned, to the emergence of a predominantly African population and rapid Islamisation."

He foresaw the threat that was impending in France. Today, his interview still haunts me for the sheer accuracy of his words. We cannot just dismiss the threat of France converting en-masse to Islam. History is witness to many such mass-conversions in several countries. Haven’t we seen Christianity replacing the pagan culture of Rome?

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In January 2015, I received a frantic call from one of my friends in Paris. I am withholding his name for his safety. I still remember the fear in his voice. It still sends chills down my spine when he said the office of Charlie Hebdo has been attacked, yet again. They killed 12 people and injured 11 others. He said that the Islamist terrorists are killing everybody. Several related attacks followed in the Île-de-France region from the January 7 to 9, including the Hypercacher Kosher supermarket siege where a terrorist held 19 people as hostages and murdered 4 Jewish people. Just to refer to another statistic to put things into perspective, between the 2015 to 2018 timespan in France, 249 people have been killed in Islamic terrorist attacks and 928 wounded in a total of 22 Islamic terrorist attacks.

So, when news of the chief suspects of the shooting at France’s satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo came to light, people started questioning how the principles of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and fierce Secularism have been destroyed by a select few. These are the values that France prides itself on. How could the French people even allow these values to be destroyed? With over 5 million Muslims, France has the largest Muslim population in Europe but its relationship with Islam has been the most tensed than all other European countries. In February 2017, a poll was conducted for over 10000 people in 10 European countries by Chatham house. It was found that a majority of them opposed furthering Muslim immigration and Austria, Poland, Hungary, France, and Belgium voiced the strongest opposition in this regard. 

I think it is important for us here to understand the culture of France, which is a fiercely secular state. In its 1905 law which separated the Church and the State, they made it very clear that the government will not interfere with religion. So, France doesn’t meddle or fund any religious groups. There is however one exception to this rule. Alsace-Lorraine, which was annexed by Germany between 1871 and 1918, is still ruled by the Napoleonic Concordat system, whereby priests are paid by the state.

France doesn’t collect statistics on religious faith or ethnic groups. They believe that it will lead to affirmative actions and community lobbying, both of these create cracks in a nation. For such a nation to accept a religion to tear apart their country and seek unnecessary benefits is extremely difficult. However, Nicolas Sarkozy first identified the problem and sought to solve it. He once said that Muslims aren’t integrating and that there is no place for people who demand the Sharia Law. He said that should be deported from France or be forced to assimilate – not just integrate – into French society. But, before he could bring about any noticeable change, he was replaced by Socialist President François Hollande who believes that Islam is compatible with Republican Values. But I think he has aggravated the problem further.​

France needs to clamp down on radical Islam following series of ISIS-inspired attacks that have burned the country. The number of French jihadists who have joined terror groups in the Middle East are rising by the second. According to the data released by their interior ministry, over 2100 French citizens have been involved in jihad, 680 currently in Syria and Iraq and more than 200 have returned from the battlefield.

No, this isn’t the country I called home. This isn’t the same Paris where I used to feel safe and secured. I am now scared to visit my friends there. Radical Islamists have torn the country apart and the so-called Liberals are just behaving like arm-chair politicians and not taking any actions against them. I just hope and pray that my Paris gets back to its earlier vibrance and my friends over there stay safe! 

About Abhinav Khare

Abhinav Khare is the CEO of Asianet News Network and also the host of a daily show named Deep Dive with AK. He has a lifetime collection of books and gadgets and has already pinged more than hundred cities around the globe. 

He is a tech entrepreneur, who is passionate about policy, technology, economy and philosophy from ancient India. He earned an MS Engineering from the ETH Zurich and an MBA Finance from the London Business School.