The Crescent and the Tricolor

| November 15, 2000

The Crescent and the Tricolor, Christopher Caldwell, The Atlantic Monthly
Islam has passed Protestantism and Judaism to become the second religion in France. Not since 15th-century Spain has any Western European country had so substantial a Muslim population as France has now. But what effect is the Islamic immigration having on France, a country well known for percolating racial tensions? Surprisingly, writes Christopher Caldwell in The Atlantic Monthly, things in France might be changing. Caldwell covers a history of tension and discrimination between native-born whites, who call themselves francáis de souche--that is, 'root French'--and the mostly Arab and African Muslims. However, he frames his article with an inspiring anecdote that points to better times ahead. In 1998, the French soccer team, a motley crew that included players born in Ghana, Guadeloupe, and Algeria, upset the Brazilians to win the World Cup. To celebrate, a million people poured out onto the Champs-Elysées to stage an impromptu parade, and it became abundantly clear what a multiracial society France had become. Blacks celebrated with Asians who celebrated with Arabs who celebrated with native-born whites. 'Within days,' Caldwell writes, 'it had become a cliché to call it the most important demonstration since the liberation of Paris from the Germans in 1944. It was a celebration less of French sports than of French society--and of immigration's role in that society.'
--Anjula Razdan
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