By: Fabien Truong
In the wake of the Syrian terrorist attacks in France, the UK and elsewhere, there has been a growing concern about the ‘radicalization’ of young Muslims. Deprived areas of Western cities are believed to have become breeding grounds of home-grown extremism. But how do young Muslims growing up in the cities of the West really live?
This book takes us into the housing estates on the outskirts of Paris where we get to know Adama, Radouane, Hassan, Tarik, Marley and a shadowy figure whose name would suddenly and brutally become known to the world at the time of the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris in January 2015: Amédy Coulibaly. Seeing Amédy through the eyes of his close friends and these other young Muslim men in the neighbourhoods where they grew up, Fabien Truong uncovers a dense network of competing social loyalties and maps the road these youths take to resolve the conflicts they face: becoming Muslim.
On the peripheries of the modern city, boys become men through their loyalty to their neighbourhood, to their brotherhood, to their intangible family history, to the nation and the ideal of equal opportunities, to capitalism and its promotion of individualism, masculinity and economic success. Yet they need to move away from contradictions fuelled by an insecurity that stems from the pervasiveness of crime, policing and the political emptiness of everyday materialism.
Islam stands, often alone, as a resource or a gateway – as if it were the last route to ‘escape’ without betrayal and to ‘fight’ in a meaningful and noble way. Becoming Muslim does not necessarily lead to the radicalized ‘other’. It is more like a long-distance race, a powerful reconversion of the self that allows for introspection and change. But it can also become a belligerent presentation of the self that transforms a dead-end into a call for arms.
By enabling us to understand ‘them’, this book also helps ‘us’ to understand ourselves and our societies better, as well as shedding valuable light on the new forms of violence we face in a world where one is not born, but rather becomes, a warrior.