France, Muslims and Terrorism


As noted in this mini-documentary from CBS news “It sucks to be a Muslim in France”…

[I consulted with the producer of the mini-documentary as an expert on the topic]

One of my first trips to Paris as a graduate student in 1995 coincided with a series of terrorist bomb attacks, likely by Algerian Islamic extremists (CNN, 1995), that led to the removal of all garbage cans in the city. Many years later, as a professor working on a book project, I happened to stay in a hotel which was about a block away from where one of the busses had blown up during the 7/7 bombing attacks. Many have written about whether or not terror attacks like the 7/7 bombings or 9/11 have led to a securitization of immigration policy. What is different now is that Europe is currently experiencing the largest flow of refugees since the end of World War II, and most of those refugees are coming from Syria and other parts of the Middle East, meaning many of these migrants are Muslims.

Many European countries have faced terror attacks over the years and have taken a variety of measures to improve security. However, even though new measures may be taken to deal with security, such as stricter screening of immigrants and refugees, most European countries, including countries like Germany, France and Sweden, have remained open to refugees fleeing violence, whether they were Muslims fleeing conflicts in the Balkans or Iraqi minorities fleeing sectarian violence.

Europe has faced a challenge integrating Muslims from various countries and backgrounds. However, it is important to keep in mind that the recent attacks in Paris appear to have been perpetrated by so-called “home grown terrorists,” i.e., radicalized Muslims who were born and raised in Europe. This makes the connection between terrorism and refugees rather tenuous.

Perhaps a larger issue, in terms of integration, is the situation for immigrants, ethnic minorities and Muslim citizens, given that many of them live on the margins of society. Many are the targets of racism, but also have to deal with living in places like the suburbs (banlieus) of Paris where they have little educational and job opportunities. France has been trying to address this issue for many years, with a variety of policies, including antidiscrimination policy, as described in my book, Legislating Equality. Although the French government initially embraced antidiscrimination policy through its equality body, politics eventually reduced the impact of its activities related to racism.

Journalist and documentarian Rokhaya Diallo has examined these issues through the lens of Americans visiting France in her recent work, Steps to Liberty. Going back to the 1995 movie, La Haine (Hate) it seems that little has changed. However, I have seen a new awareness developing among various groups including Muslims and those who now consider themselves black and French. I have written about the impact of racial equality legislation on blacks in France in the book Invisible Minorities. These groups have the potential to develop as voting blocks and to impact politics in France, as well as other European countries. These political developments can be important to the integration of minority groups and may ultimately create a new outlet for the frustrations that can lead to radicalization.






Why fitness matters…

There are so many critical issues facing our country today from gun violence, to the environment. Given that it’s black history month, I wonder what leaders like Martin Luther King or Barbara Jordan would be fighting for today.  I know one issue in particular that has touched me in so many ways is cardiovascular disease in the black community.  I first delved into this issue when my father passed away from a sudden heart attack nearly 12 years ago. What I learned was that my father had all of the warning signs for a potential heart attack, yet he had never been given a stress test and didn’t seem concerned when he had circulation issues just a few weeks before he died.  He was also under a great deal of stress, as I would later learn, but I felt helpless knowing that he wasn’t pro-active in dealing with his health.

The following quote highlights the problem:

Americans suffer more than 2 million heart attacks and strokes each year. Cardiovascular disease—including heart disease and stroke—is the leading cause of death in the United States. Every day, 2,200 people die from cardiovascular disease—that’s 815,000 Americans each year, or 1 in every 3 deaths. (

Blacks are much more likely to have cardiovascular disease, and not all of it can be explained by lifestyle or genetic traits.

In 2005 my mother suffered a stroke from which she never fully recovered.  She passed away nearly 3 years ago.  What I learned about strokes was just as bad as heart attacks, “In 2009, black men were 38 percent more likely to die of stroke than white men, and black women were 36 percent more likely to die of stroke than white women” (

Study after study I learned about showed that blacks had a much higher rate of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and death from heart disease.  Health disparities are a critical issue for all communities.

I feel lucky that fitness has always been a part of my life, and the passing of my parents spurred me into action – I started Take Back the Trail to honor my parents, and in the hope that my efforts might make some small dent in the huge need that exists for fitness programs in under-served communities.  There are many programs targeting children, but I found few programs that targeted adult women in particular.  I feel that healthcare, from a variety of perspectives, is a top issue for our times, and many leaders, including First Lady Michelle Obama have stepped up to the task — but it will take much, much more and grassroots efforts must be a part of the move-ment.

There is hope – as recent studies have shown:

“Regular, moderate physical activity such as brisk walking can increase life expectancy by several years, even for people who are overweight, a new large study shows.

While higher levels of activity were linked to even longer life expectancies, moderate activity was beneficial, according to the study of people ages 40 and older. The benefit of exercise was seen regardless of people’s weight, age, sex and health conditions such as heart disease and cancer.” (

If not for yourself – do it for those you love!  Given the size of this issue, I consider this project one of the most important things I have ever done – if you feel the same, you can support my efforts here: