Arab society

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The social situation of the Arab community in contemporary France

The Arab community has been present in France for a relatively short time. However, the common history of both cultures dates back to the 1830s, when France invaded the territory of Algeria[1]. 40 years later France annexed the territory of Tunisia[2] and in 1912 Morocco[3]. At the beginning these countries were treated as aconsiderable source of income to the French government, because of the significant quantity of natural resources in North Africa. Later, Maghreb started to provide France with a cheap workforce. French governors encouraged Arabs to come to France and work there by promising them good living conditions and social care. New districts on the suburbs of cities started to be constructed in order toprovide housing for the growing number of immigrants. Thus, it can be observed that the French government endeavored to integrate the Arab population with native citizens. At present, however, the situation seems to have changed. These days, one often hears about racial tensions and acts of violence between the Arab minority and the majority nation. The aim of this essay will be, therefore, to revealthe reasons for these actions, by discussing the current social situation of Arabs in France.

Before passing to the analysis of different spheres of social life, information about the origin of the Arab presence in France should be presented. A considerable influx of Arabs to France took place after World War I, during which France lost almost 1.4 million of its inhabitants, mostly young men,who constituted the active population of the country[4]. Thus, lots of Arabs came to France in order to repopulate the country and help France recover from the war[5]. The next wave of immigration from North Africa arrived in France after World War II. At this time, Arabs mainly compensated for the shortfall in the workforce needed to rebuild the country[6]. The highest rate of Arab immigration toFrance occurred in the late 1960s and 1970s. This massive influx corresponded with the rapid economic growth of France, which needed a larger labour force to work in construction and factories[7]. At present, the rate of immigration from Maghreb is decreasing, mainly because of stricter immigration regulations. Nowadays, Muslims experience difficulties in obtaining a visa, even for a short stay.According to the official rules, Muslims can come and settle in France only if they have a family member who has been living there for many years[8]. This process of entering the territory of France is called family immigration. Cases of economic immigration among Arabs do exist, but they are relatively few. According to available data, in 2009 the number of those who came to France because of workamounted to 7857 people[9]. Apart from direct immigrants, an important group among the Arab community in France is the “second generation”, those born in France as the children of immigrants. In accordance with a jus soli right, according to which every person who was born on French soil obtains its nationality[10], they are to be considered legal inhabitants of France. As far as the size of theArabic population is concerned, according to the research conducted in 1999 by INED, the Institut National des Etudes Démographiques, Muslims constitute 7.4 % of the total population of France, which is about 4.3 million people[11].

The fact that the group of people of Arab origin is so large causes rather mixed feelings among native French citizens. Although the major part of Arabcommunity in France should be considered as legal inhabitants, as they were born and raised in France, they are still considered immigrants by a significant section of native French citizens. A survey conducted among the indigenous population about their attitudes towards immigrants shows that two out of three native French citizens associate Muslims with such terms as “fanaticism, the submission of...
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