No setting was perhaps more potent than Trappes to debate that question. It is a crucible of France’s hopes, and fears. Trappes gave birth to some of the country’s brightest entertainment and sports stars, like Omar Sy, the lead actor in the recent Netflix hit “Lupin.” But Trappes also saw about 70 of its youths leave for jihad to Syria and Iraq, the largest contingent, per capita, from any French city.
The confrontation between teacher and mayor reflected broader forces reforging a society where French identity is being questioned more than ever. As his positions on Islam hardened following terrorist attacks in France in recent years, the teacher, like many others, moved further to the right politically.
Mr. Rabeh, the mayor, belonged to an outspoken generation, unafraid to express its identity and point out France’s failings, whose immigrant parents had preferred to pass unnoticed. He took for granted his role in France — and Islam’s place in it.
The fight became personal, as the teacher, saying his life was in danger, accused the mayor of calling him a racist and an Islamophobe. Much of the political establishment — pulled in different directions by facts, national myths and political imperatives — sided with the teacher. Even after much of his story began to unravel.
A high school teacher warned on TV that the French city of Trappes has been taken over by Islamists, a view strongly denied by its mayor. The fight tapped into the culture wars ripping through the country, sharpening the debate over French identity. https://t.co/9pU8Ots2f9
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) June 9, 2021