Many of the difficulties faced by the Beurs in France are excellent examples of the terms that Albert Memmi employs in his work The Colonizer and Colonized. Two of the best of these terms are undoubtedly dehumanization and assimilation.
The Beurs are all too often victims of dehumanization, or the proclamation by a group of people that another group of people are inferior. Examples of this form of treatment are surprisingly blatant in France and can even be observed in the government and laws of the country. The most notorious example is l’affaire du voile.
L’affaire du voile (roughly translated to the “veil affair”) was the result of a law passed in France that restricted the wearing of religious symbols during school. While Christians were able to easily hide a cross under their shirt, Muslim women were not in this category and were unable to simply hide their veil (nor did they want to do so). Because of this, the law is regarded as discriminatory against the Muslim population since it only truly affects them. Therefore, there is a sense that the Muslims are being dehumanized, since the law was written in such a way that the other two major monotheistic religions could continue to wear their religious articles essentially unimpeded whereas the Muslims were “not worthy” to do so in the eyes of the French government.
On the other hand, the Beurs themselves are often attempting to integrate into the French society, since doing so would undoubtedly make their lives easier. However, many recent laws make doing so exceedingly difficult if not impossible. For example, les lois Pasqua (1994) were anti-immigration laws enacted in response to the surprisingly large number of Muslim immigrants coming to France from her former colonies and protectorates in North Africa. These laws have a variety of different sub-laws, however, the most important in the scope of this paper are:
« On n’est plus automatiquement français à 18 ans parce qu’on est né et que l’on réside en France. Il faut faire la demande expresse entre 16 et 21 ans. Elle est refusée aux personnes de plus de 18 ans condamnées á 6 mois de prison ferme. »
« Les parents étrangers ne peuvent plus demander la nationalité française pour leurs enfants mineurs. »
Both of these laws make even the most basic step to assimilation (becoming a citizen) even more difficult for the Beurs. Before these laws, a non-citizen who was born in France automatically gains citizenship when they turn 18. However, this is no longer the case and these non-citizens must specifically ask for it. Furthermore, if they were in prison for 6 months, they are deemed unworthy of attaining citizenship, even though they may have lived their entire life in France. Similarly, parents can no longer ask for their children to have citizenship. Both of these laws make assimilating into the French society, which is already hostile towards Arab immigrants, that much more difficult.