How a City in France Became a Mecca for Islamists

This is the second of a five-part series, France’s Toxic Hate.


Once upon a time, in the extreme north of France, a few steps away from the Belgian border, the town of Roubaix was called “the city of the thousand chimneys” in reference to the many textile factories that gave it its distinctive shape and energy. Eager to work, ready to fight—“The mecca of socialism” was its other nickname; the town remained a bastion of the left from the mid-19th century to the last municipal elections—workers from all over Europe would populate the red-brick streets of its neighborhoods and the many guinguettes for which the town was otherwise known. Today, as the broken, dirty streets that I visited last week indicate, Roubaix is devastated by a 40-percent unemployment rate. It maintains an astonishing crime rate of 84 incidents per 1,000 inhabitants and is classified by the government as the largest “high-priority security zone” in the country. This is where Mehdi Nemouche, the alleged Brussels Jewish museum killer, was born and partly raised.

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