The Mayor, the Instructor and a Battle over a ‘Lost Territory’ of France


“I see myself in them,” Mr. Rabeh mentioned in an interview.

He grew up in one other banlieue, close to Trappes. His father had been an immigrant from Morocco who labored 38 years on Peugeot’s meeting strains.

The union leaflets his father introduced dwelling sparked his curiosity in politics. He grew to become a believer within the promise of the Republic and its professed universalism. A person who additionally embraces his religion, Mr. Rabeh is, his supporters say, simply the sort of chief to assist construct an Islam of France.

After working because the deputy mayor for youth, Mr. Rabeh received the mayoral race final 12 months in a good vote. He has made efforts to widen entry to after-school actions and has been credited with working carefully with nationwide authorities to battle the sort of radicalization that led 70 youths from Trappes to affix the Islamic State between 2014 and 2016.

Practically all had been killed, and lots of grieving mother and father nonetheless surprise why their little children left.

The mother and father belonged to an immigrant era shy about asserting its presence in France and working towards its faith, mentioned Naila Gautier, whose mother and father got here from Tunisia and who has lived in Trappes since 1976. Their kids looked for themselves in a society the place they felt alienated, with some even becoming a member of the Islamic State, she mentioned.

“It gave way to the anger of the children who didn’t know the history of their parents and their origins and their religion,” mentioned Ms. Gautier, the founding father of Les Mamans du Coeur, a gaggle that counsels households whose kids left for Syria.

The nationwide authorities say that the networks that when recruited jihadists have been weakened or have disappeared. Essentially the most seen indicators of fundamentalism in Trappes have additionally diminished, just like the carrying of full-face coverings in public, which is unlawful in France.

“But that doesn’t mean that fundamentalism has disappeared,” Mr. Rabeh mentioned. “Maybe the social pressure on Islam at this moment is such that there’s a greater will to hide or be discreet.”