And why do they not feel French in France? Of course the whole world knows the French reputation for unkindness to foreigners. But why is any discussion of the EU/Arab League agreements in which the EU foreswore assimilation at the Arab League’s insistence off limits for the IHT? Why no discussion of the statement by Dyab Abou Jahjah of the Arab European League calling assimilation “cultural rape”? Now it is all the fault of the French that these young Muslims feel marginalized? Well, I’m not buying. There is too much evidence on the other side.
And now, this article suggests, an end to French discrimination, a little money, a few jobs, and everything will be all right. Well, this is certainly a theory that is going to be tested. But I doubt that it will be met with reciprocal efforts on the part of Muslim leaders to encourage assimilation.
From the International Herald Tribune, with thanks to Caratacus:
BONDY, France “Burn!” A knot of young men join their voices in a battle cry as they edge closer to the silhouette of a parked Mercedes, some of them aiming what look like handguns, others reaching for lighters.
In the harsh light of an underground parking lot in this grim suburb northwest of Paris, the guns and lighters are imaginary – but the sense of aggression is real. As one of the young men films with a digital camera, the others move to the angry beat of music blasting out of an open car door, echoing into the dark December night.
They sing about the riots that erupted two months ago, about being Muslim and about not feeling French in France. For them the unrest is not over, it is waiting to break loose again.
“The quiet is deceptive,” said Bala “Balastik” Coulibaly, 24, of nearby Clichy-sous-Bois, his eyes scanning the deserted parking lot from deep inside his sweatshirt as he took a break between two songs. It was in Clichy that the accidental death of two teenagers on Oct. 27 set off three weeks of rioting in immigrant neighborhoods across France.
Since then, the whiff of gasoline and tear gas has disappeared. But the calm is fragile, impatient and tinged with the cynicism of youths who fear being let down again by a political class that allowed mass unemployment and social exclusion to accumulate over three decades in the poor suburbs ringing France’s big cities.
“The rage in the suburbs is only asleep,” said Balastik, a French youth of Mauritanian origin who has been jobless since dropping out of school seven years ago and is dreaming of a career as a rapper with his band, Styladone. “It wouldn’t take much to wake it up again.”…
At the same time, the government announced a raft of measures aimed at fighting joblessness and discrimination, and declared 2006 the year of “equal opportunity.” Businesses will be offered tax breaks for setting up shop in difficult suburbs, local schools will receive more attention, a new apprenticeship program for teenagers is being drawn up, and state funds for nongovernmental organizations that were canceled three years ago will be restored.
President Jacques Chirac, clearly shaken by the riots, has urged French media and businesses to reflect the country’s diverse population. The minister for equal opportunity, Azouz Begag, is pondering ways of measuring diversity in order to provide companies with a benchmark.
But in suburbs like Bondy and Clichy-sous-Bois, the buzz and debate sparked by the riots are dismissed by many as little more than political posturing.
“Right now they’re afraid of us, so they’re making a lot of promises,” said a friend of Balastik’s, Ker, 23, whose parents are from Cambodia and who sings in the same band. “What we need is concrete action that is felt, here, on the ground.”…
Outside the Clichy-sous-Bois city hall, Mehdi, 24, who also works for an NGO for disadvantaged youth, confirmed that he had not seen any of the new funds promised by the government.
“The faster some of the promises are transformed into action the better,” said Mehdi, a Frenchman of Algerian-Moroccan origin who grew up in Clichy. “We are taking the temperature with people every day. They are waiting for changes that they feel in everyday life – and they are also waiting for justice for the two dead teenagers.”
The trigger for the November violence was the accidental electrocution of two teenagers of African origin who hid in a power substation. A third teenager, who survived the incident, says the three friends were being pursued by police, a claim officers deny. The outcome of an investigation is keenly awaited in the suburbs. If the police are exonerated, it could trigger new unrest, said Mehdi, who, like others interviewed for this article, did not give his last name.
Back in the parking lot in Bondy, Balastik mimes lighting a lighter, his eyes glimmering in the harsh neon light. One of his friends is wearing a red T-shirt with a big caption that reads “Rakaille” – a rap spelling of “racaille,” or “thugs,” which is what Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy called the rioters at one point, fueling their anger.
“We’re thugs and we’re proud,” Balastik quipped, adding that music was “one way of dealing with the frustration of never getting a reply to your job application.”
Others channel their anger differently. Cars have continued to burn every night since the riots ended, including more than 100 across France on Christmas Eve.