Ghettos, Police Violence and Racism
The French called them Les cités. The ‘ghettos’
are specially built for excluded and disfranchised migrants from
France’s former North African colonies - mostly Arabs and
Muslims - and other parts of the world. Clustered on the peripheries
of France’s big cities, Les cités proved to be laboratories
for dissent and resistance against oppression. The children of
the immigrants who built France after World War II are being pushed
further outside the French society.
is important to emphasise that the French youth who are protesting
against police violence and the policy of the French political
establishment, are French citizens. They were born into first
and second generation immigrants communities from France’s
former colonies. They are not motivated by religion, and the protest
has nothing to do with Islam and Western cliché of “Islamic
fundamentalism”. It is a protest against oppression and
racism. This is the only way the youth can express their anger
and frustration at French political establishment which deny immigrants
to be integrated in their diversity. Successive French governments
failed to come up with a faire and successful integration policy.
“second class citizens” have been pushed further out
of the centres into France’s larger suburbs of Paris, Nice,
and Lyon Toulouse, Marseille, Strasbourg and other big cities
where their parents once provided cheap labour for France’s
factories. The youth are excluded from the French society, and
subjected to brutal and Nazi’s-like police harassments,
encouraged by racist policies. In its annual report in April 2005,
Amnesty International have criticised the “impunity”
provided to police and police violent treatments of youth from
North African origins during the provocative identity checks.
In fact, an Arab or an African man has no right to look a policeman
in the face during this deliberate and daily racism faced by young
people of colour.
is the police who provoked the current protests, when it was alleged
that two boys, returning from a football match, had been deliberately
chased by police into Clichy-sous-Bois substation, and were electrocuted
and died. As usual the boys were afraid of the heavy-handed identity
checks in the suburbs where French citizens of North African origins
live. And the police refusal to apologise for their criminal action
of exploding a tear gas inside a mosque. The situation was inflamed
by the inflammatory and racist attitude of Nicolas Sarkozy, the
megalomaniac French interior minister. Sarkozy attack on the youth
as “subhuman” and calling for more Nazi’s-like
repression to “ethnic cleansing” the ghettos was not
helpful. Thanks to the cultural chauvinism of the French society,
Sarkozy enjoys the support of 57% of the French voters. These
anti-Arabs, anti-Muslims hatreds have taken France into its “anti-Semitism”
past with new target, Arabs and Muslims.
French government-commissioned report presented by Jean-Christophe
Rufin, former vice-president of Médecins sans Frontières,
to the interior ministry on October 2004 revealed that, mounting
racism and “anti-Semitism” in France represents “a
radical threat to the survival of our democratic system”.
In addition, “racial discrimination is very real in France,
but it’s not something that the authorities ever really
wanted to face up to” said Peter Ford of the Christian Science
Monitor in Paris.
is France dark past and its discriminatory system that need to
be clean. “It's hard to just sit here and watch the rich
people driving past in their swanky vehicles. They have everything
and we have absolutely nothing”, a 20-years old Zaid told
the Independent on 05 November 2005. “Ever since Sarko [Sarkozy]
came into the government, life has been merde [shit]. He treats
us like dogs -- well, we'll show him how dogs can react”,
added 16-years old Kamel. Youth unemployment in the ghettos is
three times higher than the national average or more than 40 percent.
French of Muslim and North African origins constitute the largest
percentage of Franc’s prisons system, where the treatment
of prisoners is hell, and living condition is torturous. Physical
and mental violence play a bigger part in the running of overcrowded
prisons. In his recent book L’Islam dans les Prisons, Farhad
Khosrokhavar, a professor of Sociology at the Ecole des Hautes
Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris estimates that French Muslims
make up some 70 percent of a total of 60,775 prisoners in France.
Sociologists put the blame on marginalization and towering poverty
and unemployment rates among the Muslim-Arab minority. The situation
is not unique to France; it is a trend across Western Europe.
to Sarkozy’s and Western mainstream media allegations that
the protest is organised by “Islamists” and the mosques,
the protest is a form of youth solidarity against France’s
discriminatory system and police brutality towards French citizens
from Muslim and North African backgrounds. Muslims all over France
have called for calm. Sarkozy should do the right thing and apologise
for his racist remarks. The recent law banning on the head scarf
(the Hijab) in public schools, hospitals and government buildings
is a form of extremism. It is not only inciting racism, it is
also denying French Muslim women their rights to education. It
also shows that France is desperately in need of tolerance to
wash the stain of Jean-Marie Le Pen fascist racism.
recent curfews and emergency measures are the failed tools of
France colonial past; what is needed is a change in attitudes.
It is the French establishment and the French society that bear
the responsibility for this system of conscious racism. Once this
system is removed and its roots cut out the French society, France
can be proud of its ideal.
is time France revisits and takes seriously its ideal of Liberté,
Fraternité and Égalité. France ought to reconsider
its fraudulent policies of anti-Arabs and anti-Muslims prejudice.
Or maybe France needs another French revolution?
Research Contributing Editor Ghali Hassan lives in Perth, Western