A plan to help blighted suburbs meets French resistance due to suspicions over benefactor

News Agencies –November 11, 2012

 

As Europe is engulfed in crisis, Qatar has been on a global spending spree, buying stakes in luxury brands, acquiring soccer club Paris St. Germain and financing London’s “Shard” — the EU’s tallest building. Now, to the consternation of the French, the emirate wants to make a major humanitarian investment in the West. Permeating the hostile response was suspicion that the tiny Muslim state may have a special agenda at a time when fears of terrorism by Islamist extremists and a perceived infiltration of Muslim culture in French life have been on the rise.

 

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen called the Qatari investment an “Islamist Trojan horse” while independent politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who champions national sovereignty, said France would be “prostituting itself” by accepting the money.  Now, a year after their visit to the palaces of Doha, the 10 who bucked a system that has failed the suburbs worry the money may never reach those they hope to help — ordinary people from their neighborhoods with big ideas bereft of any hope of backing.

 

Two French presidents tried to figure out how to deal with the Qatari offer, first conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and now socialist Francois Hollande — who last month confirmed the compromise of spreading the funds across all neglected regions.