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.

French Rapper Finds Identity in Islam

News Agencies – August 26, 2012

 

Leading a double life, reversion to Islam has saved French rapper Regis Fayette-Mikano from falling victim to heroin, murder and suicide that ended the lives of his close friends.

Born in Paris, Abd Al Malik was raised in Neuhof, a neighborhood of Strasbourg, to a Catholic family. He also dealt with drugs, selling hashish at nightclubs and restaurants.

After falling with a hardline group for six years, Abd Al Malik grew disenchanted with a “simplistic” Islam. Abd Al Malik as well as many French rappers sings about racism, identity and the plight of the “banlieues,” France’s impoverished suburbs.

Walsh: Muslims “trying to kill Americans”

Exclusive: U.S. Rep Joe Walsh tells a town hall meeting that radical Islam has infiltrated the Chicago suburbs

U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh went on another anti-Islam tirade Wednesday, calling for an end to “political correctness” in dealing with the “radical strain of Islam” he described as an imminent danger to America.

“It’s a real threat,” Walsh said at a town hall meeting in Elk Grove Village, Ill.  “And it’s a threat that is much more at home now than it was right after 9/11.”

“It’s here,” he continued, referring to “radical Islam” in the suburbs of Chicago. “It’s in Elk Grove, it’s in Addison, it’s in Elgin. It’s here.”

The remarks — captured on tape — came in response to an Egyptian-American audience member who said Muslims are taking over America and charged the freshman congressman to take a more aggressive stance against the religion.

The Tea Party Republican, who serves on the Homeland Security Committee, has been known for his incendiary remarks since winning his House seat in 2010. He set off a media firestorm last month when he appeared to question the heroism of his opponent, Democrat Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war vet who lost both her legs in combat.

For France’s immigrant outcasts, despair leads to Islamic dogma

The Toronto Star – June 23, 2012

 

Clichy-sous-Bois, which most French people know only as the place where the worst wave of riots in contemporary France began; a place where young people from immigrant families clashed with police and started hundreds of fires among the dilapidated, overcrowded bunkers; a place few French recognized as their own country is undergoing a transformation.

Clichy’s startling makeover is part of an “urban renovation” plan worth billions. It appears to be France’s answer to the well-known plight of people in the banlieues, the infamously segregated suburbs, synonymous with poverty and France’s failure to integrate its immigrants. But walk five minutes to a part of town where the buildings appear condemned and people still live inside. You will see young people who don’t have jobs, who can’t access good schools. You will see that public transit is so scarce, it can take two hours to get to Paris, 10 kilometres away.

You will also see that makeshift prayer rooms are overflowing. There aren’t enough mosques at a time when a major study has found the difficult conditions — poverty, unemployment and lack of access to education — are contributing to a rise in Islamic orthodoxy. Youth unemployment stands at 43 per cent in Clichy (22 per cent in France as a whole), and the chance at finding a job is even worse for a dropout.

Nicolas Sarkozy made efforts to address the problems in the suburbs after his election in 2007. His 2008 Suburbs Hope program, a kind of Marshall Plan, sought to pair young people with jobs and improve access to education. More bursaries were created to send disadvantaged young people to prep schools for the elite universities. But for the most part, it failed, according to the former secretary of state who was in charge of it. Funding for programs didn’t materialize.

Queen’s University (Canada) Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) gives France an overall score of 51 out of 100, down slightly from 2007, and criticizes French laws that make non-European Union residents ineligible for about 7 million jobs in both the public and private sectors.

The lack of jobs and feelings of rejection, accompanied by poor political participation, is leading many Muslims to embrace stricter forms of Islam, said French academic Gilles Kepel. It’s “a piety,” Kepel found in a major year-long study published in 2011 (http://www.euro-islam.info/2012/02/06/gilles-kepels-new-book-quatre-vingt-treize-93-released/), “that seems exacerbated by the particular circumstances” in Clichy.

Angst emerges in France’s suburbs as Le Pen surges

Reuters – April 25, 2012

 

Marine Le Pen’s breakthrough in the French election’s first round brought her anti-immigrant National Front (FN) party its highest poll score to date, touching off a round of soul-searching as French elites sought to understand her appeal. But an explanation comes quickly to the sons and grandsons of North African immigrants, who say harping on Muslim symbols by both Le Pen and President Nicolas Sarkozy has put fear of foreigners into the hearts of many white French people.

Seine-Saint-Denis, with a population of 1.5 million, covers the sprawling northwestern suburbs of Paris and is home to the highest concentration of people of immigrant origin in the country. French law bars compiling statistics by ethnic origin, but census figures show more than one in five residents was born abroad. National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father, got 9 percent there in France’s 2007 election. She boosted that to 13.6 percent, still well below her national score, but nonetheless resonating with the area’s sizeable white community.

French survey reveals loathing for ‘violent’ suburban youth

News Agencies – March 28, 2012

Nearly 60 percent of the French say they distrust youth from the ‘banlieues’, France’s impoverished, immigrant-dominated suburbs, according to a new survey that has laid bare the country’s divisions. “The results are extremely worrying,” Thibault Renaudin, national secretary of Afev, the organization that published the poll.

The poll conducted by Afev shows that while 75 percent of the French have a positive opinion of young people, 57 percent have a negative opinion of youths from impoverished suburbs. Renaudin says French authorities and the media are partly responsible for this negative image. Renaudin says the poll also reveals French racial divisions, given that many banlieue youths are from immigrant backgrounds. “They are always reduced to their origins, multiple, different and dangerous.”

Number of mosques nearly doubles in decade

NEW YORK — The number of American mosques has increased dramatically in the last decade despite post 9/11 protests aimed at Muslim houses of worship, according to a new study. The new Islamic centers serve Muslims who moved into the suburbs and newer immigrants from Africa, Iraq and elsewhere.

Researchers conducting the national count found a total of 2,106 Islamic centers, compared to 1,209 in 2000 and 962 in 1994. About one-quarter of the centers were built between 2000-2011, as the community faced intense scrutiny by government officials and a suspicious public. In 2010, protest against an Islamic center near ground zero erupted into a national debate over Islam, extremism and religious freedom. Anti-mosque demonstrations spread to Tennessee, California and other states.

The report released Wednesday, “The American Mosque 2011,” is a tally based on mailing lists, websites and interviews with community leaders, and a survey and interviews with 524 mosque leaders. The research is of special interest given the limited scholarship so far on Muslim houses of worship, which include a wide range of religious traditions, nationalities and languages.

French suburbs becoming increasingly Muslim

News Agencies – February 20, 2012

 

French suburbs are becoming ‘Muslim land’, French journalist and historian Alexandre Adler told France Info. Adler also said that many French Muslims want this, and that he’s concerned about the self-administration against the State in those neighborhoods. Adler said the violence in the banlieues can’t be explained only as social problems, and that it’s due to the Muslim doctrine that wherever Islam spreads is Muslim land.

15 Muslims arrested in NY amusement park clash over headscarves set to have charges dismissed

RYE, N.Y. — Fifteen Muslims arrested after an amusement park scuffle in the New York City suburbs are set to have charges against them dismissed.

A Rye Town Court judge told the defendants on Tuesday that their cases will be dropped if they stay out of trouble for two months.

The disturbance at Playland Park began after Muslim women were told they couldn’t wear religious headscarves on some rides.

The women were among about 3,000 Muslims at the park on Aug. 30. They were celebrating the end of Islam’s holy month of Ramadan. Officials say Playland bans baseball caps, eyeglasses and other headgear on several fast rides.

Le Pen slams Qatar for investing in French ‘Muslim’ suburbs

News Agencies – January 15, 2012

French Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen lashed out at Qatar for investing in “Muslim” areas of French cities and for taking over Paris Saint-Germain football club. “I think this situation could be very dangerous,” she said. “We are letting a foreign country choose its investments with regard to the religion of this or that part of the French population or of French territory.”

The tiny but very wealthy Gulf state of Qatar late last year set up a 50-million-euro ($67-million) fund for entrepreneurs from France’s often-deprived suburbs to set up businesses. Le Pen said that in general Qatar was “playing a double game” by presenting itself as an “enlightened” country while at the same time supporting Islamist groups in the Middle East and North Africa.