Political Scientist Gilles Kepel notes that French suburbs turning toward Islam

News Agencies – October 6, 2011


Local communities in France’s immigrant suburbs increasingly organize themselves on Islamic lines rather than following the values of the secular republic, according to a major new sociological study by political scientist Gilles Kepel. Kepel led a team of researchers in a year-long project in Clichy-sous-Bois and Montfermeil, two Paris suburbs that exploded in riots in 2005.

The resulting study − “Suburbs of the Republic” (see link below) − found that religious institutions and practices are increasingly displacing those of the state and the French Republic, which has a strong secular tradition.

Families from the districts, which are mainly populated by immigrants from north and west Africa and their descendants, regularly attend mosque, fast during Ramadan and boycott school meals that are not “halal.”
 Kepel performed a similar study 25 years earlier, and told the daily Le Monde that the influence of Islam in the daily lives and cultural references of the suburbs has “diversified and intensified” since then. Kepel’s study was commissioned by the Institut Montaigne, which will make recommendations in January 2012.

Suburbs ‘greater threat to Muslims’

25 November 2010
Muslims and their mosques face a higher level of threats and intimidation in UK suburbs and market towns than in big cities, according to a report.
Case studies reveal examples such as a Muslim woman who was punched and called a “terrorist” in front of her petrified daughter. The report said such attacks often go unreported, and in this case the woman was too scared to inform the police.
She also played down the incident to reduce her child’s distress and avoided explaining why she was singled out for wearing a burka and being a Muslim woman.
The new study, Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: UK Case Studies, reveals this kind of unprovoked incident is a largely hidden.
The report is part of a 10-year academic research project led by the University of Exeter’s European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC). It captures a snapshot of these experiences which are often unrecognised by the media, politicians and wider British society.

Neither Whores Nor Submissives (NPNS) Protest Violence Against Women in France

News Agencies – November 25, 2010

French women were called on to perform the “militant act” of wearing a skirt to protest violence against women. At least 135,000 women are taking part in the protest, according to its Facebook page, organised by rights group Neither Whores Nor Submissives (NPNS) as part of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

“Wearing a skirt is a militant act, in daily life, at the workplace, in the street, at home, because today everywhere is a place of danger for women,” said Sihem Habchi, who heads the NPNS. NPNS mainly defends the rights of women in France’s occasionally tense suburbs, where “the skirt is definitely a symbol of resistance,” said Habchi. It can be difficult for young women to wear skirts in some suburbs because of male jibes and occasional attacks which make the garment a symbol of standing up for women’s rights, NPNS says.
Statistics show that in 2009, 654,000 Frenchwomen said they were victims of physical or sexual violence, a 15-percent increase since 2007, Habchi said.

Dalil Boubakeur Target of Assassination Plot

News Agencies – November 11, 2010

Five alleged Islamic terrorists arrested in Paris this week were planning to assassinate the city’s leading Muslim cleric. All of the men, who are French passport holders, are believed to have returned from fighting British and American troops alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The murder plot against Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the French capital’s main mosque, was foiled at the eleventh hour thanks to a tip-off. Secret intelligence officers were able to move in on two Frenchmen of Algerian descent as they arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport from Egypt. Armed police arrested three other men from similar backgrounds in flats in the Paris suburbs the next day.
Boubaker has been under armed guard since last month after radicals issued threats following the introduction of a burka ban in France – a measure which many see as overtly anti-Muslim.
The foiled plot illustrates the growing rift between Islamic moderates and those prepared to kill and maim in the name of their religion, said Mr Boubaker.

French Business Man Offers to Pay Full-Face Covering Fines

A French property tycoon enraged at his government’s plans to ban women from wearing the full veil in public has promised a fund of 1 million Euros to help any Muslim who is fined for wearing the niqab in the street. Rachid Nekkaz, a businessman of Algerian origin who launched a short-lived campaign in the 2007 presidential elections, has already put €200,000 into a bank account aimed at bailing out women who find themselves on the wrong side of the new law.

He insists that the ban, which was approved by the lower house of parliament on Tuesday and is set to be ratified by the senate in September, is “anti-constitutional” and a move that could put France on a slippery slope towards greater intolerance.

Nekkaz, who says his fund received €36,000 in donations in the 24 hours following its announcement and hopes it will reach €1m by September, is selling properties in the Parisian suburbs to keep the money coming in.

Extreme Islamism challenges Swedish State of Law

Extreme Islamist organizations are becoming more visible in big city suburbs and are presenting a challenge to the Swedish State of Law, Svenska Dagbladet reports.

Local resistance against Islamists is growing as well: Swedish Somalis demonstrated against al-Shabab in the suburb of Rinkeby outside of Stockholm in December 2009.

Catholics and Muslims dialogue in a Lyon suburb

New dialogue between Catholics and Muslims has begun in some suburbs outside of Lyon. Several Catholic priests expressed enthusiasm about these encounters as most suburbanites are Muslim; approximately 2 percent of the population goes to church regularly. The gatherings attempt to make theological and practical commonalities evident.

Massachussetts man arrested in terrorism case

A pharmacist living with his parents in the suburbs of Boston was arrested on Wednesday on federal terrorism charges. He was accused of conspiring to attack people at a shopping mall in the United States, and to attack two members of the executive branch of the federal government.

The man, Tarek Mehanna, 27, was charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. The conspiracy occurred from 2001 to 2008, the acting United States attorney, Michael K. Loucks, said at a news conference in Boston Wednesday.

But prosecutors said Mr. Mehanna, born and raised in Massachusetts, was unsuccessful in acquiring weapons to carry out the attack, and was also repeatedly rejected by terrorist groups in his efforts to join them.

“Toronto 18” member pleads guilty to terror charges

Zakaria Amara issued a surprise guilty plea in a Brampton courtroom, more than 40 months after he and 17 others were arrested in connection with the most audacious and ambitious terrorist attack planned in Canada as part of the “Toronto 18.”

Pleading guilty to two counts of terrorism will likely garner Amara, the plot’s ringleader, life in prison.

Raised in the suburbs by an Arab father and a Cypriot mother, Amara has been portrayed as an unlikely Islamic warrior. He says he was baptized in the Greek Orthodox church. In his teens he married an observant, niqab-wearing wife, who soon bore him a baby. News sources claim that she urged him to do something dramatic for Islam.

As the burqa commission continues in France, 5 suburban mayors are interviewed

As the commission into the wearing of the burqa in France led by André Gerin continues, five banlieusard mayors from Monfermeil, Cachan, Rillieux-la-Pape, Clichy-sous-Bois and Gonesse were interviewed to express their positions on French secularism and the impact of a possible ban.

Generally, they noted an increase in the number of parents and students who wear the burqa and niqab in their suburbs (even if at the national level only reflects 0.5% of the population) and express concern about the effects on women’s access to public services (should a law come into place) and integration into French society (should it not).