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Do not put Islamic spin on French Riots: Ramadan

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Submitted by Sophie (Canada), Nov 8, 2005 at 07:41

Do not Put Islamic Spin on French Riots: Ramadan

"The question that France must answer is absolutely not a question of religion," Ramadan said.

PARIS, November 8, 2005 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – As French riots continued unabated for the 12th night running, seeing more cars torched and French authorities threatening curfews, a well-known Muslim thinker warned against bringing religion into a situation that has nothing to do with faith and a poll showed two thirds of French people dissatisfied with their government's policies on marginalized suburbs.

"Above all, one must not Islamisize the question of the suburbs. The question that France must answer is absolutely not a question of religion," Muslim thinker Tariq Ramadan told Agence France-Presse (AFP) Tuesday, November 8.

Asked by AFP where the roots of the malaise lie, Ramadan said the entire political class in France has been "blind" to what has been happening in the suburbs, with their unemployed youth of Arab and African origin and bleak high-rises.

"There's an obsession about a religious divide, but no one sees the socio-economic divide in France, with places in the process of becoming ghettos with the suburbs on one side, the better-off areas on the other."

"There must be a struggle against this institutionalized racism. There are second-class citizens in France. That is the reality."

"People (in the suburbs) have the impression that they count for nothing, that they can be looked down upon and insulted in any way," Ramadan added to AFP, from his current vantage point at Oxford University.

"We're in the process of losing a footing in the suburbs. Even so-called Muslim associations are more and more disconnected. The fracture is profound... We are seeing an Americanization in terms of violence."

The Swiss thinker – of Egyptian origins -- grandson of the founder of the influential Muslim Brotherhood movement in the 1920s, added there needs to be a return to order: "Violence is not a solution and sanctions must be taken against gangs."

But he said that security measures can only be part of a broader policy, one that addresses the core of social problems.

"We need a modern-day Jaures," he said, referring to Jean Jaures, the pioneering French socialist politician at the turn of the 20th century.

"It was Jaures who said that the religious question must be filed away so that one can focus on the social question. The unity of France is a myth in socio-economic terms, and the question of faith is not the problem."

It would also help to keep a lid on "counterproductive" speech, said Ramadan, who recalled Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy's description of the rioters as "scum".

"It's not by insulting one part of France that you can protect the other."


De Villepin announced that regions are to be given powers to impose curfews. (Reuters)

Meanwhile, more than 70 percent of French people feel that the government's policies towards the poor city suburbs where rioting has spread for the past 12 days are misguided, according to a poll.

Asked about the government's approach to the general "situation in the suburbs" -- without specific reference to the recent unrest -- 71 percent felt it was "going in the wrong direction".

Only 20 percent of respondents approved of the government's policies, according to the monthly survey conducted jointly for Yahoo, the Liberation newspaper and iTele news channel.

Concerning unemployment -- seen as a key factor behind the riots -- the survey revealed that 58 percent of people were unhappy with current policies, while 33 approved, according to AFP.

On the fight against crime and insecurity, 59 percent of those who replied said they were unhappy with the current government policy, against 34 percent who supported it.

The poll of 1,007 people was conducted on November 4-5 as the violence that erupted northeast of Paris on October 27 started to spread beyond the capital.

Curfews Threatened

The rioting remained for the 12th night running, but was less intense. (Reuters)

On the ground, more cars were torched overnight into Tuesday but the situation looked calmer after Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced that regions are to be given powers to impose curfews to curb riots that have gripped hundreds of towns across France.

Police said Tuesday that 1,173 vehicles were burnt and 330 people arrested overnight as France experienced its 12th straight night of urban violence.

Twelve police officers were lightly hurt, mainly by thrown projectiles. Some officers were the target for people firing buckshot, though none was hit. A dozen buildings were hit by arsonists.

The number of vehicles torched and arrests made were slightly lower than for the previous night, possibly signaling a tapering off of the unrest that has raged since October 27.

Overnight Sunday, more than 1,400 automobiles were gutted by flames and 395 people were detained.

The escalating violence claimed its first life on Monday as a 61-year-old man, who was beaten into a coma last week, died in hospital.

Under pressure to act as the arson and street violence headed into a 12th night, Villepin, speaking on national television, said regional authorities would be given the power to impose curfews "where necessary".

A decree was to be adopted at a special cabinet meeting on Tuesday and curfew measures would be applicable from Wednesday morning, Villepin said.

President Jacques Chirac was to hold a cabinet meeting Tuesday which was to give regional authorities the power to impose curfews if necessary to restore public order.

The prime minister ruled out an army intervention to stop the violence, which spread to some 300 towns over the weekend, but said that 1,500 police reinforcements would be deployed to restore public order.

And some 200 people held a silent tribute to Jean-Jacques Le Chenadec, who died in hospital after being assaulted Friday as he was discussing the riots with a neighbor in Stains, north of Paris.


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