Social situation in the French suburbs

Social situation in the French suburbs

The social situation in the French suburbs, known as "banlieues", is a complex topic. At times it has resulted in civil unrest, notably the civil unrest of autumn 2005. The word "banlieue", which is French for "suburb," does not necessarily refer to an environment of social disenfranchisement. Indeed, there exist many wealthy suburbs, such as Neuilly-sur-Seine (the wealthiest commune of France) and Versailles outside Paris. Nevertheless, the term "banlieues" has often been used to describe troubled suburban communities--those with high unemployment, high crime rates, and frequently, a high proportion of residents of foreign origin.

Historical context

The rebuilding of France after World War II

The destruction of World War II, coupled with an increase in the country's population (due both to immigration and natural increase) left France with a severe housing shortage. During the 1950s, shantytowns ("bidonvilles") developed on the outskirts of major cities. During the winter of 1955, popular priest Abbé Pierre urged the government to work on behalf of the country's large homeless population. To relieve the shortage, and end the practice of illegal squatting in public places, the governments of the Fourth and early Fifth Republics began the construction of huge housing projects. These included the "villes nouvelles" ("New towns") of Sarcelles, Cergy-Pontoise, Marne-la-Vallée and Sénart. These were financed in part by the Marshall Plan, and organized through central planning, fixing industrial objectives to meet ("Dirigisme"). The "villes nouvelles" owe much to Le Corbusier's architectural theories, which had been decried before the war.

During the "Trente Glorieuses", a period of economic growth which lasted from the war's end until the 1973 oil crisis, and was accompanied by the baby boom, the French state and industrials encouraged immigration of young workers from the former colonies, mostly from the Maghreb, to help fill labor shortages.

In 1962, upon the conclusion of the Algerian War 900,000 "pieds-noirs" (the European "colons" in Algeria) were repatriated to France, as well as most of the 91,000 Harkis (native Algerians who fought with the French army during the war). [ [ Pied-Noir] ] The latter were put in internment camps, while the pieds-noirs settled mainly in the south of France. The city Montpellier experienced population growth of 40% between 1960 and 1970 Fact|date=February 2007, etc.). Harkis were not officially given permission to migrate, but some French military officers helped facilitate their migration to France in order to save them from certain reprisals in Algeria. After being freed from the internment camps, many harkis went on to live alongside other Algerian and Maghrebin immigrants in shantytowns. In 1963, 43% of French Algerians lived in shantytowns [ [ Le Gone du Chaâba] fr icon] . Azouz Begag, Delegate Minister for Equal Opportunities in the government of former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin (UMP), has written an autobiographic novel, "Le Gone du Chaâba", describing his experience living in a shantytown on the outskirts of Lyon.

Model of urban development

The vast new apartment blocks, or flats, were at first chiefly inhabited by members of the middle class. As the housing situation improved, most middle-class residents moved to better houses and immigrants left the shantytowns for the blocks. The blocks are termed "HLM" — "habitation à loyer modéré" ("moderated rent flats"), and districts of blocks are termed "cités" (housing estates). A popular urban planning concept at this time, popularized by Le Corbusier, a Swiss architect, was to separate areas of towns or cities according to several functions: living center (blocks), commercial center and working center, with the centers being connected by buses. This led to the isolation of the living centers, with two consequences:
* There was little activity at night and on Sunday, aggravated by the fact that bus transit to the central cities was limited;
* When unemployment started to rise in the late 1970s, the children did not see anybody working, as the working center was far away; in the 1990s, a lot of school-age children never saw their parents going to work, and never saw anyone working.

This model became increasingly contested; in the 1990s there were a number of demolitions of housing facilities in "inhumane" areas.

Some towns refused to build social buildings, leaving the poor further concentrated in certain towns which placed no or few restrictions on the construction of social housing. An example is the city of Paris: when old buildings were destroyed, only office and high-rent apartment buildings were constructed in their place, preventing the poor from settling in those neighborhoods. Most were forced to live in the northern suburbs (chiefly in the Seine-Saint-Denis department). In "The Global City" (2001), Saskia Sassen has analyzed the relationship between a new economic model and the shape of modern cities. The public services offered (number of police officers, post offices, etc.) did not follow the tremendous increase of the population in these areas. This phenomenon has been termed "ghettoisation".

The 13 December 2000 "SRU law" ("loi de solidarité et renouvellement urbain", "solidarity and urban renewal act"), required that communes devote at least 20% of their housing capacity to social housing. Many locally-elected officials opposed the law, which sought to relieve residential segregation that had developed as a consequence of the earlier, uneven construction of the "cités". In the wealthy Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, of which President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy served as mayor from 1983-2002, less than 2.5% of its housing stock meets the social-housing criteria. After the 2005 riots, the government announced that it would enforce the SRU law more strictly, although it would accommodate local circumstances such as the absence of land on which social housing could be built.

ocial context

Confrontation of cultures

The children of immigrants often feel torn between the culture of their parents and the culture they have grown up in. Many may feel themselves fully belonging to neither one.

A typical illustration of this is the use by some members of the French media of the words "second-generation immigrants" ("immigrés de deuxième génération", opposed to "just arrived", "primo-arrivants")Fact|date=May 2007. If a child is born in France, he is not an immigrant, so the expression "second-generation immigrants" is a misnomer. According to anti-racist associations such as SOS Racisme, this reflects the ambiguity of the administration, who consider these people to be both French and foreign at the same timeFact|date=May 2007. Children of immigrants also complain about the use of the term "integration" ("intégration"): the integration in the society (i.e. the acceptance of the laws and customs of the adoptive country) is a necessity for a foreigner; but for someone that has been born and raised in the country, it is improper to ask them to "integrate" into itFact|date=May 2007.

In a traditional village organisation, everyone knows everyone else; when a child misbehaves, he or she may be corrected by any adult. In this setting children can be let outside; they are never alone and are always watched by someone. But in a block, there are insufficient adults to watch the children due to the separation of living and working space; adults can no longer realistically take a few moments from work to discipline a misbehaving child or provide moral instruction. Leaving children alone in the neighborhood, which may have been a traditional practice in the communities in which the first generation of immigrants were raised, can have dangerous consequences in the "cités".

Hidden racism

Perhaps the main reason for the alienation perceived among the younger generations in the poorest French suburbs is the perceived racism, both casual and institutional. In this particular regard, France has long had a problem with dealing with both its present and its historical memory, especially with respect to its colonial past and its role during World War II -- especially significant, for instance, is the lack of attention around the Paris massacre of 1961 and the still on-going controversy surrounding the amount of victims therein, an amount which as recently as ten years ago was still officially recognized as below 50 although most independent accounts place it by the hundreds [ [] ] [ [] ] [ [] ] [ [] ] . The February 23, 2005 law on colonialism, voted by the UMP conservative majority, stating that the "positive consequences" of colonization must be taught to students, created a wide uproar, including among many university teachers outraged by what they have called a mark of "historical revisionism", and an infringement on the legal principle of academic freedom.

Today, children of immigrants claim that they frequently encounter economic segregation or racism Fact|date=October 2008: they have problems getting a job, or finding an apartment, or even entering a nightclub, because of their names or skin color, although such discrimination is officially illegal. The association SOS Racisme, which has close ties to the French Socialist Party, has claimed to have found experimental proof of such racism:
* When responding to job offers with identical CVs, except for name and address, to the same companies; CVs with African names received far fewer positive answers than CVs with typical French names;
* They filmed the entrance to selected nightclubs and observed discriminatory acts;
* They found widespread use of abbreviations such as "BBR," short for "Bleu Blanc Rouge" ("Blue White Red," the colors of the French flag), referring to ethnic Frenchmen and "NBBR" ("Non Bleu Blanc Rouge" - non-French) indicating the use of race in employers' databases;
* They found that discrimination is more widespread for those with college degrees than for those without;
* They found that French laws which make discrimination in employment illegal are rarely enforced, and that even when they are, punishment tends to be nominal.

The politically correct term for those discriminated against is "visible minority" ("minorité visible"), due to the fact that the segregation applies to any visible feature (color of skin, dress, name) and is not related to the ethnic group itself.

In 2005, unemployment in the "banlieues" was 20%, while the national average was 10% [ [] Dead link|date=March 2008] ; in some neighborhoods, it exceeded 40%.One explanation for this is that the general level of education in these areas is well below the national average, which, in a context where it is difficult to find jobs requiring little or no qualifications, is bound to generate high unemployment. According to the BBC, the unemployment rate for university graduates of French origin is 5%; this can be compared to the unemployment rate of 26.5% for university graduates of North African origin. However, the BBC study does not specify whether the people of North African statistically attend the same university curricula as the average French population; it is well-known that some French higher education curricula do not offer good job prospects afterwards, and a "graduate" can be someone with a "DEUG" (a diploma issued after just two years of University education). Employment prospects in France for someone with only a DEUG are slim. According to the BBC, the inability of educated people who happen to be nonwhite to obtain employment and the connection to documented racism have left many feeling that they face dim prospects regardless of their actions. [ [ French Muslims face job discrimination] "BBC News". Wednesday, 2 November 2005]

French law restricts the access to most civil service jobs ("fonction publique") to people having European Union citizenship, though there are exceptions to this: some highly qualified positions (e.g. public research and higher education) are open regardless of citizenship, while some positions (e.g. defense and law enforcement) are open only to French citizens. Some sensitive positions (defense, nuclear industry…) may be difficult to obtain for people with close ties to "problem countries". This is in line with a common practice around the world; for instance, in the United States the security clearances needed for "sensitive positions" are almost impossible to obtain for foreigners or people with connections to "problem areas". Finally, not all public jobs fall into the civil service, and restrictions generally do not apply to non-civil service public positions.

Residents of the "banlieues" frequently complain that they are subject to racial profiling by the police ("face features offense", "délit de faciès"). "Identity Controls" — unannounced places where police demand identity papers from whomever they choose are extremely unpopular and seen as unbefitting a free society. Witnesses to these identity controls confirm that only nonwhites are commonly asked for their papers. The use of identity controls contributes to widespread distrust of police in the "banlieues". [ [ Délit de faciès] 14 septembre 2003] [ [ Economic Despair, Racism Drive French Riots] "NPR" November 8, 2005] [ [ Libération - Toute l'actualité monde, politique, société, culture, débats... sur ] ]

The perception that French police are effectively immune to the law, especially with regard to offenses committed against nonwhites, has also helped to fuel anger against them in the "banlieue". The French newspaper Le Monde has written that (Le Monde, "La France des 'bavures'", 18 April 2000) "Justice is at a special tariff for police officers: they are never seriously punished." Cases such as one in which a seven-month suspended sentence was given to two police officers for manslaughter by asphyxiation against a black man have contributed to the belief that the police are unaccountable to the citizens who employ them. In April 2005, Amnesty International released a report that suggested that the French judicial system tacitly supports racially-motivated violence by police. [ [ Article publié le 18 Avril 2000] ] [ [ France: The search for justice: Victims of police brutality at the Paris press conference] AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL 6 April 2005] [ [ France: The search for justice : The effective impunity of law enforcement officers in cases of shootings, deaths in custody or torture and ill-treatment | Amnesty International ] ]

In contrast, some in the right and especially the far-right, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen, claim that youth from the "banlieues" enjoy de facto immunity from prosecution. They claim that the police and the prosecution are ordered by the government to be lenient, so as not to attract the wrath of left-wing and pro-immigration organisations. [ [ La surenchère de Jean-Marie Le Pen - l'Humanite ] ]

Increase in criminal activity

Criminal activity in the "banlieues" is thought to have increased in recent decades, particularly that centered on the drug trade and the resale of stolen goods; much of this is believed to be gang-relatedFact|date=May 2007. However, murder in the "banlieues" remains uncommon: there are only about 400 homicides annually in France, the majority of which are related to domestic violence. Because only a relatively small proportion of the total French population was affected by crime in the "banlieues", and because crime victims tended to be lower-income and generally not politically involved, the issue of street crime received limited public attention until the 1980sFact|date=May 2007.

In the 1980s and 1990s, with a perceived rise of petty criminality, the topic became a sore point of French politics. Jean-Marie Le Pen of the "Front National" party has long denounced the "lax" attitude of authorities and has proposed tougher law enforcement policies, more in line with the current practices of the United States and certain other countries (including longer sentences and the expulsion of foreign criminals). Other right-wing politicians, such as Charles Pasqua, have made similar, though less far-reaching, proposals. The 2002 presidential campaign chiefly centered on the topic of violent and nonviolent delinquent behavior. In 2005, Interior Minister and head of the UMP party Nicolas Sarkozy announced tougher measures. Meanwhile, left-wing parties such as the French Socialist Party and the French Communist Party have long denounced such measures are demagogy and counter-productive.

An official parliamentary report on "prevention of criminality", commanded by then-Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin (UMP), and made by MP Jacques-Alain Bénisti, suggested that "Multilingualism ("bilinguisme") was a factor behind criminality." ( [ [ Rapport préliminaire de la commission prévention du groupe d'études parlementaire sur la sécurité intérieure - Sur la prévention de la délinquance] , presided by MP Jacques-Alain Bénisti, October 2004 fr icon ] ). Following outcries from many NGOs and left-wing groups, the final version of the Bénisti report declared multilingualism an asset, rather than a fault [ [ Analyse de la version finale du rapport Benisti] , Ligue des droits de l'homme (LDH, Human Rights League), and [ Final version] of the Bénisti report given to Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy fr icon] .

The word "tournante" is a French adjective meaning "turning". It is used as a slang term to mean a gang rape. According to the testimony of numerous victims, young Muslim women who stray from traditional conduct in the immigrant neighborhoods such as behaving and dressing like a westerner, or wanting to live as Europeans or refusing to wear the traditional clothing have been considered by some to be "fair game" for "tournantes". [ [ Sexism in the Cités] ] [ [ Girls terrorized in France's macho ghettos] ] As Samira Bellil said in a CNN Interview, there was a trial in Lille where a 13- year-old girl was gang raped by 80 men. [ [ Muslim Women Rebel In France] ] In some cases the unlucky victim is killed, as in the case of Sohanne Benziane, a young 17-year-old Muslim girl burned alive in a basement after being brutally gang-raped in a "tournante". [ [ Acting on The Outrage] ]

Loss of landmarks — search for new references

Seeing the unemployment of their parents, some children in these communities reject their parents' values, especially their work ethic, as criminality is seen as bringing "easy money," while honest behavior is seen as leading to poverty. The elder son — "grand frère" — becomes the ruler of the family and the model for the young ones. Recently, the term "grand frère" was recuperated to designate young adults from the suburbs who volunteer to encourage French youth to enter mainstream French society.

In the 1990s, Islamism started to spread in the French suburbs. This phenomenon is revealed by the 1995 bombings by the Armed Islamic Group, supported by French citizens.

An editorial from the BBC reported that French society's perceptions of Islam and of immigrants have alienated many French Muslims and may have been a factor in the causes of the riots; "Islam is seen as the biggest challenge to the country's secular model in the past 100 years," and the "assertiveness of French Islam is seen as a threat not just to the values of the republic, but to its very security," due to "the worldwide rise of Islamic militancy." At the same time, the editorial questioned whether such alarm is justified, citing that France's Muslim ghettos are not hotbeds of separatism and that "the suburbs are full of people desperate to integrate into the wider society." [] A New York Times editorial, on the other hand, noted that though many rioters and arsonists are young French Muslims, of West African or Maghreb origin, the riots have not been dominated by any sort of ideological or religious overtones. A minority of rioters are of a Christian background, second-generation Portuguese immigrants, and some are children of native French [ (NYT, 5 Nov)] . On November 7, 2005, the Union of Islamic Organisations of France issued a fatwa condemning the ongoing violence.

Influence of international events and French foreign policy

Some descendants of immigrants have a strong identification with their ancestors' country, even if they have never visited in person. Thus, some international events, and French foreign policy, sometimes have a strong influence. Identification with the conditions of foreign populations is not restricted to the originating country, but extends to similar populations. For example, the rise of antisemitic violences in 2003-2002 was correlated with the second Intifada ("Le Monde" and "Libération" Apr. 2 2004, [] ).

Economic context


As in every country, some areas have a very high unemployment rate. As the social security, unemployment and other welfare system benefits are not indefinite, and are predicated upon having had a job at one point, families with no paid income do not benefit from the usually generous French social security system. In addition, the amount and duration are based on length of employment and the specific employment contract, further disadvantaging the unskilled immigrants in the banlieues. Welfare benefits include housing benefits and "allocations familiales" (welfare benefits for children). The sum that is paid to a non-working family is similar to that which one would receive working at a minimum wage part time job. In France, there is a minimum salary called the SMIC: "salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance". This is the minimal interprofessional wage which follows the economic growth of the country [] ). It is illegal to hire someone for less than it. In 2005, the SMIC was 8.03 EUR per hour, 1,217.88 EUR per month for a full-time job. However, even the wage of a full-time unqualified job is often insufficient for the lifestyles of many people.

Housing costs

If a family has fewer than three children, it will usually receive financial aid in the form of Aide Personnalisée au Logement (APL), personalised accommodation help), which is calculated according to the global revenue of the household, and can account for as much as a third or even a half of the rent amount. If the family has three or more children it is not eligible for APL, but receives "allocation familiales" (family allowance), the amount of which depends on both the revenue of the household and the number of children, but it is not linear (the difference in the allocation between three and four children is higher than that between five and six, for example). The money is paid to the household, not individually. The housing projects are not rent-free, but are relatively inexpensive, and there tends to be an abundance of cheap rental accommodation in the "zones sensibles".

Health care costs

In France, the costs of seeing a doctor and obtaining medicine are at least partially refunded by the government, with the proportion varying between 30% and 100%. Low-income families receive CMU ("Couverture maladie universelle" - universal health allowance), a law voted in 1997 by Lionel Jospin's Plural Left government, meaning that not only 100% of the cost of medical expenses is paid for, but also that it is not necessary to pay up front for service. The CMU, however, only applies to very poor families. Those in higher income brackets must pay initially and then apply for reimbursement.

Education costs

Education is compulsory to age 16. After this age, school is optional and is carried out in the lycée (high school) in preparation for the "baccalauréat", an academic degree. Entrance to both the "college" (middle school) and "lycée" are based upon a "sectorisation" system, which assigns students to schools geographically. However, one can attend a different public high school through other means, including following a special course of study (such as studying a less-commonly learned language, such as Portuguese). As in many countries, the quality of education offered by different public high schools varies. Some parents chose to send their children to private high schools, which often offer a higher level of education than the local public school. Some private schools are not very expensive, offering tuition for as low as €200-€300 per year.

Higher education is divided into three different categories: Universities, which are public; "Grandes écoles" which are public or private, and further study in a lycée towards a "Brevet de Technicien Supérieur". Entrance to all is based upon the completion of the "baccalauréat". Universities are the only ones who are allowed to deliver the title of Doctor, hence PhDs, medical doctors and dentists are all educated at "universities". Also, "universities" are not free, with fees ranging from 100 to €600 and social security payments (€200) may be demanded for students who are older than 20. This may be a lot for some students, although those from poor families are exempt from paying fees and social security.

Entrance to the "grandes écoles" is earned through a national contest after the equivalent of two years of further study at a university. Costing between nothing and €6,000 annually, they enjoy a very good reputation amongst employers. On the other hand, public universities also give good education and graduates from universities have a reputation for being well-educated and well-trained, but there are significant differences between curricula, with some (such as medical schools) being highly selective and possessing a strong reputation, while some others are overcrowded and may not offer good job prospects. Given the large number of students that graduate annually, it can be challenging for a new graduates from a university to get a job without additional qualifications.

Student housing is generally inexpensive, ranging from €70 to €200 per month. However, students from poor backgrounds may have their rent paid for by the government, along with a monthly grant with which to buy food and books.

As in other countries, the quality of education received, and the peer group to which one belongs, can depend upon the school the child attends. In the "zones sensibles", students may struggle to see the opportunities offered to them by the French education system. In addition, the teachers at these schools are frequently the least experienced, as those with more experience may avoid working in the 'zones sensibles' if possible. This can affect the quality of education that low-income students receive. To counter these effects, the French government established a system known as "ZEP" ("zones of priority education"), with incentives for teachers to work in the zones, as well as increased government funding. The ZEP system, though, was criticized by the right-wing government which took power in 2002; in 2005, Nicolas Sarkozy, as head of the UMP, the leading right-wing party, proposed a total reform of the system, which he deems insufficientFact|date=May 2007.

The family background of low-income students can be critical to their success. In poorer areas, parents are often uneducated, and many women, in particular, are illiterate. In addition, families may be plagued by instability as caregivers may be obliged to work far away from home. To these concerns may be added motivational problems: some youth in the "banlieues", perceiving French society to be biased against them, may see little point in obtaining a French education.

ocial welfare

Social policies implemented by the French government since 1981 include: minimal income for social insertion ("revenu minimum d'insertion", RMI), universal health insurance ("couverture maladie universelle") and housing allowances (subsidies for home councils in case of HLM, or direct help with the rent in the case of the personalised accommodation help, "aide personnalisée au logement", APL), help for the children ("Caisse d'allocations familiales"). The results of this policies are still debated.

Right-wing parties have criticized this policy on several points:
* When all assistance is added up, total income from government sources is not far from the minimal legal income ("Salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance", Smic);Fact|date=May 2007 there is therefore limited incentive to seek paid employment. (Critics of this perspective have noted that it implies a shortage of willing workers, which has been demonstrated to be the case only in certain fields, such as construction and public worksFact|date=May 2007.)
* These policies are a way to buy social peace ("Panem et circenses"), but do not solve underlying social problems.
* Criminal behavior does not require social treatment but rather, stricter law enforcement.


Poverty rates are higher than the national average in the "cités"; those for 2005 are shown below (national averages in parentheses) [] :
* Unemployment: 20.7% (8.6%);
* Poverty: 26.5% (6%);
* Single-parent families: 15% (8%).

The "cités" contain a higher proportion of children and adolescents than in the rest of France: 31.5% of their population is 19 or younger, compared with 24.5% nationwide.

Urban violence and nonviolent demonstrations

The first suburban violence is believed to have occurred in 1979 in Vaulx-en-Velin in suburban Lyon [ [ France promises jobs to riot-hit suburbs] ] . The first event to received wide media coverage, however, was that in the "Minguettes" at Vénissieux, also near LyonFact|date=May 2007. Media reports were unclear as to whether the violence was prompted by organized crime or by general dissatisfactionFact|date=May 2007. After another violent episode in Vénissieux in March 1983, the Front National improved its standing in local elections, tapping into widespread fears that the violence would continue. Since then there have been both violent and nonviolent events in the "cités", including:
* Events such as the "March for equality and against racism" ("Marche pour l'égalité et contre le racisme") in 1983 and the women's movement "Ni putes ni soumises" ("Neither whores nor submissive"), formed in 2003 after the murder of Sohane Benziane, 17 years old, burnt alive by a young man.
* Riots, chiefly involving arson and stone throwing, usually provoked by the killing or wounding of a resident during a police operation. Riots in the "banlieues" have tended to last a few days. They have also tended to take place on New Year's Day.

Policymakers have used two different approaches to curb violence in the French suburbs. Some have advocated the management of poverty and social isolation by deploying social workers, forming school aid associations, and instituting crime prevention programs (the 'soft' approach). Others have taken a more hard-line stance, asserting that the best way to curb the violence is to increase the police presence in poor and violence-prone neighborhoods (the 'stick' approach).

French suburbs and apartheid

According to Paul A. Silverstein, associate professor of anthropology at Reed College and author of "Algeria in France: Transpolitics, Race, and Nation", and Chantal Tetreault, assistant professor of anthropology at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who has researched and written extensively on language, gender, and social exclusion in French suburban housing projects, the colonial apartheid in Algeria has been re-created in the cities of France:

As such, the colonial dual cities described by North African urban theorists Janet Abu-Lughod, Zeynep Çelik, Paul Rabinow, and Gwendolyn Wright — in which native medinas were kept isolated from European settler neighborhoods out of competing concerns of historical preservation, public hygiene, and security — have been effectively re-created in the postcolonial present, with contemporary urban policy and policing maintaining suburban cités and their residents in a state of immobile apartheid, at a perpetual distance from urban, bourgeois centers.Silverstein, Paul A. & Tetreault, Chantal. [ Postcolonial Urban Apartheid] , "Civil Unrest in the French Suburbs", November 2005, Social Science Research Council, June 11, 2006. Retrieved July 15, 2007.]

Tariq Ramadan, a swiss Muslim and theologian, asserts that France is disintegrating into a "territorial and social apartheid" because "certain French citizens are treated as second-class citizens, if not the leprous members of the national community"."The truth is that certain French citizens are treated as second-class citizens, if not the leprous members of the national community. Their children are sent to ghetto schools and taught by inexperienced teachers, they are crammed into inhumane public housing developments, and they are confronted with an essentially closed job market. In short, they live in a bleak, devastated universe. France is disintegrating before our eyes into socio-economic communities, into territorial and social apartheid. The rich live in their own ghettos. Institutionalized racism is a daily reality." Follath, Erich. [ Tariq Ramadan on the crisis in France] , "", November 16, 2005.] He points to divisions between the wealthy urban areas and the poorer suburban areas in French cities, as well as an ethnic division between European French and non-European (primarily North-African, Muslim) immigrant French. Protesters of this division, who argue that the problem is exacerbated by the government, refer to it as a unique form of "urban apartheid".Fact|date=March 2008

Ralph Peters, in an article about the 2005 civil unrest in France, wrote that France's apartheid has a distinctly racial aspect. In his view, France's "5 million brown and black residents" have "failed to appreciate discrimination, jobless rates of up to 50 percent, public humiliation, crime, bigotry and, of course, the glorious French culture that excluded them through an informal apartheid system."Peters, Ralph. [ France's "Intifada"] , "New York Post", November 8, 2005.] Left-wing French senator Roland Muzeau has blamed this apartheid on the right, insisting that it is responsible for both a "social" and "spatial" apartheid in cities controlled by the right, pointing out as an example that Nicolas Sarkozy, from 1983 to 2002 mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine, refused to permit the construction of any public housing in the city. [fr icon " _fr. La droite a, depuis plusieurs décennies, organisé un apartheid social et un apartheid spatial qui conduit à l’existence de villes pour gens aisés et des villes populaires, car les villes de droite ne veulent pas loger les ouvriers et les employés." [ La droite organise un apartheid social] , "l'Humanité", June 5, 2007.]

The issue of "educational apartheid" is also of great concern to George Mason University law professor Harry Hutchison, who has warned that France's refusal to implement its 2006 First Employment Contract (CPE) law would disproportionately harm poor youth, particularly immigrants; in his view, "France will continue to mirror apartheid-era South Africa". [ [ France Will Continue to Mirror Apartheid-Era South Africa] ,, May 4, 2006. Accessed June 25, 2006.] However, there was strong opposition to that labour law; left-wing parties, among other critics, claimed that it was not the right answer to social apartheid [fr icon [ Abolir l'apartheid social dans les banlieues] (Abolish social apartheid in the suburbs), article by PS Senator Jean-Luc Mélanchon, quoting [ senate CPE debates] ] [fr icon [ Censure motion] raised by left-wing parties against CPE law: (Introduction: "This censure motion is defended by deputees from PS, Left Radical Party, The Greens and other minor left-wing parties")] : "We are tempted to say, regarding to the strong CPE protests, that this so-called answer to suburban youth illness is a shocking and unsuitable one, stigmatizing a whole social class" [fr icon " _fr. on est tenté de le penser si l'on en juge par le développement de l'opposition au CPE, cette prétendue réponse au malaise des jeunes de banlieue, réponse aussi choquante qu'inadaptée, qui stigmatise toute une jeunesse", said PS Senator Jacques Mahas in a [ Senate debate] , March 28 2006]

French media also tend to ignore blacks and North Africans, failing to market to them, and not representing them in television, print, the internet, or advertisements. This in turn has led to protests against "l'apartheid culturel". ["Reluctant inclusion is a fact of life that is perhaps typified by the advertising industry. Unlike the United States, France and other European nations have paid scant attention to the challenges of marketing to domestic ethnic groups. Protests against "la télé monochrome" (single-color TV programming) and "l'apartheid culturel" (cultural exclusion) of blacks have been raising consciousness and encouraging greater inclusion of minorities in television, Internet, and print products and advertisements. These mediums tend to ignore the existence of blacks along with that of North Africans ("Le pub française fait l'impasse sur les minorités ethniques", 2000). Simons, George F. "EuroDiversity: A Business Guide to Managing Difference", Elsevier, 2002, p270.]


Some have argued that the claims of apartheid in France are a consequence of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism among some French Muslims, and not just government policy. This argument has been made in the debates about the 2005 French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools, which was formulated primarily to prohibit girls from wearing the "hijab" in schools. Gilles Kepel, who co-authored this law, argued that it was not "acceptable" for members of different religions groups to primarily identify themselves as members of their faith (and secondarily as French) by wearing conspicuous religious symbols, as the end result would be "a sort of apartheid". ["We will have a sort of apartheid. Everyone will be proud to defend his own identity — I am a Muslim, I am a Christian, I am a Jew first. And then a Frenchman, second. This is not acceptable." Maceda, Jim. [ France divided by headscarf debate] , "NBC News", February 9, 2004.] Some French Muslim women also see the "apartheid" as being internally imposed by the French Muslim community, and the issue as not one about religious freedom, but rather "about saving schoolgirls from a kind of apartheid that was increasingly imposed by men in their community". [McGoldrick, Dominic. "Human Rights and Religion: The Islamic Headscarf Debate in Europe", Hart Publishing, 2006, p272.]

These debates also mirror earlier crises, particularly the "headscarf affair" of 1989, when three Muslim girls were excluded from schools for wearing headscarves. The affair triggered national debate in France, revealed previously unusual alliances between the left, feminists, and the right, and exposed differing views of and visions for the nature of French society. According to Maxim Silverman:

In the headscarf affair this 'vision', in its most extreme form, was often polarised in terms of the Republic "or" fundamentalism (secularism or fanaticism), the Republic "or" separate development (integration or apartheid). The problem for large parts of the Left was that they were often sharing the same discourse as Le Pen who used the affair to warn against 'the islamicisation of France'… in a splended example of the either/or choice facing France, in which there was is a convergence of many of the discursive elements mentioned above, the Prime Minister Michel Rocard announced on 2 December 1989, that France cannot be 'a juxtaposition of communities', must be founded on common values and must not follow the Anglo-Saxon model which allows ethnic groups to barricade themselves inside geographical and cultural ghettos leading to 'soft forms of apartheid' (quoted in "Le Monde", 7 December 1989). [Silverman, Maxim. "Deconstructing the Nation: Immigration, Racism, and Citizenship in Modern France", Routledge, 1992, p116.]

Amir Taheri argues that communities dominated by immigrants and their descendants encourage "native French" to leave, making assimilation difficult, as these groups can effectively live their whole lives without becoming familiar with the French language or culture. In his view, this leads to alienation, and "that, in turn, gives radical Islamists an opportunity to propagate their message of religious and cultural apartheid". He states that some are even calling for a formalization of the "de facto" “millet” system in Muslim-majority areas, where Muslim men and women are forced to conform to Muslim dress codes, "places of sin" such as "dancing halls, cinemas and theaters" forced to shut down, and French purveyors of liquor and pork products are forced out entirely."As the number of immigrants and their descendants increases in a particular locality, more and more of its native French inhabitants leave for “calmer places”, thus making assimilation still more difficult. In some areas it is possible for an immigrant or his descendants to spend a whole life without ever encountering the need to speak French let alone familiarize himself with any aspect of the famous French culture.

The result is often alienation. And that, in turn, gives radical Islamists an opportunity to propagate their message of religious and cultural apartheid. Some are even calling for the areas where Muslims form a majority of the population to be re-organized on the basis of the “millet” system that was in force in the Ottoman Empire. Under that system each religious community is regarded as “millet” and enjoys the right to organize its social, cultural and educational life in accordance with its religious beliefs.

In some parts of France a de facto “millet” system is already in place. In these areas all women are obliged to wear the standardized Islamist “hijab” while most men grow their beards to the length prescribed by the sheikhs. The radicals have managed to chase away French shopkeepers selling wine and alcohol and pork products, forced “places of sin” such as dancing halls, cinemas and theaters to close down and, seized control of much of the local administration often through permeation." Taheri, Amir. [ France’s Ticking Time Bomb] , "Arab News", November 5, 2005.]

Minette Marrin of "The Sunday Times", while recognizing that "poverty and rejection" have "played a significant part" in the problem, also believes that some French Muslims have "retreat [ed] into more extreme forms of Islam and into the arms of fundamentalists", and that Westerners have been unwilling to recognize this as "deliberate separatism — apartheid."However, we might at least recognise the problem. As usual a great many people are deliberately avoiding it, in particular by editing the word Muslim out of their debates, as if Islam had nothing to do with the dangerous mood sweeping Europe. Poverty and rejection have played a significant part, but there is an unmistakable sense in which the riots are Muslim, consciously so.

Muslims vary and their beliefs vary. But the response of some Muslims to frustration — whether or not the fault of westerners — has been to retreat into more extreme forms of Islam and into the arms of fundamentalists. Yet although we know this, and despite the Salman Rushdie affair, despite the bombs and assassinations that led up to 9/11, despite the recent atrocities, we seem unwilling to recognise that what this can mean is deliberate separatism — apartheid." Marrin, Minette. [,,24391-1869908,00.html Muslim apartheid burns bright in France] , "The Sunday Times", November 13, 2005.]

The French periodical "Le Monde Diplomatique", however, disagrees with this assessment, and devoted two entire articles to the discussion of "urban apartheid""A few villains or a handful of Muslim “brothers” can hardly be held responsible for the ghettoization of more than 700 _fr. "zones urbaines sensibles" (ZUS, "sensitive urban areas": government-designated problem areas) and their 5 million inhabitants. As Laurent Bonelli points out, it makes more sense to attribute the recent violence to a process of urban apartheid — a stark contradiction of the French integrationist model — and to the discrimination and racism that afflict young Arabs and blacks. The smokescreen generated by the controversy over Islamic headscarves has blown away, revealing a brutal reality." Vidal, Dominique. [ "The fight against urban apartheid"] , "Le Monde diplomatique", December 2005.] and "educational apartheid" [Felouzis, Georges and Perroton, Joëlle. [ The trouble with the schools] , "Le Monde diplomatique", December 2005.] in France, citing them as the two main factors in the explosive 2005 French youth riots. Stating that the controversy of Islamic headscarves was a "smokescreen", it argues that " [a] few villains or a handful of Muslim “brothers”" cannot be held responsible for "the ghettoization of more than 700 _fr. "zones urbaines sensibles" (ZUS, "sensitive urban areas": government-designated problem areas) and their 5 million inhabitants." The authors agree with Laurent Bonelli that the violence was the result of "a process of urban apartheid" as well as "discrimination and racism that afflict young Arabs and blacks".

Writing in "The Weekly Standard", Robert S. Leiken actually credits French apartheid with "reducing" Islamist sentiment. In his view:

The modernist housing experiments of the sixties have produced apartheid du Corbusier. Together with government monitoring and stiff hate crime punishments, that French apartheid helps explain why its Muslim slums are less Islamist than the British. Walled off by cavernous superhighways, the quartiers in a supreme irony have turned into homelands, the source of a sort of stunted nationalism aroused once in places like Belfast. [Leiken, Robert S., [ Revolting in France; The labor-law protests pitted the privileged young against disaffected immigrants] , "The Weekly Standard", May 1 2006.]


Montpellier's socialist mayor, Hélène Mandroux objects to the term "apartheid" in relation to France's treatment of African minorities, arguing that "Terms like urban apartheid are over-dramatic We recognize the problem and we are trying to deal with it, but this is not Johannesburg in the 1980s." [Gentleman, Amelia. [,11882,1277343,00.html "France wakes up to plight of its forgotten cities"] , "The Guardian", August 6, 2004.]



*French language reports from SOS Racisme
** "PDFlink| [ Rapport d'analyse des affaires récentes de discriminations à l'embauche poursuivies par SOS racisme] " (Analysis report about the job segregation followed by SOS racisme, PDF file, 39p), March 21, 2005
** "PDFlink| [ Bilan d'activité de SOS racisme contre les discriminations dans l'accès au logement privé] " (Activity report of SOS racisme against the discrimination in the access to private housing, PDF file, 37p), June 1, 2003
** "PDFlink| [ Les discriminations raciales et éthniques dans l'accès au logement social] " (Racial and ethnic discriminations in the access to social housing)
* [ France Will Continue to Mirror Apartheid-Era South Africa] , "", May 4, 2006.
* [ La droite organise un apartheid social] , "l'Humanité", June 5, 2007.
* Bell, David Scott. "Presidential Power in Fifth Republic France", Berg Publishers, 2000. ISBN 1-859-73376-X
* Benguigui, Yamina "Mémoires d'immigrés, l'héritage maghrébin" ("Memory of immimgrants, the legacy of the Magrheb", documentary), 1997 []
* Bonora-Waisman, Camille. "France and the Algerian Conflict: Issues in Democracy and Political Stability, 1988–1995", Ashgate Publishing, 2003. ISBN 1-840-14751-2
* Felouzis, Georges and Perroton, Joëlle. [ The trouble with the schools] , "Le Monde diplomatique", December 2005.
* Follath, Erich. [ Tariq Ramadan on the crisis in France] , "", November 16, 2005.
* Gentleman, Amelia. [,11882,1277343,00.html France wakes up to plight of its forgotten cities] , "The Guardian", August 6, 2004.
* Kelly, Debra. "Autobiography And Independence: Selfhood and Creativity in North African Postcolonial Writing in French", Liverpool University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-853-23659-3
* Leiken, Robert S., Revolting in France; The labor-law protests pitted the privileged young against disaffected immigrants, "The Weekly Standard", 5/1/2006.
* Maceda, Jim. [ France divided by headscarf debate] , "NBC News", February 9, 2004.
* Marrin, Minette. [,,24391-1869908,00.html Muslim apartheid burns bright in France] , "The Sunday Times", November 13, 2005.
* McGoldrick, Dominic. "Human Rights and Religion: The Islamic Headscarf Debate in Europe", Hart Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1-841-13652-2
* Mélanchon, Jean-Luc. [ Abolir l'apartheid social dans les banlieues] , March 29, 2006.
* Peters, Ralph. [ France's "Intifada"] , "New York Post", November 8, 2005.
* Silverman, Maxim. "Deconstructing the Nation: Immigration, Racism, and Citizenship in Modern France", Routledge, 1992. ISBN 0-415-04483-9
* Silverstein, Paul A. & Tetreault, Chantal. [ Postcolonial Urban Apartheid] , "Civil Unrest in the French Suburbs", November 2005, Social Science Research Council, June 11, 2006. Retrieved July 15, 2007.
* Simons, George F. "EuroDiversity: A Business Guide to Managing Difference", Elsevier, 2002. ISBN 0-877-19381-9
* Smith, Craig S. [ Elite French Schools Block the Poor's Path to Power] , "New York Times", 18 December 2005
* Taheri, Amir. [ France’s Ticking Time Bomb] , "Arab News", November 5, 2005.
* Vidal, Dominique. [ The fight against urban apartheid] , "Le Monde diplomatique", December 2005.
* Wall, Irwin M. "France, the United States, and the Algerian War", University of California Press, 2001. ISBN 0-520-22534-1

ee also

* Banlieue
* 2005 civil unrest in France
* Islam in France
* Demographics of France
* Aire urbaine
* French hip hop
* Social apartheid
* Caisse d'allocations familiales
* "Neither Whores Nor Submissives"

External links

* [ Audio book (mp3)] of the introduction and first chapter of Éric Maurin's book "Le ghetto français, enquête sur le séparatisme social"
* [ Listing] of the 751 "Zones Urbaines Sensibles" including maps
* [ Racism and Social Apartheid. French Suburbs: 10 Questions]
* [ Vive la révolution … new rallying cry to France] , "The Age", November 19, 2005
* [ Muslim segregation] , reader comments (dated November 20 2005) on the article [ Muslim Apartheid Burns Bright in France] , "The Sunday Times", November 13 2005

ome films about the "banlieue"

* "De Bruit et de fureur", Jean-Claude Brisseau, 1988
* "Raï", Thomas Gilou, 1995
* "Yamakasi - Les samouraïs des temps modernes", Ariel Zeitoun, 2001
* " [ Le bruit l'odeur et quelques étoiles] ", documentary film on previous outbreaks of violence
* " [ Wesh Wesh qu'est-ce qui se passe ?] ", French movie (2001) from Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, about the social fracture in the Cité des Bosquets, Seine-Saint-Denis
* "La Haine", 1995 French movie from Mathieu Kassovitz — a portrayal of the tension between kids, and police racism and brutality in the banlieue and the Parisian environment.
* " [ Ma 6-T va crack-er] ", 1997 documentary film, from Jean-François Richet
* " [ Le thé au harem d'Archimède] " French movie (1985) from Mehdi Charef about teen-life in the "HLM", the subsidized Parisian housing projects

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