The French Government Is Helping Alienate Its Muslim Population
OPINION 10/06/2039 2:23 PM ET
The French Government Is Helping Alienate Its Muslim Population
by Sally Clairemont

CC BY-SA 3.0 "3 CRS" by Nicolas Bouillon | Writer image: CC0 1.0 Untitled by wrckamkaew | Images were cropped. Images used for illustration purposes only. Image changes released under the same license as the original.
When this is all a people experiences from its government, are terror attacks really a surprise?
French police raided an apartment block overnight, arresting three men in relation to planning this year's Bastille Day terror attack.

Residents on the eleventh floor of an apartment block on Cité Président Salvador Allende in Saint-Denis were woken early this morning by the sounds of gunfire as police rushed from the lifts and fire escape. There was a protracted battle with occupants naturally concerned for their safety and as police advanced, they broke into apartments and assaulted innocent French citizens.

What happened here is not justice.

"I was asleep and then I wake up and there are police shooting and they come to my apartment. They break down the door and tell to me to get down and they push my son down to the floor," said resident Nassima Qasimi.

"The police smashed my door down. They pulled me and my wife from our bed and forced us to the floor. My son was staying with us and they pulled him off the sofa, they hit him in the face and pushed him to the ground," said Ismail Kotb, another occupant.

Similar stories were told by other residents to French media.

RAID police have been accused of violating the rights of French Muslims in recent years, using flimsy pretexts to conduct assaults on unsuspecting citizens. 2036's Paris riots were prompted by what local Muslims felt was deliberate targeting and use of excessive force by police.

The Council for French Muslims (CFM) has condemned last night's incursion.

"We unreservedly denounce these intrusions into the lives of free French Muslims," said CFM leader Muhammed Touma in a statement. "Our rights as free French cannot and must not be subjected to the kind of treatment that French police are used to now. They cannot employ these tactics any longer."

Saint-Denis lies within the department Seine-Saint-Denis, whose 236 km² is home to more than 950,000 Muslims out of a total population of 1.4 million.

Seine-Saint-Denis has long been something of a ghetto in the department north-east of Paris. Its strong multicultural flavor has experienced all the hallmarks of widespread prejudice: high unemployment, low education. Low income and few prospects for those long-term unemployed (40% of the total unemployment rate). Drugs and gangs have traditionally proliferated (but are much reduced these days).

It is in many ways the result of a system built against Muslims.

Small neighborhood areas across Seine-Saint-Denis were declared ZUS (Zone Urbaine Sensible/Sensitive Urban Zone) in the late nineties. Other parts had been designated urban renewal or urban tax-free zones.

ZUS areas were targeted by the French government for intervention for economic reasons. However, as distinct urban areas they became synonymous with French Muslims due to the poverty rate among the French Muslim community. Right-wing commentaries falsely portrayed ZUS areas on a regular basis as "no-go zones" where French police and other emergency services could and would not enter for fear of attack by Muslim residents.

The ZUS scheme was abandoned in 2024 due to lack of economic and social improvement in the designated zones. Former ZUS areas like Saint-Denis were left to rot by a government which simply did not care to assist its immigrant community.

This, incidentally, is the best way to create radicals: abandon them.

With a laissez-faire response like that it is not surprising that locals would look to themselves to improve their lot.

French Muslims began organizing politically at the local level in the early thirties, forming neighborhood organizations responsible for minor community issues. Seine-Saint-Denis' began organizing Les Sociétés Musulmans as commune councils (Seine-Saint-Denis is made up of 40 communes, of which Saint-Denis is one).

By late, 2037 every commune in Seine-Saint-Denis had a Société answerable to a central Co-operative Islamic Council (CIC) which is today headed by Musa ibn Rahimat.

Last year, seeing the success of American Sovereign Black Neighborhoods, the first calls to incorporate the department as a "Zone Souverain des Musulmans" were issued by CIC leaders.

With the support of the ruling Parti Socialiste (who thought a Sovereign Muslim Neighborhood a fine way to wash its hands of responsibility for its non-white citizens), concrete steps were taken: funding was applied for, meetings were taken. Then the CIC ran into Pierre LeBoulanger, President of the Regional Council of the Île-de-France.

To French progressives LeBoulanger is basically Himmler with a larger smile. He was instrumental in dismantling the ZUS scheme in the Île-de-France region and has used his influence to lower taxes for the wealthy and redirect collected taxes away from poor immigrant areas.

This is a man who said, "France for those who work for it," and who argued against further immigration from North Africa. When the Bonn Eight were abducted LeBoulanger blamed it on, "sneering German arrogance to import the world's jihadis without thinking."

CIC leaders from Seine-Saint-Denis met LeBoulanger in September last year in his Paris office. In a meeting which was described as tempestuous, LeBoulanger apparently roared at his guests and committed to blocking every attempt at local sovereignty.

It was symbolic of the contempt which is shown to Muslims on a regular basis in France and other countries in the West.

Don't believe me? Ask Khalil Stambouli, 15, who was beaten by French police in the wake of the Bastille Day attacks. His right arm was broken and he suffered two fractured ribs.

Or, you could ask Yasmina Feraoun, who was accosted a few weeks later by a group of white French males and raped in a Paris alley.

You could try asking Youcef bin Walid, but you won't be successful. He was killed two weeks ago in front of his friends as they exited a café in Central Paris.

French authorities fail to understand how these kinds of daily threats affect ordinary French Muslims. Imagine leaving home every day wondering if this is the day you end up in a hospital or a morgue, for the crime of simply being Muslim. And looking different.

What occurred last night in Saint-Denis was yet another example of institutionalized Islamophobia, meted out at the end of an assault rifle. That it happened in an area fighting for local sovereignty is doubly insensitive.

French Muslims clearly need a place with at least limited local authority, a place of safety and care for the most vulnerable in French society; a place they can breathe.

At the very least it's in France's self-interest to be generous to its Muslim population: it's easier to be radicalized when you simply have nowhere to go to escape the torrent of suspicion and abuse. It's harder when you can relax.

Clearly, this message has yet to be learned by French police.
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