Jihad in France : Where is the army ? Synagouge is burned -town protests over woman set on fire by Muslims-rioting nationwide
November 5, 2005
Rioting Moves Inside Paris City Limit
By Sebastian Rotella
Disabled woman set on fire as Paris riots spread
The incident was the ugliest yet in the violence that has convulsed the suburbs of Paris during the past week. Last night, fresh attacks were reported in two dormitory towns outside the French capital where youths set fire to cars and two buildings.
There were also signs of the violence spreading beyond Paris, with arson attacks reported earlier in the day in Rouen in northern France, Dijon in the east and Marseille in the south.
Officials nonetheless expressed hope yesterday that the country's worst urban unrest in a decade could be on the wane. But on Thursday alone, more than 500 cars were torched in the Paris region, an increase on previous episodes.
Police said the Sevran attack left the woman with 30% burns. The number 15 bus had just left the town's railway station at about 9.30pm when it was forced to a halt by burning rubbish bins strewn across the road. Two hooded youths forced open the front door, emptied jerry cans of petrol over the floor and on the front-seat passenger and the driver, then threw lighted rags inside.
The driver, who helped the woman off the bus as other passengers escaped through a rear door, was taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation. "We are treating this as attempted manslaughter," a police spokesman said.
The prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, and the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, pledged that order would soon be restored and the law respected.
The rioting began last week when two teenagers of African origin were accidentally electrocuted while hiding from police in Clichy-sous-Bois, north of Paris. The violence is fuelled partly by resentment at France's discriminatory treatment of its north and black African communities, a far cry from the liberty, equality and fraternity of the country that likes to call itself the birthplace of human rights.
But officials and social workers also acknowledge that as often as not it is also about youths simply "having a go" at the police - and particularly at the plain-speaking Mr Sarkozy, who refers to the troublemakers as yobs.
"Some of them just come along for the fun," said Gerard Gaudron, mayor of one of the worst-hit towns, Aulnay sous Bois. "Instead of playing on their PlayStations they have a go at the riot police.
"In a few days' time they'll return to normal life ... everyone has now had enough; parents have realised this has to stop. They are starting to keep kids at home."
Police yesterday criticised Mr Sarkozy for his policies, which they said had contributed to the problem. In an earlier stint as interior minister, Mr Sarkozy slashed the number of officers on the beat, to beef up resources for investigation.
MIM: It is worth noting that this article does not mention the Islamist aspect of the rioting except to compare it visually to 'The Palestinian Intifade'. The authro also makes a point of blaming France and the politicians for the mayhem. The oening quote says it all. An 'North African' says "We are all against what is happening here" he then explains it away asa harmless pastime with 'There's nothing for youths to do' and brazenly asserts that the mayhem is all the fault of Interior Sarkozy because he 'has not said sorry".
France burns with anger
'WE are all against what's happening here," said one North African resident in Aulnay-sous-Bois. "There's nothing for youths to do. Sarkozy lit the fuse and has not said sorry."
For Chantal Goulot, a pensioner, the events unfolding around her home are unprecedented: "I've lived here since 1966 and never seen anything like it. They burned everything, the town hall, the Renault dealership, the car rental place, even the shop that makes cakes."
France awoke yesterday to learn it had suffered its ninth consecutive night of rioting as unrest spread beyond the capital to Nice, Lille, Marseilles and Toulouse.
French police made more than 250 arrests after nearly 900 cars were set ablaze and nurseries and a school burned overnight. Were it not for the French voices bellowing rage in the suburbs, it could have been easily mistaken for a scene from the Palestinian intifada.
But after being confronted for more than a week with violent images of burning cars, torched buildings and gangs of snarling youths armed with bricks and sticks, hurling Molotov cocktails at baton-wielding riot police, the country has finally begun to ask itself serious questions about how it has managed to breed so much anger and frustration among its immigrants communities.
The rioting began 10 days ago over the deaths of two teenagers of African origin, Bouna Traore, 15, and Zyed Benna, 17, who were electrocuted after they took refuge in an electricity sub-station in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. Locals maintain the pair were being pursued by police, a claim the authorities have denied.
Their deaths sparked immediate anger among locals in a town which has since been dubbed "Clichy-sous-Jungle". Judicial officials said the unrest was being organised via the internet and mobile phones.
But what has set the current unrest apart from other incidents of suburban violence and car torchings - not uncommon in France's troubled suburbs - is the way it rapidly spread as the deaths of Bouna and Zyed became national symbols of police repression, racial discrimination and everything the country's disaffected suburban youth claim is rotten in their lives.
After violence ignited across Paris, on Thursday it spread to other areas of the country for the first time since the rioting began. In the eastern city of Dijon, gangs torched cars and sporadic unrest broke out in Rouen in Normandy and the Mediterranean port of Marseilles. In the region of Seine-Saint-Denis, north of Paris, which has been at the centre of the violence, 187 cars were torched and a handicapped woman was badly burned after being doused in petrol and set ablaze in an attack on a city bus.
The riots have focused the country's attention on conditions in its troubled sink estates which are heavily populated by African Muslim immigrants and their French-born children who are trapped by poverty, crime and poor education and who face daily discrimination over jobs and housing. Unemployment among French men aged 15-24 has risen from 15% four years ago to more than 22%. It is thought to be as high as 30-40% among young second and third-generation immigrants in poorer, high-rise suburbs.
But the government's failure to control the unrest has also triggered widespread criticism of its handling of the crisis and, in particular, of President Jacques Chirac, his loyal lieutenant, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, and, above all, their arch rival, the fiercely ambitious interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy.
All have been accused of trying to score political points off each other in the run-up to the campaign for the 2007 presidential elections. Chirac and de Villepin have been criticised for remaining silent for the first six and five days, respectively, of the crisis when they left Sarkozy in sole charge of the unsuccessful attempt to restore order.
Sarkozy has never been so forcefully criticised as he has been over his handling of the riots, and political observers have suggested that the silence of Chirac and de Villepin was a strategy designed to weaken the popular interior minister whom they hoped would dig his own political grave. France's crime tsar has not gone quite that far but his hardline approach has weakened him politically.
The riots began just days after Sarkozy's launch of a controversial crackdown on crime in the country's tough suburbs.
The minister's aggressive language, in which he referred to rioters as "scum" and vowed "to clean out" troubled suburbs, led to accusations from both the Socialist opposition and from within his own party that he was fanning the violence. Police unions have also joined the chorus of criticism, castigating Sarkozy's decision to end neighbourhood policing and complaining that his declared war on delinquency is making their job increasingly difficult and dangerous.
But Sarkozy stubbornly defended himself. "I speak with real words," he told the popular daily, Le Parisien. "When you fire real bullets at police, you're not a 'youth', you're a thug."
The media-hungry Sarkozy has also been accused of trying to capitalise on the situation to boost his own visibility ahead of the presidential race.
But in the suburbs, young residents are united in their anger over the interior minister's incendiary language and his "lack of respect".
"Sarko must shut up. Either he apologises or he resigns, instead of coming to spread chaos in the suburbs like Bush in Iraq," one 16-year-old said.
"When I see what is happening now, I always come back to this image: Sarkozy in Argenteuil [a troubled Paris suburb], raising his head and saying: 'Madame, I am going to clean all of this away.' The result? By playing the superhero, the control freak, Sarko has made everyone go crazy. He showed a total lack of respect to everyone," said Christophe, 22, a student.
Franck Cannarozzo, a deputy mayor of Aulnay-sous-Bois, added: "We see among the rioters kids of 13 to 15, who are swept along, who are encouraged to take all the risks, and the others, the ringleaders, who are used to creating trouble - they terrorise everyone, and don't want to stop. Rather than playing on their PlayStations, they attack the police."
Meanwhile political analysts note that with de Villepin increasingly appealing to centre right and even left-leaning voters, Sarkozy is being forced further to the right in the run-up to the presidential campaign.
By Thursday, criticism of the government had reached such intensity that de Villepin and Sarkozy were obliged to put personal ambition behind them, at least for the cameras, and present a united front as they both postponed overseas trips to hold emergency meetings throughout the day.
Since his initial handling of the riots was criticised, de Villepin has adopted a tougher stance, blaming gangs of criminals and drug dealers for instigating the riots. He said: "The Republican state will not give in. Order and justice will have the last word in our country."
Yesterday, he summoned eight key ministers and a top Muslim official to his offices as he tried to chart an end to the violence.
But amid the internal squabbling and public posturing, one voice has cut through the rhetoric to the heart of the problem - that of social cohesion minister Jean-Louis Borloo, who pointed out that France had to acknowledge its failure to deal with the anger simmering in its impoverished suburbs for decades.
Officially, no figures are allowed in France to show how many Muslims live in the country, but the estimate is around five million - the largest Muslim population in western Europe. Many claim that widespread racism in France has made them second-class citizens there. One does not have to look far to see why they believe that.
People of North African or black African origin are almost invisible in politics and the business world in France. There are painfully few executives of ethnic origin in French boardrooms and most Arab entrepreneurs are still running corner shops rather than corporations.
Yazid Sebag, the 55-year-old chief executive of CS, a large communications group, and the sole person of North African origin to head a leading French company, says corporate France is "viscerally racist". Even on French television, with the exception of football matches and programmes imported from America, there are few black and brown faces to be seen.
And non-white minorities know that their names and the colour of their skin make it harder for them to find jobs, obtain decent housing or even enter nightclubs.
Sarkozy has vowed to rid France of "hoodlums" and "delinquents", while de Villepin has promised "an action plan for the suburbs" which he aims to present later this month.
Yesterday the authorities began to clear away the burned-out vehicles from around the tower blocks in Clichy-sous-Bois, but resentment smoulders. Groups of boys and young men still hang around outside the area's shops and cafés and treat strangers with deep suspicion, if not outright hostility. The violence over the past week has given some young men a rare sense of control - even if it is only of the streets where they live.
Many feel the state, at best, ignores them and, at worst, stands in the way of their attempts to escape. But experts and local officials believe it is going to take more than a carrot-and-stick approach to calm the simmering discontent which is growing like a cancer in the poor suburbs that ring many of France's richest cities.
Riots intensify, spread as French government talks tough
Paris seeks "hidden hands" in riots
By Tom Heneghan
AULNAY-SOUS-BOIS, France (Reuters) - With every night that France's rundown suburbs burn, officials grow increasingly convinced that drug traffickers and Islamist militants are using frustrated youths to challenge law and order here.
Many people who watch their cars, shops and schools go up in flames, however, are not buying it. They blame unemployment, racial prejudice and widespread youth boredom for the outbursts.
Finding "hidden hands" behind the unrest seems like trying to catch the rioters as they rampage through the night. Some may get caught, but far more slip away in the darkness.
"Everybody is fed up seeing our town and our district trampled over daily by these organised gangs," declared Gerard Gaudron, conservative mayor of the northeastern Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois after an hour-long march against violence.
If the police don't crack down on these "hooligans," the embattled Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has warned, "who would give the orders? The mafias and the fundamentalists."
Fouzi Guendouz doesn't agree. "I don't think that's the real reason. It was just an excuse for kids to trash things," said Guendouz, 20, a French-born business student of Algerian origin.
"The politicians blame it on Islamists because the French are afraid of this religion. They think Islam equals bin Laden."
"Whoever knows who's behind this should come here and say it openly," shouted a defiant man in a Muslim prayer cap. "The problem is there's nothing for youths to do here."
Ahmed Hamidi, a white-bearded Moroccan electrician long resident in France, had no patience with politicians in Paris, which lies hardly an hour away but seems like another planet.
"All the politicians care about are laws for homosexuals and all those immoral things," he fumed. "They are against headscarves, against beards and against the mosques.
THEORY VERSUS REALITY?
Aulnay-sous-Bois was calm overnight, but there were still many charred cars and delivery vans along the way as the "march against violence" snaked in between the faded housing blocks.
Acrid smoke still rose from the smouldering ruins of a large carpet and floor covering depot set ablaze by arsonists two days ago. Deep in an isolated industrial zone, the depot was clearly the target of arsonists who went out of their way to hit it.
The growing frequency of attacks like this, in contrast to the car and trash hopper blazes set by marauding youths earlier in the unrest, prompted Paris prosecutor Yves Bot to join the officials blaming the rioting on organised gangs.
"This is done in a way that gives every appearance of being coordinated," he told Europe 1 radio. "For the moment, we see there is a movement against official institutions but it does not seem to be taking an ethnic or religious turn."
Another student in Aulnay-sous-Bois, Jeremie Garrigues, 19, doubted this was the case. "If those kids had been organised, they would have done much worse -- they would have used guns and bombs against town hall and the prefecture," he argued.
"Those are all politicians' theories," remarked an Algerian woman named Samia, whose main concern was how frightened her children were by the unrest. "We live here in reality."
NICE CARS AND EXPENSIVE PHONES
It's only on the fringes of the march, out of earshot of the multi-cultural crowd of concerned residents, that anybody tries to reconcile the opposing explanations.
"I'm sure there are drug dealers and Islamic radicals at work," said a middle-aged woman who requested anonymity. "Drugs are everywhere. They've arrested Islamic radicals nearby here."
A social worker who also withheld his name said some rioters seemed linked to the drug trade because they "drive nice cars and use mobile telephones I couldn't afford to buy.
"When the government is determined to fight this underground economy, there's bound to be resistance," he said. "There is no headquarters organising this, but they seem to be coordinating their activities among themselves by phone."
The charge that Islamist radicals were trying to exploit the unrest was a difficult one for local Muslims to handle, he said, because many were working to prevent unrest and admitting there were radicals in the crowds would discredit their community.
"They can't say that, so they don't say anything," he added.
MIM: Dhimmitude and Vichy redux - Instead of fighting French officials have capitulated to the Islamists are meeting with Imams begging them to do something to stop the violence. According to this article from the Dutch paper 'De Volkskrant', Villepin spoke to the head of the Grand Mosque in Paris and promised to "have a plan for the delapidated suburbs by the end of the month", while Sarkozy said that the" key to solving the crisis is through arrests".