Early sign of alienation was booing of 'La Marseillaise'

A football match between France and Algeria provided one of the first warning shots to the French political elite from the heart of the banlieues.

As the band struck up "La Marseillaise" before the friendly match in the Stade de France, in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, the national anthem was booed. But what shocked France was that those who booed were not Algerian fans but French-born second and third-generation immigrants with French nationality. The banlieues had spoken, and the catcalls from the suburbs were telling the government that the country's model of integration had failed.

That incident took place in October 2001, six years after President Jacques Chirac was first elected, having campaigned on a platform of healing the "social fracture" of poverty and exclusion that left millions of citizens out in the cold.

In Aulnay-sous-Bois last Saturday morning, a similar scene was played out in which the elected representatives of the republic were reminded that the "social fracture" is more serious than ever, and that the young Arabs on the estates still feel alienated from a mainstream society which has abandoned them to their own devices.

The mayor of Aulnay, Gérard Gaudron, had hoped that a march would mobilise the population against the violence on the estates and bring out a sense of solidarity. But as soon as a group of city councillors and shopkeepers began singing "La Marseillaise" there were noisy complaints from the crowd.

There has always been a broad consensus on "republican values" in France, based on the revolutionary slogan of liberty, fraternity and equality. Rejecting the US model of the "melting pot" and British tolerance of the customs of ethnic minorities, France officially dismisses any consideration of race, creed or colour that could undermine national unity. Indeed ethnic minority is not a recognised concept, where the theoretically colour-blind state does not distinguish between categories of citizens.

But it is that certainty which has been shaken by the debate over the banning of Muslim headscarves in France's officially secular schools and by the riots.

General de Gaulle established l'Ena, the top school for French administrators, after the Second World War out of the spirit of the Resistance: he aimed to provide a modern, neutral administration that would run the country according to republican values. Fifty years on the énarques, as they are known, still run the country, but have infiltrated all the political parties to become a kind of political aristocracy removed from everyday life. From Dominique de Villepin, the Prime Minister, on the right to François Hollande and Laurent Fabius on the left, top politicians are a product of l'Ena whose original aims have been perverted over time.

Needless to say, few of the seven million Muslims in France have gone through l'Ena and they are desperately under-represented in the corridors of power. France only has a few token blacks with a public profile: the government has an Algerian-born minister for integration, Azouz Begag, while a Togolese Socialist, Kofi Yamgnane, heads the Foundation for Integration. Mr Yamgnane called yesterday for a return to republican values.

The hardline Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, a non-énarque, is the only French politician to call for a break with the country's model of integration - and indeed with the broader French economic model of state intervention - by calling for affirmative action to ease ethnic minorities into work.

But so far, the rest of the elite on both right and left sees his ideas as an open challenge to the ideals on which the French state has been built since 1789.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Technician - 1st Line

£19000 - £21000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPOR...

SQL Developer - Cardiff - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer - C...

English Teacher (Maternity Cover Leave)

£100 - £160 per day + Mileage & Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: A great sc...

Special Needs Teaching Assistant

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Special Educational Needs Teach...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London