Nabila Ramdani: For French Muslims, this horror only makes matters worse

 

Share
Related Topics

Images of armed police milling around the flat of a "neutralised" Muslim of Algerian descent will be welcomed by France's increasingly right-wing political class. As would-be presidents campaign tirelessly towards an election starting next month, they will stress the need to seek out and destroy young men like Mohamed Merah. The 23-year-old "troubled-housing-estate'"kid turned jihad warrior had a truly dismal life record. It covered almost every manifestation of alienated immigrant angst, from petty crime, through to indoctrination in prison, right up to murderous terrorism.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National, has already set the bar in clichéd scare-mongering by saying that French children of all faiths need "protection" from "fundamentalists" like Merah. The implication, of course, is that there are plenty more like him in the so-called banlieues – the vast housing projects on the outskirts of major cities like Toulouse and Paris. It was while growing up in one that Merah is said to have become exposed to Islamic extremism, at one stage even marching around the grey tower blocks holding a sword while shouting "al-Qa'ida!"

It is a pathetic, cartoon-look image, but the kind that has sadly gained increasing credibility over the past few years, as Nicolas Sarkozy's government has lurched determinedly to the right. Claude Guéant, the President's notoriously combative Interior Minister who presided over Merah's death, last year described the growing number of Muslims in France as a "problem". There are now some six million in the country compared to a few hundred thousand when the Republic became a secular one in 1905. Both Sarkozy and Guéant have regularly highlighted every perceived "problem" associated with Muslims, including burqa-wearing, eating halal meat, and praying in the street because of a lack of mosques. Behind all of these day-to-day issues is the growing and even more divisive implication that ordinary Muslims are not only anti-social and undesirable, but directly linked to global terrorism. One of the main reasons offered for a burqa ban, for example, was to stop radicals using the garments to hide bombs underneath, and to disguise their identities. Centrist presidential candidate François Bayrou was among those who described the formulation of such theories as "poisonous", while even Gilles Bernheim, France's grand rabbi, admitted: "It's often difficult to be a Muslim in France. This difficulty is worse today in this unhealthy climate, aggravated by talk that divides rather than unites."

Extremist rhetoric underpinned by policies designed to stigmatise will attract disillusioned nationalist voters in the race for the Elysée Palace, but they ignore the real problems facing Muslim communities in modern France: those of discrimination and underachievement. Yes, there are thousands of young men with the same Algerian background as Mohamed Merah, but that does not make them all murderous criminals. Many are the sons of immigrants forced to leave a North African country crippled by 132 years of colonial exploitation. It is now exactly half-a-century since the end of the Algerian War of Independence – one in which up to 1.5 million died and which opened huge divisions between aggrieved survivors. The legacy of hatred between expats forced to return to France and the Algerian economic migrants who joined them burns with a uniquely Gallic ferocity.

Such discord was exacerbated by Mr Sarkozy last month when he said that France would "not repent" for what went on during the war, even though close to 2.5 million Algerians live in the Republic today. They not only form the largest Muslim community, but for the most part still live in those marginalised urban estates which rose out of their forebears' refugee camps. Life has traditionally been hard for all French Muslims, but the kind of images which have been coming out of Toulouse over the past fortnight will make it even worse.

Nabila Ramdani is a Paris-born journalist of Algerian descent who regularly writes about French politics and Islamic affairs

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power