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

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

Recruitment Genius: Facilities Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Facilities Manager is required to join the m...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Consultant - Mobile - OTE £35,000

£14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent telecoms compa...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Consultant - Unified - OTE £35,000

£14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent telecoms compa...

Recruitment Genius: Trade Sales Consultant - Furniture

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a besp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

My cancer diagnosis cost me my home

Deanne Wilson
Dov Charney, the founder and former CEO of American Apparel  

American Apparel has finally fired Dov Charney, but there's no reason to celebrate just yet

Alice Nutting
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum