French muslims address roots of riots
PARIS, November 20, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) - After calm was restored in Paris suburbs, Muslim leaders in the Saint Denis's District 93, where the first sparkle of riots started, have put their heads together with government officials, clerics and party leaders to tackle how to avoid a repeat of the unrest.
"We planned the Friday meeting to exchange views after three weeks of violence, tear gas canisters and arrests," the chairman of the Muslim Associations in Saint Denis's District (UAM-93), Hassan Farsadou, told IslamOnline.net on Sunday, November 20.
He said the participants advised the government to improve the living standards of the immigrants and not to treat them as second-class citizens.
"We have invited representatives of opposition parties, the government and leaders of the religious groups in France to talk about the social woes of the immigrants in the poor suburbs," Fersado said.
Representatives of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement party, and the opposition Socialist, Communist and Greens parties, as well as Christian and Jewish representatives attended the one-day meeting.
The rioting began with the accidental electrocution of two youths fleeing police in Clichy-sous-Bois outside Paris. Chirac's government has come under increasing pressure to halt the riots, sparked by frustration among ethnic minorities over racism, unemployment and harsh treatment by police.
Many feel trapped in the drab suburbs, built in the 1960s and 1970s to house waves of immigrant workers.
Their French-born children and grandchildren are now out on the streets demanding the equality France promised but, they say, failed to deliver Appreciation.
Government representatives praised the key role played by the leaders of the Muslim minority in Saint Denis to calm down a furious generation.
"We really appreciation Muslim leaders doing the effort to bring the riots to an end," said Bernard Bessingere, the chief of a Saint Denis municipality.
Translating his feelings into action, the official said he will lay the cornerstone for a grand mosque in his municipality in 2006.
French Muslim leaders on November 6 issued a fatwa banning Muslims from joining the unlawful riots raging across the country.
Socialist Party member and chairman of the Saint Denis's municipality, Herve Bramy, admitted that injustice has been done to immigrant youths.
"Yet, we do not accept that social injustice be used as a pretext to spread havoc and vent anger," he stressed. "Secularism guarantees justice for all French people irrespective of their religions or ethnic backgrounds," he maintained.
Oueinat Mouloud, another Saint Denis's municipality member, said the immigrants are fed up with marginalization. "Away from charred cars and massive riots, French media overlooked the basic needs of the men and women living in the suburbs: they want respect and equality," Oueinat.
"Some French politicians manipulated the riots in a bid to garner votes in the coming elections through anti-immigrants statements," he said.
He continued: "When the interior minister described the youths as 'rabble,' he was talking about the second and the third generations of immigrants, who are more integrated into society than their parents."
He further slammed what he called the government "indifference" to an attack by a tear gas canister on a mosque in Clichy-sous-Bois earlier in the month.
Saint Denis is home to the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF) in the Bourget district, which annually hosts one of Europe's major Muslim conferences, Paris-le-Bourget.
Better known among the French as "District 93" Saint Denis has a Muslim population of 500,000 out of 1,200 million people, making it the largest Muslim residential area in the country.
Muslims make up some five million of France’s 60 million people, the biggest Muslim minority in Europe.
By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent
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