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Rioting in France - but how has France dealt with 'integration'?

8 November 2005
The rioting in France comes as a consequence of much more negative expereince under the surface. Very often when oppressed people express themselves in this violent way this contributes to renforcing the view that 'others' have of black people whilst not acknowledging and taking the time to examine why and how we have come to stage that such violence has erupted. The death of the two young teenagers whilst being a catalyst, is only a catalyst. How has France dealt with 'integration' ? These young people are probably the ones which speak the French language and go to schools which also promote 'Frenchness' as a collective identity. Clearly there are other issues we need to examine such as deprivation, equal access to quality education, the kinds of messages and images presented of Black people/ Muslims, the kinds of barriers which in particlar these young people face, how a sense of belonging is fostered.
 
In the article by the Guardian it talks about how these excluded young people can be taken towards extremism.  I would have to agree with this, but the violence we are currently seeing is part of everything I have spoken about above. Unless France and other countries ensure that integration is also about ensuring equal life chances then this kind of eruption is always possible. I would like to hear from others who may be closer to the issues in France.
I think that currently in Britain we have been refocusing on Multiculturalism and whether this is the right approach on the way to integration. Recently when we were carrying out disscssions with Muslim women, many questioned what integration means and whose definition we strive towards. One woman said she engages fully in the School Boards and other institutions, she sees herself engaging with the civic and political processes and yet because she fully hihab's herself there is always the assumption that somehow this stops her from being a contributing member of her society. Similarly the definition of French integration has been on the terms of the French institutions and not developed in collaboration with communities.
I don't know what kind of role Muslim women are playing in their communities in France, but going by the Guardian article as we recognise here in this country that mothers and those women who operate at community level have an important role to play and can contribute as a force for change. Certainly resistence and lobbying around  the 'Hijab' bans was led by young women. Whilst we know that these are bans on all visible religious objects, the timing of these policies leave many Muslims feeling that it has been driven by an anti- Muslim agenda and fear. Many also feel that there is dual messages as clearly Christianity in secular France is overtly present. What happens at Christmas ? Is Christmas quietly celebrated at home with no public face ? Do people still work around the Christmas period and have no holidays in secular France ?
Those that know France more than I do may be able to contribute to what I am saying.

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