Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FRANCE IN FOCUS

French presidential election: Over 40% remain undecided

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

ICC orders Congo warlord germain Katanga to pay victims

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Trumpcare Falls Before First Hurdle

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Westminster Attack, Abadi in Washington (part 1)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Obamacare, Europe's Unholy Alliances, Martin McGuinness (part 2)

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Export bans hit Brazil amid tainted meat scandal

Read more

#TECH 24

Inside Netflix's war room

Read more

FOCUS

French Catholic voters remain faithful to scandal-hit Fillon

Read more

PEOPLE & PROFIT

Growing ambitions: The forces driving India's economy

Read more

REPORTERS

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 9.10 pm Paris time. And you can watch it online as early as Friday.

Latest update : 2010-02-05

National identity: Who is really French?

What does it mean to be French? For the past few months, France has been asking itself that very question. But the debate over national identity launched by President Sarkozy now appears to be deepening racial tensions present for years. To get to the heart of the matter, our reporter James André went to Marseille, the most ethnically diverse city in France.

Since the 2nd of November, the French Public has been invited by the government to reflect on what it means to be French today. It’s the “Grand Debate about National Identity”, instigated by President Nicolas Sarkozy and driven by Eric Besson, the minister in charge of immigration and national identity. A series of clumsy statements and reckless declarations has narrowed the debate towards the themes of immigration and the place of Islam in France.

We decided to go to the Belsunce neighbourhood in Marseille and meet the different communities who form this multicoloured bit of France, that locals have nicknamed Algiers 2.

The debate is taking place amidst the rise of a certain form of Islamophobia across Europe. Just after the Swiss voted to ban minarets, a survey showed that 57% of French people would have voted the same way, and that 47% were in favour of banning mosques.

A few weeks later, young people of Algerian origin took to the streets with flags to celebrate Algeria’s qualification for the FIFA World Cup. In several large French cities, including Marseille, these demonstrations started out as joy but turned to riots.

This is the background against which the debate is taking place. Its outcome will be formally presented on the eve of France’s regional elections.

As we meet different Belsunce district residents, it appears that the debate is considered to be a threat by immigrants in general, and Muslims in particular.

By James ANDRE

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2017-03-23 Europe

Video: Crimean dissidents silenced by Moscow

Three years after the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, Russia has deployed all the tools at its disposal, in the police and the justice system, to silence...

Read more

2017-03-16 Americas

Canada’s indigenous people determined to improve their lives

Although Canada regularly tops international rankings for its quality of life, the daily existence of the country’s indigenous people, also known as "First Nations", has more in...

Read more

2017-03-09 Middle East

Iraq's lost children: Victims of post-traumatic stress

In Iraq, thousands of civilians are fleeing the battle of Mosul against the Islamic State group jihadists. Many of the displaced have reached IDP camps in the north of the...

Read more

2017-03-03 Africa

Libya: Six years on, what remains of the revolution in key city of Zintan?

Six years have passed since the outbreak of the revolution that led to the ouster and killing of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi. With the country divided between rival clans,...

Read more

2014-03-14 Bashar al-Assad

Syria’s chemical attacks: the inside story

A chemical weapons attack targeted the suburbs of Damascus in August 2013. The West threatened air strikes in response, and Syria agreed to destroy its chemical arms stockpile....

Read more