Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

Rival Libyan leaders back ceasefire, elections

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Western men 'less fertile' due to modern living, scientists warn

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

A 'crazy gamble': Luc Besson's €197m blockbuster 'Valerian' hits French cinemas

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

New KitKat factory to cater for exotic flavours

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

John McCain's healthcare vote backlash

Read more

THE DEBATE

The Macron Touch: Can the new French president be Libya's peacemaker?

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

'Maduro's regime is a criminal dictatorship'

Read more

FOCUS

Kenyan authorities step up security amid Al-Shabaab threat

Read more

ENCORE!

Rock icons Midnight Oil on politics, passion and their long-awaited comeback

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. Or you can catch it online from 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

2017-07-21 Asia-pacific

Video: Afghans live in fear as kidnappings soar

Last year, more than 300 people were kidnapped in Afghanistan. Although abductions of foreigners by the Taliban tend to make the headlines, more than 90% of the victims are in...

Read more

2017-07-14 Asia-pacific

China dreams of superpower status on the football pitch

China has been redrawing the world's football map in recent months. Thanks to virtually unlimited funds, players and coaches from some of the best European clubs are flocking to...

Read more

2017-07-13 Middle East

Exclusive: Storming Raqqa, IS group's cursed capital in Syria

The city of Raqqa in northern Syria has been held by the Islamic State group since early 2014. But the terror group's Syrian headquarters is on the verge of liberation. Snipers...

Read more

2017-07-07 European Union

Poland’s love-hate relationship with the EU

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, is a maverick. On civil rights, justice and the environment, Poland is increasingly breaking away from EU...

Read more

2017-06-30 Saudi Arabia

Women in Saudi Arabia: A long road to equality

In Saudi Arabia, women are considered second-class citizens. They cannot drive or travel without the authorisation of a male guardian: a brother, father, cousin or even a son....

Read more