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France

Suburb violence ‘nothing to do’ with French veil ban

©

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2013-07-23

An ID check on a Muslim woman wearing a full Islamic veil in a Paris suburb sparked a weekend of violence. But police and residents say the clash between angry youths and the police has little to do with France’s controversial veil ban.

A weekend of violence in a Paris suburb – widely reported to have been the result of a police ID check on a woman wearing a full Islamic veil – was a clash between angry local youths and the police that had little to do with France’s controversial veil ban, police and residents said.

Youths in the southwest suburb of Trappes said Tuesday the riots were sparked by “routine racism” from the police.

“The police treat us like dirt, and they stop and search me all the time even though they know my face well,” said Abdoulaye, 18, a black Muslim. “They are violent and they are racist,” he added.

He said that he had gone along to watch the weekend’s rioting – but “had not personally taken part” – and understood the motivation of those who chose to throw stones and fireworks at the police.

But Francis Legallou, Alliance Police Union’s local representative, denied any institutional racism in the police force, insisting that tensions were the result of an “us and them” culture among local youths.

Criminal culture

Trappes is one of the biggest hubs of cannabis traffic in Europe, he said. The town has a deep-rooted criminal culture and a strictly observed code of silence that “makes policing here extremely difficult.”

Trappes also has a high level of youth unemployment, and while there is a “small number of [ultra-orthodox] Salafists in the town”, Legallou said, the underlying cause of the weekend’s rioting was not religious – a sentiment shared by many of the locals who spoke to FRANCE 24.

“The ID check on the veiled woman was just the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.

“Most of the rioters were young people, yobs, who are unemployed, bored and simply want a clash with the police. Violence could return at any time.”

‘You have to respect the rules’

Mariam, 29, who witnessed the violence from her apartment window, said Muslim women should obey the law or expect to suffer the consequences.

“It’s unacceptable that Muslim women feel they can break the law so brazenly,” she said. “If you want to wear a niqab, do so in the privacy of your own home. The law is the law.”

Other locals said they doubted that the real cause of the rioting was the veil ban– and all of them said that the law should be respected.

While Abdoulaye had nothing but contempt for the police, he said he didn't think it was unfair to stop women in the street for wearing full veils. 

“The law says it’s banned, and if you go out wearing a veil you will be stopped. Everyone knows this. You have to respect the rules,” he said.

Date created : 2013-07-23

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