Rioting heats up

by Beacon Staff • November 9, 2005

Fourteen straight nights of rioting have caused a breakdown in government order and is threatening the stability of a country's social structure.,"The smell of smoke and the heat of flames are all around you. A wave of violence is sweeping across your neighborhood, engulfing your home and driving disenfranchised youth into the streets.

Fourteen straight nights of rioting have caused a breakdown in government order and is threatening the stability of a country's social structure. But in what country is this violence occurring? Common logic would say that there's only one location that could fit the above description, but Iraq is not the answer to the mystery.

This nation is not near the Middle East and cannot be found on a map of Africa. The country in question is a former colonial power, a nation that prides itself on peace and diplomacy. This mysterious sovereign state is France.

The outbreak of violence in France is not without due cause, but it seems to be quickly degenerating into more of a mini-revolution than a simple mass protest. The trouble started in Clichy, France on Oct. 27, when, believing police were chasing them, two teens ignored the warnings on a power station and tried to hide there from the authorities.

Unfortunately, the teens were accidentally electrocuted. The outpouring of outrage by their community was swift. Rioters began throwing Molotov cocktails, burning vehicles and clashing with any member of the police that tried to stop them.

Yet, the continuing violence in the suburbs of France is not due directly to the tragedy of the teens' death, but instead to their ethnicity.

The two teens were both of North African descent, and from a poor suburb where there has been a history of friction between residents and the police. The tension underlines a double standard in France for those of North African descent and everyone else. Last year, the unfavorable view of these immigrants was displayed when the French government banned the wearing of headscarves in the classroom.

The ban greatly affected those who practice Islam, and many of the Muslims in France come from North Africa. This discrimination between the old guard of France and her newer residents is not just seen through the passing of laws, but also through the woeful economic status of North African immigrants living in the country. According to the France's Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), the unemployment rate for people of French origin is 9.2 percent, while the unemployment rate for people of foreign (which includes North African) origin is 14 percent.

While this statistic is unfortunate, there is another which is much more frightening. In France, the average unemployment level for all university graduates is 5 percent.

Now, compare this number with the 26.5 percent unemployment level for graduates of North African descent and a bell should go off in your head.

The gap between these two groups is stunning and is one reason why there is a large disadvantaged group of poor individuals who are so disgruntled with the government that they are ready to take matters into their own hands. This past Saturday, French police found a bomb-making factory in Evry, which is south of Paris.

French authorities confiscated more than 100 bottles ready to be turned into bombs, another 50 that were already prepared, as well as fuel stocks and hoods for hiding rioters' faces. Then on Sunday, the violence jumped from the countryside into the city. Clearly, propagation of violence is not a good omen for a peaceful resolution to this crisis. The French government needs to realize that this problem cannot simply be put down with a show of force. It must be attacked at its root.

Discrimination is a very sore subject for those who are being discriminated against.

From the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s to the decades-long work of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, oppressed people have shown the will and the resolve to rise above the poor conditions.

The rioting in France has drawn attention to an unjust situation hiding within a country that is more likely to cry foul over another nation's discriminating tactics than admit its own follies. France has been sent a wakeup call and the time for her to answer it correctly is running out.

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