Date: 7/31/2004


>Muslims of course will blame everyone else except Islam for their growing populations , poverty and backwardness. >

Paris warns Muslims not to defy ban on scarves

>PARIS, July 5: French officials warned Muslim activists against testing the state's patience on Monday after a second large Muslim group urged schoolgirls to defy a ban on headscarves when schools reopen in September.

>The headscarves, which will be banned from state schools after the summer break, surged back into the news when the large Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF) pledged last week to give legal aid to any girl expelled for wearing one.

>A meeting of about 100 imams in the Rhone-Alpes region, around Lyon, joined the campaign on Sunday, prompting a prominent Socialist politician and a spokesman for school principals to denounce the trend as worrying.

>"I'm afraid of provocations," said Manuel Valls, a Socialist deputy and mayor of a town outside Paris with a large Muslim population.

"We should be very strict in applying the ban on religious symbols in schools."

>The resurgent headscarf dispute has publicly split leaders of France's five-million strong Muslim minority - Europe's largest - and worried authorities who fear dramatic protests this autumn against the ban voted in March after heated debates.

>Philippe Guittet, secretary-general of an association of school principals, >urged Muslim leaders to calm things down. "Some political-religious >organizations are trying to challenge the rules of secularism in France,"

>he said, noting the veil ban was approved by a large majority in >parliament.

>If Muslim groups try to defy the ban, which outlaws ostentatious signs of >religious affiliation, secularists "who want a complete ban will be >strengthened", he said.

>The powerful UOIF says Muslim women should cover their hair as a religious >duty. "We want girls to continue their schooling, but we won't be the ones >to force them to take off their veils," Kamel Kabtane, head of the >Rhone-Alpes Muslim council, told journalists after the Sunday meeting.

>Mr Kabtane said Muslim groups had already approached Roman Catholic schools to ask if girls expelled from state schools could attend their classes >wearing headscarves. "We were well received," he said. "We are being pushed to open our own schools," he added.

>Moderate Muslim leaders opposed to the UOIF strategy last week urged >schoolgirls and their families to avoid any action that would be "be >harmful to the Muslim religion and stigmatize French Muslims". -Reuters


..............> July 6 , 04

..............>Amelia Gentleman in Paris

.................>Tuesday July 6, 2004

.....................>The Guardian

Growing numbers of inhabitants wearing religious or oriental dress, and a >growth in Muslim religious institutions. They reported that more than 300 >areas were already ghettoised. The report added that the wealthier >inhabitants "usually of European descent" were moving out en masse.

>Almost 2 million French citizens are living in newly created urban ghettos >in an environment characterised by anti-French feeling, racial hatred and >the oppression of women, according to a French intelligence agency report >leaked yesterday.

>The report, parts of which were published in Le Monde, concluded that >approximately 1.8 million people across France were living in places which >were either "already ghettos or on the way to becoming them".

>The study is set to reignite the debate over France's struggle to integrate >its immigrant population and its inability to cope with rising >unemployment, sexual inequality and growing fundamentalism in its urban >sink estates.

>The agency studied 630 at-risk areas in France, places selected because >they had experienced some level of urban violence, to assess whether they >had already degenerated into ghettos. Most of the "sensitive suburbs" are >run-down housing estates built by the French government between the 50s and 70s to house immigrant workers.

>The intelligence body based its definition on a range of criteria >encompassing high immigration levels, high levels of non-French speakers at school, the presence of anti-semitic and anti-western graffiti, growing >numbers of inhabitants wearing religious or oriental dress, and a growth in >Muslim religious institutions.

They reported that more than 300 areas were >already ghettoised. The report added that the wealthier inhabitants "usually of European descent" were moving out en masse.

> The agency underlines the "growing role of radical Islamic preachers", >whose presence is recorded in 200 of the quartiers studied.

>France's commitment to secularism has been under scrutiny during the debate this year over legislation banning headscarves from schools - a move >designed in theory to protect the secular state, but which has triggered >resentment rather aided integration. The report concludes, according to Le >Monde, that preachers are instilling in young inhabitants the idea that >they are the "victims of discrimination and racism" triggering a growth of >anti-French sentiment.

>Women are at risk, the intelligence services add, particularly those of >north African origin who choose to adopt European ways of life.

>The French interior ministry has not commented on the report, except to >state that since taking the job as interior minister this year, Dominique de Villepin has been determined to work towards improving a sense of national unity.

>A report published this year by the High Council on Integration said an "enormous effort" was needed to assimilate adolescents of immigrant origin.

>Last year the French government began to tackle this issue, launching a >renovation programme for its city suburbs, pledging 21bn to improve the >worst of the estates.