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    HomeNewsHeadlinesFrance's Crisis: Riots Expose Deep-Rooted Racism and State Neglect

    France’s Crisis: Riots Expose Deep-Rooted Racism and State Neglect


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    French Police

    I have never felt so uncomfortable and scrutinized in any European capital as I have in Paris, where many white people exude silent belligerence.

    In light of this sentiment, it is not surprising that a video surfaced of a French police officer shooting a teenager of Algerian descent during a routine traffic stop. The teenager, 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk, was tragically killed. In response to this incident, thousands of rioters took to the streets of France, burning down shops and cars. The protesters expressed that they identified with Merzouk because they too had faced persecution by the police. The incident has shed light on France’s racism towards Muslims and other non-white immigrants, bringing this issue to the forefront.

    During Merzouk’s funeral, a large crowd of French Muslims attended the prayers. Security guards provided by the mosque protected the family members, while notably, no police officers were present. This absence raises questions about the disregard for the existence of France’s large Muslim population by the state.

    Some attendees of the funeral prayers pointed out that without the video of the incident, Merzouk’s death, like so many others at the hands of an overzealous and brutal French police force, would have gone unnoticed.

    The Macron government has responded to the riots with the same misguided approach as previous administrations. Instead of addressing the root cause of the riots, government officials focused on condemning property loss and injuries to police officers. This misplaced emphasis has fueled the destructive actions of the rioters, who perceive it as yet another instance of the white-dominated French state ignoring the problems faced by French Muslims of Algerian and Moroccan origin.

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    Following Merzouk’s killing, protests spread across France. Rioters targeted the homes of mayors seen as colluding with the government. One such incident occurred in the usually quiet area of L’Hay-les-Roses, where rioters rammed a car through the mayor’s gate, set it on fire, and launched fireworks. The French association of mayors has become increasingly vocal about quelling the protests.

    Riots spread countrywide in France after the killing by police of Nahel Merzouk, a 17-year-old boy of Algerian origin.
    Riots spread countrywide in France after the killing by police of Nahel Merzouk, a 17-year-old boy of Algerian origin.

    In a meeting with French officials on July 4, Macron expressed the hope of understanding the deeper reasons behind the events. It is unclear whether this is a delaying tactic to allow the continued ignorance of the state’s racism towards the Muslim minority or a sincere effort to address the problem. Regardless, the fact that the country’s top political official does not yet understand the issue is deeply concerning. It exposes the French majority’s obliviousness to the lives of French Muslims who have lived among them for decades.

    Recently, hundreds of Pakistanis died while being smuggled to Europe on a fishing boat. It is disheartening to realize that young people from Pakistan are risking their lives to reach European countries, including France, where they are likely to be mistreated, exploited, and even killed due to their non-white immigrant status. Despite this, it seems that migrant flows from Pakistan will continue to increase, as the country grapples with inflation, climate change, and political instability.

    Police standing guard near the Dior building during riots in Paris. — Reuters
    Police standing guard near the Dior building during riots in Paris. — Reuters

    One of the main complaints against poverty-stricken French Muslims in the suburbs by the mainstream middle-class French is that they take advantage of the social welfare state established after World War II. The underlying sentiment is that the social welfare system should only benefit white people, not immigrants. This tactic cleverly masks the real issue of racial discrimination.

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    As more migrants arrive in European countries, it is likely that liberal values of freedom, equality, and brotherhood will be undermined. Racist European states may adopt formulas that restrict government benefits for non-white individuals.

    Rafia Zakaria is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

    Credit: The Star : News Feed

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