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French Must Deal with Underlying Causes of Immigrant Anger


France will allow local governments to impose curfews to stop the rioting that has spread from the Paris suburbs to neighborhoods around the country. As violence entered a 12th day Monday, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin also announced the deployment of 9,500 police officers to keep the peace.

Raging flames and violent riots have stretched into a second week in cities around France.

One person has been killed, dozens of police injured, hundreds of rioters arrested, and more than 1,500 cars destroyed.

Anger, simmering for decades among the children of mainly African Muslim immigrants, has exploded with a ferocity that took French authorities by surprise.

Nile Gardiner is an analyst with the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.

"Invariably the rioters are from the poorest sections of society -- among sections of society that have I think clashed with the French establishment for some time over many issues including, for example, jobs and treatment by the police."

So far the rioting is not linked to radical Islamic groups, and French Muslim leaders have strongly condemned it.

But unemployment hits 40 percent in some of these neighborhoods leaving frustrated young men with nothing to occupy their time and nothing to lose.

Mr. Gardiner believes immigrants have a more difficult time assimilating in France than other Western countries.

"In France for example, we have seen public schools banning the wearing of head scarves, the sorts of policies that would be regarded as highly controversial certainly in Britain and the United States."

Some say Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy fanned the flames of anger by calling the rioters scum.

"When someone shoots at a police truck with real bullets he's a hooligan. When someone sets fire to a bus and throws flammable liquid at a handicapped person, he is a criminal," said the minister.

Other French leaders are reaching out--proposing new ways to educate poor students and keep them in school.

"France is not a racist country," said French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy.

But some predict immigrants will feel a backlash, before they're offered a helping hand.

Mr. Gardiner predicted, "Firstly the French are going to crack down on the riots and ultimately defeat them, and then they will look into ways of establishing better channels between Muslim community leaders and the French government.

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