News / Europe

    Tensions Simmer Over Muslim Veil Incident in Paris Suburb

    A woman wearing a full-face veil, or niqab, covers her eyes as she stands near police in Lille, France, in this September 22, 2012, file photo.
    A woman wearing a full-face veil, or niqab, covers her eyes as she stands near police in Lille, France, in this September 22, 2012, file photo.
    Lisa Bryant
    As temperatures soar in France, tensions are also on the rise over Islam, immigration, violence and the state's response to long-simmering tensions in the country's low-income suburbs. It all started with weekend clashes outside the French capital.

    Just as French government ministers begin packing their holiday suitcases, violence erupting in the Paris suburb of Trappes suggests they may not be in for a calm summer. Dozens of people assaulted the Trappes police station this past weekend, throwing fireworks and setting trash cans on fire.

    The incidents apparently took place after police arrested a man for assaulting them, after they detained his wife for wearing the face-covering veil in public - a practice that is banned in France.

    The chain of events sparks memories of previous unrest - first in 2005, when youth riots swept across the country, mostly in immigrant-heavy neighborhoods. In 2010, a new French law banning the face veil also triggered debate and anger.

    What's different today, says French sociologist Michel Wieviorka, is the connection between the two issues. Wieviorka is the author of "Evil," a book exploring terrorism, violence and racism.

    "There is something which is really new. It is the fact that suddenly two issues that in the recent past were distinct became one and only issue. That is to say, on the one hand, you have many people living in these kinds of poor suburbs that are facing social inequalities, exclusions, racism, police behavior - the classical issue force that explains social riots in the French suburbs, banlieues," said Wieviorka.

    The other issue, said Wieviorka, is the ongoing tension over the French face veil ban. Several hundred women have been caught violating the ban since it became law, although not all have faced penalties. In this latest incident, police say the husband of a woman flouting the ban tried to strangle one of their officers. Local Muslim groups dispute that account.

    On Monday, a teenager was sentenced to six months in prison in connection with the Trappes clashes. Two other defendants were acquitted. The situation in Trappes remains tense but, for the moment, calm.

    France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls has defended the police response.

    Interviewed on French radio following the violence, Valls said Trappes residents want order and calm restored  - and that's what's happening. He saluted what he called exemplary work by the police.

    Valls also defended the French face veil ban, saying it was not against Islam, but rather was in the interest of women.

    But the response by France's leftist government has sparked strong criticism - both for being too tough and not tough enough.

    Politicians from the main, center-right UMP opposition party accuse the government of being too lax. Interviewed on France-Info radio Tuesday, former UMP minister Valerie Pecresse criticized the justice system for not cracking down more swiftly and firmly.

    What's clear, said sociologist Wieviorka, is that successive governments - both from the left and the right - have failed to alleviate longstanding tensions over immigration and violence. "In front of all these problems at that stage, the only possible answer for the government has been sending in the police, sticking [to] terms of order, in terms of security, respect of the law," Wieviorka stated.

    For example, Socialist President Francois Hollande made campaign promises to end racially based identity checks and to introduce legislation giving immigrants the right to vote in local elections. So far, Wieviorka says, neither promise has been fulfilled.

    "So there is a strong feeling that if you live in these neighborhoods, if you are an immigrant, you are Muslim, or you are different, you are not taken seriously into account," said Wieviorka.

    New reports Tuesday suggest French police are now being probed over racist remarks made on an unofficial police Facebook page at the time of the Trappes violence. France's summer is just beginning. It remains to be seen just how it will end.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Mhee from: Northern Luzon
    July 24, 2013 3:02 AM
    How about in some part of Middle East why Christian are strictly have to put veil even though its uncomfortable to use it specially during summer.Christian country should respect Muslim culture as Muslim country should also respect Christian culture to be fair.

    by: African from: SouthAfrica
    July 23, 2013 7:32 PM
    a mayor and lawmaker who allegedly told a group of itinerant Roma, parked illegally near his town, that Hitler had not killed enough of them..... franch police arrested a man for,after they detained his wife for wearing the face-covering veil in public - a practice that is banned in France.....looks like EU and their nations are trying and secciding in etnicly clensing their lands from minorities....Jews,Roma,Africans, Arabs, IndoAsians, Muslims,Albanians,Bosniaks,Russians, and others...so sad EU....just like EU did nothing in Balkans wars when Serbs raped,killed, and expeled Milions of Bosniaks and Albanians...now Bosnia is divided and Serb minority rules mijority thru Dayton Accords that build up genocide founded Republika Srpska....so sad for ''democratic'' EU for doing nothing too put down genocide founded Republiks on their lands like Srpska....and they are sayin Africa,South America needs too be more democratic.....EU needs to ''democritize''your own back yard..... and stop supporting etnic cleansing of EU minorities



    In Response

    by: Slobodan from: USA
    July 24, 2013 6:29 PM
    Srpska is made up with USA,Russia, France, and UK blessings....and there is no going back even if it is made on genocide, killing, and rape .....Serbia ,EU and USA are the most happy because there is no more 1 million bosniaks(muslims) there....and that is why dayton happened....to bless the us Serbs with a new REPUBLIC of Srpska

    by: SAS from: Atlanta
    July 23, 2013 6:56 PM
    How does insulting women who cover their faces in public by police promote women's rights ?

    From what I can tell, France's treatment of its minorities is awful.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora