There are hundreds of no-go zones in France where criminal gangs and Islamic Salafists impose their law, according to statements by leading politicians and police.
France is once again discovering its “zones of non-law” or “non-droit” and wondering what to do about them. “In reality, we have let zones of non-law prosper in France,” says Nathalie Goulet, who heads a Senate study on Jihadists networks in France. “We will soon vote our sixteenth anti-terrorist intelligence law in twelve years,” she laments, adding that it is not laws which lack, but the means to impose rule-of-law.
“We know there are some 100 neighborhoods in France similar to Molenbeek,” said French Minister of Sports, Patrick Kanner, referring to the area in Brussels where French and Belgian Islamic killers found refuge. While the vice-president of the far right National Front, Philippe Florian, put the number of these neighborhoods in the hundreds.
Many French politicians are calling for calm, claiming “there can’t possibly be hundreds of Molenbeeks in France.” Those who say there are got unwitting support from an unexpected quarter: “There are phenomenons of radicalization everywhere, not just in certain quarters,” said Amar Lasfar, President of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF). Yet, he insists the vast majority of French Muslims are above all, citizens. He blames France’s urbanization in great part for the problem and, echoing Senator Nathalie Goulet, is calling for more means for the police and justice system.
Lasfar, like so many on the French airwaves, insists “Islam is a religion of peace” and that “French Muslims are French first and Muslim second,” but in cités throughout France, Muslim youth will more readily express strong dislike for the country they were born in; areas where “screw France!” (nique la France!) is more a rallying cry than support for any football team.
These zones are in the poor Banlieues where drug dealing, crime and Islamic Salifism go hand in hand; areas where girls are forced by young men to wear headscarves; where every week end, scores of cars are burned for sport with 1065 burned on new year’s eve alone; 34,441 for the year 2013 according to Interior Ministry statistics. Insurers put the number much higher. In these areas youth unemployment soars at 45% while in the ‘non-Muslim’ neighborhoods it hovers at 22%.
A recent report leaked to the press indicates members of the police are also being “radicalized”. This has led far right National Front MP, Gilbert Collard, to call for a total elimination of all Salafism from the security forces, the deportation of all Salafist preachers and that the European Football Cup to be held in France this summer be cancelled. “How are we going to assure security?” he asked.
Despite the fact France has been under a state of emergency giving police special powers since the bloody Pais attacks of November 13th, police have yet to move into the “zones of non-law” to restore Republican order for fear of sparking the kinds of riots which brought France to its knees in 2005.
While the state can and should impose rule-of-law in all areas of the country, there will be no rooting out of violent Islam in France without the full mobilization of France’s Muslims and this has not happened. There is no popular youth revolt against the ‘preachers of hate’, no demands for jobs and training on the part of the unemployed youth, no massive rallies of Muslims chanting “Not in our name!” Until that happens, France will remain in an undeclared war with itself which risks pitting sections of society against each other in a dangerously violent trajectory.
Statements by Muslim leaders like Amar Lasfar to calm the fears of ethnic French have no echo in the areas where they need to be heard most.