French Muslim leader asks for 'respect'French Muslim leader asks for 'respect'
One of France's most prominent Muslim leaders Thursday urged the state to show "respect" for his community, after a seventh night of battles between angry youths and police in high-immigration suburbs of Paris. Speaking to faithful in the Paris mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, president of the French Council for the Muslim Religion, said Muslim immigrants deserved better than their current lot. "Our immigrant brothers in Paris and in France must be given the conditions to live with dignity as human beings," not in "disgraceful squats", Boubakeur said, referring to the low-income suburbs where the trouble has broken out. "This is our hope, this is our wish and is an address to the French authorities, to (president Jacques) Chirac who is a friend to Muslims, a friend to Islam," he said. "The community deserves respect because it is respectful, young people need to find the way back to calm, our mosques need to be respected," Boubakeur said.
Riots inflict damage on Sarkozy's ambitions
Sarkozy, 50, has made no secret of his ambition to succeed Jacques Chirac in presidential elections to take place in 2007. In pursuit of that goal, he has carved out a reputation as a brash straight-talker looking to triumph through determination and the embrace of tough US-style police tactics that contrast with what he sees as a too-soft French approach that previously reigned. But now that same bullheaded stance has turned the public perception against him, with critics blaming his repressive orders and rhetoric for fanning the riots. A week before the violence started, Sarkozy vowed to wage a "war without mercy" on deliquents in the suburbs. Days later, he called rebellious youths living in the neighbourhoods "rabble".
French riots expose social divide: European press
The riots rocking the suburbs of Paris have laid bare the flaws underpinning French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential ambitions, European press commentators said Thursday. While pinpointing the origins of the violence as decades of neglect in the urban sprawl, they said Sarkozy's tough rhetoric on crime had helped fuel the fires raging in the deprived, high-immigrant neighbourhoods. Sarkozy had rightly called for zero tolerance of violence, Britain's Daily Telegraph wrote, "but he has damaged his case by resorting to the language of the far right, speaking of cleaning the 'scum' out of the suburbs." Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung agreed, saying Sarkozy "has become a figure of hate for those without hope in the suburbs." In Geneva, the Tages Anzeiger had a cartoon of Sarkozy trying to put out a car fire using a hose attached to a petrol pump. In Vienna, Der Standard said the French government appeared "clueless" but argued that credit should at least go to Sarkozy -- "who could hardly have shown more clearly how NOT to resolve the problem." Russia's press blamed most of the problems on immigrants. "Arab immigrants are settling scores with the authorities," wrote Kommersant. "The riots ... are threatening the French government," said Vremia Novosti, adding that while the 1968 demonstrations were a rebellion against a parental society, this time "ethnic and religious factors are at play." Likewise in Spain, where El Pais said the interior minister was fast losing credibility as it was his zero-tolerance policy enflaming the situation.