The French government has announced a plan to boost policing in 15 of the most crime-ridden parts of France in an effort to reassert state control over the country’s so-called “no-go” zones: Muslim-dominated neighborhoods that are largely off limits to non-Muslims.
These crime-infested districts, which the French Interior Ministry has officially designated “Priority Security Zones” (zones de sécurité prioritaires, or ZSP), include heavily Muslim parts of Paris, Marseilles, Strasbourg, Lille and Amiens, where Muslim youths recently went on a two-day arson rampage that caused extensive property damage and injured more than a dozen police officers.
The crackdown on lawlessness in the no-go zones is set to begin in September, when French Interior Minister Manuel Valls plans to deploy riot police, detectives and intelligence agents into the selected areas. The hope is that a “North American-style” war on crime can prevent France’s impoverished suburbs from descending into turmoil.
As of now, 15 initial Priority Security Zones have been designated. If the new policy results in a drop in crime, Valls is expected to name up to 40 more Priority Security Zones before the summer of 2013.
Many of these new Priority Security Zones coincide with Muslim neighborhoods that previous French governments have considered to be Sensitive Urban Zones. (Zones Urbaine Sensibles, or ZUS) – which were also “no-go” zones for French police.
At last count, there were a total of 751 Sensitive Urban Zones, a comprehensive list of which can be found on a French government website, complete with satellite maps and precise street demarcations. An estimated five million Muslims live in these “Sensitive Urban Zones” — parts of France over which the French state has essentially lost control.
Consider Seine-Saint-Denis, a notorious northern suburb of Paris, and home to an estimated 500,000 Muslims. Seine-Saint-Denis is divided into 40 administrative districts called communes, 36 of the 40 districts are on the French government’s official list of “no-go” zones.
Seine-Saint-Denis, also known locally as “Department 93″ for the first two digits of the postal code for this suburb, witnessed fierce rioting by Muslim youths in 2005, when they torched more than 9,000 cars.
The suburb, which has one of the highest rates of violent crime inFrance, is now among the initial 15 ZSPs because of widespread drug dealing and a rampant black market. It also has one of the highest unemployment rates inFrance– 40% of those under the age of 25 are jobless — and it therefore remains unlikely that a government crackdown will succeed in bringing down the crime rate in any permanent way.
ANOTHER EXAMPLE of an official Priority Security Zone is department of La Somme, which includes the northern French city of Amiens. On August 12 and 13, around 100 Muslim youths in the impoverished Fafet-Brossolette district of Amiens went on a rampage after police arrested a man for driving without a license.
Muslims viewed that arrest as “insensitive” because it came as many residents of the neighborhood were attending a funeral for Nadir Hadji, a 20-year-old Algerian youth who had died in a motorcycle accident on August 9. The reality was that police were called to the scene because of reports that youths were loading fireworks into a car. When the police arrived, they also discovered the ingredients for petrol bombs, including empty bottles and a canister of gasoline.
When the riots of August 12-13 broke out, in response, about 150 policemen and anti-riot police were deployed to the Fafet neighborhood where the youths were rioting and used tear gas, rubber bullets and even a helicopter after the youths shot at them with buckshot, fireworks and other projectiles from nine in the evening until four in the morning.
At least 16 police officers were injured in the melee, one seriously. Youths also torched and destroyed a junior high school canteen, an anti-juvenile delinquency sports room, a leisure center, and a kindergarten, as well as 20 automobiles and 50 trash bins. The cost of repair and rebuilding could run up to $7.4 million (€6 million). (Click here for photos from the French publication, L’Express.)
Gilles Demailly, the Socialist mayor of Amiens, said the violence reflected a descent into lawlessness orchestrated by ever younger troublemakers: “There have been regular incidents here but it has been years since we’ve known a night as violent as this with so much damage done. The confrontations were very, very violent.”
Mayor Demailly added, “For months I’ve been asking for the means to alleviate the neighborhood’s problems because tension has been mounting here. You’ve got gangs of youths playing at being gangsters who have turned the area into a no-go zone. You can no longer order a pizza or get a doctor to come to the house.”
The Fafet-Brossolette district of Amiens is home to mostly Muslim immigrants from former French colonies such as Algeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Mali, Morocco and Tunisia. Unemployment in the riot-hit part of Amiens runs at 45%. Among people under 25 years of age, who account for half the population, two out of three are out of work.
Despite the scale of the damage, French police have hesitated to make arrests in fear of sparking more riots. Police did not, in fact, make any arrests until more than three days after the riots ended. A spokesperson for the local police said that four people between the ages of 15 and 30 were arrested in an overnight swoop on August 17 in connection with arson, robbery and trafficking stolen goods. Two of the individuals were immediately tried atAmienscriminal court, but were quickly released on probation.
YET ANOTHER disturbing example of Muslim violence occurred in the southwestern French City of Toulouse, which became infamous among world Jewry due to the shooting of three Jewish students and one teacher at the Ozar HaTorah Yeshiva there in March. The city’s Bagatelle district remains classified as a Sensitive Urban Zone.
In Toulouse, there have been five days of violence between rival Muslim gangs. Police in the Bagatelle district have characterized the Muslim-on-Muslim violence as “a kind of guerilla war” between two gangs of individuals between the ages of 15 and 20. The violence was apparently due to “the result of a settlement of accounts between drug dealers, as well as because of old resentments exacerbated by boredom and the heat of the month of Ramadan.”
On August 14, two local imams in Bagatelle organized a street march calling on the youths to stop the violence. Local media reports say the residents of the neighborhood know the names of the perpetrators but “nobody dares to speak for fear of reprisals.” According to the deputy imam of Bagatelle, Siali Lahouari, “it looks as if we are inBosniaorAfghanistan, not Mirail [a suburb of Toulouse].”
IN THE SOUTHERN city of Grenoble Muslimyouth went on a rampage in July 2010 after police shot and killed an armed robber, Karim Boudouda, who had led police on a car chase after holding up the Uriage-les-Bains casino, nearGrenoble.
The rioting, which occurred in the suburb of La Villeneuve, started when an imam recited a prayer for the dead robber in the presence of 50 Muslim youths who had gathered in a park. One of the youths fired a gun at riot police who were deployed to the neighborhood; the police then opened fire to disperse the crowd — who then went on to torch 80 cars and several businesses.
The violence even extends to France’s capital,Paris. In August 2009, around 40 Muslim rioters in the Parisian suburb of Bagnolet hurled Molotov cocktails at police and firefighters; torched cars, and one person fired a handgun during a rampage.
The cause of the rampage: the death of an 18-year old deliveryman, who fled a document check by police, lost control of his motorcycle, hit a barrier and died en route to the hospital.
In July 2009, Muslim youths torched more than 300 cars acrossFranceafter the suicide death of an Algerian youth held in police custody on charges of extortion.
In October and November 2005, thousands of Muslim youths inParisand other major cities inFrancewent on a rampage after two young men in theParissuburb of Clichy-sous-Bois were electrocuted when they entered an electric power substation while running away from police. Overall, the riots affected 274 towns and cities acrossFrance, and resulted in more than €200 million in property damage. In response, the French government declared a “three-month state of emergency.”
Originally published by the Gatestone Institute (original article contains links/ references to French sources).
About the Author: The writer is the Senior Analyst for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group, one of the oldest and most influential foreign policy think tanks in Spain.
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