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France needs to start facing up to Islamophobia
The trigger for the riots in the Parisian suburb of Trappes last weekend was a relatively ordinary one: the local police stopped a young woman for wearing the full veil in public. Ordinary, that is, since the inception, in April 2011, of Law 2010-1192 of 11 October 2010 prohibiting the concealment of the face in public space, according to which the wearing of this type of garment can lead to a fine of €150 (£129) and a "community rehabilitation programme" in the form of mandatory citizenship classes. Over the course of two years, the police have issued 705 citations.
In many ways, the arrest in Trappes was routine from the point of view of both the police and the young woman concerned. But it took a bad turn: the young woman and her husband were taken to the station, the Trappes commissioner refused to register the complaint made by the young woman's mother, who was witness to the arrest, and civil unrest erupted over the course of that Friday, followed by numerous further arrests.
The context within which this episode took place is slightly more difficult to untangle. There is an easy tendency, sustained by the media, to accentuate the extreme social precariousness in the French suburbs, the failure of national integration, the continuing problem of the suburbs, regardless of the particular political persuasion of the government in charge. Every one of these colours the context. But there is a new element in play during these incidents in Trappes: Islamophobia.
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