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1000 cars burnt: This is how ‘civilised’ France celebrates its New Year

Ebrahim Moosa – Radio Islam | 11 Rabi uth thani 1438/ 10 January 2017

France heads to the polls in April in an election that is set to see immigration and national identity loom large as key themes in campaigning.

And arguably underpinning the discourse on both of these motifs is Islamophobia and the French elite’s obsession with scapegoating Islam.

“Politicians from across the spectrum have almost a free rein to criticise/demonise Islam and Muslims and use it as a scare tactic whenever a particular leader or political party is in a critical situation facing the public opinion – knowing that the French Muslim citizens have no real organised lobby with the capacity to exercise any influence on the parties or politicians,” French sociologist and media critic Ali Saad told Al Jazeera.

“This reality is even clearer in the case of the present government, since all the Socialist Party’s tenors – such as [Prime Minister] Valls, [former finance minister] Macron, [and women’s rights Minister Laurence] Rossignol – are on the same wavelength as the president,” he added.

Last year, President Francois Hollande told the authors of a book that France has “a problem with Islam” and there were too many immigrants arriving in the country who “shouldn’t be here”.

“It’s true that there’s a problem with Islam. No one doubts it,” Hollande was quoted as saying in the book published in October

Prominent in this incendiary rhetoric is the implication that Islam is a medieval ideology whose adherents are barbaric and uncivilised in their ways.

“I will not accept the medieval behaviour that wants men to swim in swimsuits while the women are locked up” in burkinis, former French President and 2017 hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy has said.

On the eve of Eid al Adha last year actress Brigitte Bardot echoed the same refrain.

“In this terrible period where barbarism is trying to impose on destroying everything in its path, where the blood of innocents’ flows, plunging France into mourning, sadness and anger, it is urgent to work towards appeasement not to provoke rejection and failure”.

For all the pompousness, one would imagine France itself showcasing the glory of civilisation and an exemplary code of refinement, far distinguishing itself from the ‘rowdiness’ it seeks to thwart.

But considering just one regular ritual on the French calendar, this appears a pipedream…

Reports say during France’s 2017 new year’s revelries, a staggering 1000 cars were torched – all in the name of merriment.

What’s worse, the anarchy appears to be somewhat of an annual rite, that is tolerated.

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