French Riots and Intolerance

By Amit Pyakurel

The French government has again came under pressure in the face of reemergence of the protests, often violently subjugated, from the dissatisfied youths who have came out to the streets, further provoked by the recent employment law of the French government that lets the small firms to offer the job contract for the people under 26 by making it easier to fire a worker.

The recent outbreak of protest with anti-government slogans and piercing remarks against the government's "alienating" policy saw around 120,000 student youths in Paris alone, and about 250,000 protesters countrywide. According to the reports, more than 20% of the France's youths aging from 18-25 years are unemployed.

Among the number of youths holding the banners was Antoine, a 23-year-old economics student: "The government is trying to take away our stability and our future. We want to keep secure jobs and be employed."

Though the French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has defended the new employment plan, saying that the France must be brave and take steps to keep moving forward in a changing world, critics have defied the proposal, calling the legislation abuse by the large employers. Yet, it is only applied to the small firms.

With the trade unions planning to hold mass demonstrations across the country, the pressure on the French government is only likely to increase.

The majority of youths who have been harnessed with such jobs are the minority Muslim immigrants and their rage is the consequence of their fear that they would be further alienated and be less-privileged, economically and socially, the feeling they have been sensing since a long time back and have eventually burst out in anger, being "unable to tolerate the oppressive measures of the French government."

A disproportionate number of the protestors who have taken to the streets of France are the Muslim-Arab minority, the first and second generation immigrants from the former colonies of France, who are gathered in the edges of France's big cities and who feel discarded or less regarded by the current political set-up of the French government.

What is believed by the protestors and their supporters is that the successive French governments have been unable to give the privileges to immigrant population that are avaiable to the mainstream of the French society, which they say is the shortcoming to effective integration.

However, tagging the rioters with yet another cliché of "Islamic Fundamentalists" seems not to hold significance in this particular case. What is seen is that the protestors have taken to the streets against oppression and racism. Such "racial discrimination" is at least structurally apparent on the system of French government on treating these minorities, knowingly or unknowingly.

Amit Pyakurel is a freelance journalist from Nepal.