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A trip into a Banlieue of France

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posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 05:52 AM
I am not a writer, I don’t know if I have the skills for what I am about to undertake. I may fail completely, I may be successful at taking just a few on trip into a different reality.

Or at least, another angle of this reality, another perspective. It is a scary one. It challenges some of our current values and morals.
If you, reader, are heavily opinionated and emotional on the question of Islam, you might not want to read this. Fair warning. To be understood, one must be capable of putting aside your own perspective for a second and look through another, without fear.

In France, there has been a tradition of embracing immigrants into the country, as needed sources of reconstruction and repopulation, primarily during three periods - the Industrial Revolution, the first world war, and the second world war.

From neighboring european countries, as well as north africa, they were welcomed and appreciated.

When you immigrate to another country, there is always the desire to find comfort in the company of other expats. That is natural. Integration is difficult and can shake the foundations of your being, if you don’t find others similar to hold hands with. The more different the host country is in culture, values, tradition and language, the harder that is to grapple with.

Many of the immigrants from nearby countries weren’t that different - Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese… their language was latin based, they didn’t look different in appearance, and in the majority, had the same Catholic religion. They were able to integrate easier. The arabic language, however, is vastly different, their religion and culture as well - so they tended to cling to each other more.

The french had always made effort to embrace immigrants, but after the second world war, and the collaboration of the Vichy regime with the Nazi’s, a deep seated collective guilt influenced their reactions even more. “Never forget” they repeat and carve into memorial in every town- do not forget the lessons of the past. So they put even more effort into making a visible effort to show they will not be racist or prejudiced against those who are different. Not this time. Never again.

This effort was made less towards the immigrants who had the same color skin, who learned the language easier, and had the same religion - it was directed to those who were the most obviously different. They were given extra aid, to make them comfortable - much was spent on good housing, financial aid… state paid mosques were built. They were given equipment so that they could watch news and programs coming from their homeland. They were given the right to financial aid and paid vacation specifically for a trip back home each year.

Legal residency was made easy, and presently, they have the right to vote in local elections even if they do not have it. Judges and police made effort to turn a blind eye to laws broken by that particular population, in order to avoid upset. They stay out of conflicts within the arab communities, to avoid being seen as authoritarian.

Like a step parent who spoils the stepchild, not disciplining them as they do their own children, in an exaggerated effort to prove they make no difference, they inadvertently make a difference.

They encouraged the natural drive for these people to group together and not integrate, facilitated it. It was not with ill intent. For the first generations that arrived, it isn’t even a problem!
The problem arises when you have children in your enclave. When they are raised with this conflict of cultural identity to work through. You pass on the internal conflict you avoided dealing with, and it is magnified in your children. … and in their children, even more so.

Troubled kids become troublesome adults.

I want you to meet Jemaa. She is a friend of mine. She was born in Algeria, in a small village. She arrived here at sixteen with her parents and siblings, and had never been to a school in her life. Because she was so old, the french system wouldn‘t take her into the public school system. She snuck into adult classes to observe and try to learn french. She learned to speak, but not to write very well.

Her family found her a suitor back home, and she went to meet him. Luckily, she fell in love with him, and he with her, and they married and returned to France. They have twin boys who are young yet, and both of them have steady jobs. They live in a HLM - which is state subsidized housing. The Americans call this a “no-go” zone. The best equivalent we can use is a ghetto - except that doesn’t fit too well. It is not run down, with broken windows and graffiti everywhere. It is quite well kept. The buildings are tall, but modern, with nice landscaping around.
The only way one knows what this is is by the groups outside.

There is a group of men, of all ages, in their robes, sitting together, and there is a group of women, in their head scarves and/or veils, sitting together near the playground, where the kids play. In groups more mobile, there are the caîds - the equivalent of gang members. Young men with a specific way of dressing and cutting their hair; walking and gesticulating with their hands.
They drive up and down the street dangerously fast in expensive cars - Audi’s, BMW’s, Mercedes.

At any time of day, this is the scene. When there are marriages being celebrated, the expensive cars multiply, and the firearms are brought out to be shot in the air. The sound of automatic weapons fills the afternoon festivities.

Now, Jemaa is a loyal practicing muslim. She wears a hijab and practices the dietary restrictions and traditions of her religion. Her husband adores her, treats her well, and helps a lot in the home and with the children. She lives and works rather easily with the french, declining the kiss on the cheek with men gracefully, and patiently explaining what she eats or not to those who offer her food (no matter how many times they forget). She does not judge others who have a different belief and has a deep feeling that no matter what the religious practice, everyone is referring to the same God ultimately.

But she fears for her children every day. Her children are growing up watching life in their HLM. They see the teens that have power - who smoke, drink, do drugs…. who sell and carry drugs, weapons and stolen goods, and drive fancy cars. They are treated with respect and fear.

While they see their own parents stutter and struggle just to speak, their teachers don’t even bother addressing them , “Tell your mother/father, they have to bring me this paper.”
Who gets more respect in the world?

They see a terrible choice to make coming up. Be drawn into the powerful criminal activity, or stick with the parents who cringe and stumble before them?

Then they see the others… just a bit older, they come in, and they have self discipline, they have a confidence that is not flashy or fake; it is cold, quiet, intimidating. They do not drink, they do not do drugs, they stick to strict practices of prayer and diet. There is an air of mystery around them - people fear them and lower their eyes.

Some of the young criminals start to mingle with them, and change. They stop the drugs, they stop the alcohol and other transgressions of the religion of their parents. They become less ostentatious, which gives an impression of a power much more “real”.

(continued below)

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 05:53 AM
Faced with these examples, there is no french version of power to observe. The police do not dare confront either of these groups, they stay away from the neighborhood, and if someone in the neighborhood is being abused or harrassed by them, the french do not come to their rescue.

If the young people try to get their attention, through robbery or even less serious offenses, the police let them down, by turning away. This provokes a sense of resentment and disgust towards the french authorities. Like a scared and passive parent who does nothing about their kid being bullied at school.

This is what Jemaa sees, in the parents just a bit older, with older kids:
They do what they can, but their kid gets pulled into crime. They get sick with worry, as their kids gets involved in activities which threaten their life daily.

Then when the extremists get ahold of them (and this happens very discretely - often the parents aren’t aware the contact is happening for a long time) they notice their kid is changing. But it seems to be in a good way at first! They start trying to cleanse their body and care for it. They stop doing drugs and drinking, they start praying.

Then they disappear, for a month or more. They come back a new person. They are now the quiet, self disciplined and confident ones. They are no longer shooting guns, racing around in cars indiscriminately… they are not taking part in armed robberies or selling drugs.

Okay, they have some pretty wild religious extremist views they sometimes rant about, but the parents can’t help but see this is still better than what they WERE.
And, maybe, they tell themselves, it is just a phase. They’ll mellow out with time. They’ll talk a lot, but not really do anything violent in the end?
It’s not ideal, but seeing the alternative? It’s the better of two evils.

This is how you get many of those silent moderate muslims here. They are torn and living in a situation we do not understand or experience - and certainly do not understand our part in how it came into being and is sustained.

Sometimes seeing the reality becomes impossible because we can’t let go of the urge to judge good and evil. Sometimes what we are calling evil came about because of a lot of different people trying to do good, and just not able to see the far reaching effects of actions and choices.

So Jemaa fears for her kids, and what they will become. Will they be pulled into crime? Terrorism? Or be a victim of them, like the french people around?

The situation in France is not simple, and cannot be addressed with flippant answers.

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 07:16 AM
The French tried taking these families out of the high-rise blocks and moving them into the villages of France so they would get green fields and fresh air. What happened? These families took their traditions with them. Firing AK-47's at weddings and their patriachal attitudes towards women with them.

The native French left, and those families ended up living in a ghetto once again.

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 07:34 AM

edit on 11/22/2015 by ladyinwaiting because: removed off topic post

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 07:45 AM
edit on 22-11-2015 by Jakal26 because: input not worthy here.

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 07:46 AM
Quite informative thread in a many ways... Not like journalism, just an honest human perspective of the society you live in, and i appreciate that.

I believe one of the problem with Muslims living in Europe in particular (where we have generous left wing governments) is that they believe in living austere lives as part of their religion, like some Catholics... It's good on the one hand because greed is less of an issue for them, but its bad on the other because its impacts local and national economies when one group is intentionally disengaging from the capitalist system, and relying on state welfare.

And it's unfair on the kids, who as you describe turn to crime and drugs out of frustration at their communities lack of social mobility and ambition, or become radicalised.
edit on 22-11-2015 by 0hlord because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 07:47 AM
a reply to: Bluesma

You may not be a writer (as you claim) but you do a good job relaying what you are attempting to this thread, and many others.

Thank you for taking the time to provide others' perspectives, through eyes that I could only ever glance through because of those like you.

I, for one, took "the trip" along with you.

.....I am now lost in thought, and don't have much else to say at this time.

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 07:49 AM

edit on 11/22/2015 by ladyinwaiting because: off topic post

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 07:52 AM
a reply to: ladyinwaiting

edit on 22-11-2015 by 0hlord because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 07:56 AM

edit on 11/22/2015 by ladyinwaiting because: off topic post

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 08:03 AM

edit on 11/22/2015 by ladyinwaiting because: off topic post

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 08:05 AM
edit on 22-11-2015 by Jakal26 because: not dragging this thread's worth more than that.

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 08:05 AM

originally posted by: ladyinwaiting

originally posted by: Jakal26
a reply to: stormcell

Firing AK-47's at weddings

I'm failing to understand how this is any kind of problem at all, tbh.
Someone enlighten me, please.

I wondered about that too. Once you understand what they are doing, seems like it would be less frightening - I mean, you'd get used to it.

But I wonder, why do they have so many guns? And what does the firing of guns have to do with a wedding? If it's noise they want for celebration, why not set off fireworks?

We have the bride tossing her bouquet into the crowd, and other little traditions and they represent something. What does the gunfire represent?
I'm curious.

I didn't put any value on that - neither good nor bad. That is what is. I used to work next door to Jemaa's housing tract, and I got used to it.

What was thought provoking about it though, was who's hands they were in. It is the criminals, the gang members, who I knew by name and knew the sort of activities they were involved in. These weapons weren't used for sport, they were not members of a shooting club.

But that is part of the reason for the tradition. The sound has more impact than fireworks, and the show of force and power is exciting. Men know what I am talking about.
It also is a fun way of saying F you to the local authorities - they do not have them legally, they do not have a license.
I have watched them drive in circles in front of the police department yelling obscenities at the cops. They like to show off their power in front of observers in various ways.

It serves them also, in reinforcing the younger ones to join them. Nobody wants to side with the powerless losers.

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 08:10 AM
off topic
edit on 22-11-2015 by Jakal26 because: self edit

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 08:10 AM

edit on 11/22/2015 by ladyinwaiting because: removed off topic post

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 08:12 AM
a reply to: Bluesma

What type of gun laws exist there?
We all obviously know that in basically every country on Earth, criminals acquire and hold onto their weapons...What type of gun rights (or restrictive laws) are there currently?

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 08:13 AM
a reply to: ladyinwaiting

Thanks for posting that.

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 08:17 AM

originally posted by: Jakal26

I fail to see a problem with guns, many or otherwise. If they are not harming others (that aren't attempting to harm them) then so be it. Guns are a life line at times and it is better to have and not need than to need and not

OKay, I didn't say I had a problem with guns. We are gun owners. We have catagory 1 weapons, and have the appropriate permits for them.

The significance for them is described in the post i just did, above.

Honestly, I don't really know. You mention certain traditions held around you, I imagine this is the same.
(Fireworks don't have the same "bang" as a gun being fired).....but I live in the south, so firing guns at random for the noise factor is just something we do. "Miraculously", we haven't killed one another yet (that was sarcasm, btw)

It is similar to the same ritual we do with the three volley salute. Except it is done at weddings, in the middle of crowds and buildings.

When I replied to that, it was simply because it felt to me like the poster who said it was attempting to make a big deal of it.....because, "evil guns".

I said there was gunfire in such celebrations. One sentence. That's all. Nothing else even said about that.
Okay, I knew there wasn't much chance of anyone reading this with a neutral sense of observing - the political issues of the Americans and their extreme division would be transposed no matter what.

I think I'll just stay out of further discussion and let everyone twist and make of it what they want.

I was (and am) curious why that poster has a problem with such a thing (or if they do)...
Apparently, same said poster claims that it is things of that nature that "run off" the native French....and then goes on to claim that such is the reason their area becomes "a ghetto once again"....I'll leave it at that, I'm not going there this

Geezus, that was a different poster that said that! Not only is what I say being twisted, but what others say is being attributed to me!

This was originally an attempt to share some empathy and understanding of these people and their struggles.
That was maybe stupid to attempt.

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 08:20 AM
a reply to: Bluesma

edit on 11/22/2015 by ladyinwaiting because: off topic post

posted on Nov, 22 2015 @ 08:26 AM
a reply to: Bluesma

Whoa....hang on a second.
You are taking what I said WAY wrong.

My initial response about the guns was not directed at you (look at who the response was directed at).
I did not even think about that when reading your OP...and I already had a bit of my comment directed at you in mind when I replied to the other poster but responded to them first because that reply was going to be shorter.
..wasn't even making a big deal of it, was just wondering (a mistake on my part, perhaps, knowing how ATS is anytime one mentions guns :uzi

Okay, I knew there wasn't much chance of anyone reading this with a neutral sense of observing - the political issues of the Americans and their extreme division would be transposed no matter what.

Yeah, a mistake on my part, not yours. I apologize for bringing it up.

However, read my initial response to you, as I did read this with an open mind and I understood where you were going....
Heck, I even shared this thread on my fb page after responding to you, with a caption reading "see through the eyes of another, if only for a moment", you're a bit off track thinking I was trying to take this thread somewhere else.

I should have known, I suppose.

Anyways, like I said, thanks for the OP....there is FAR more to glean from it than this piety "guns at weddings" crap.

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