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French Version

Leading Muslim cleric calls on community in France to be 'calm and reasonable'

Turkey urges immigrants in Europe to stay away from riots

France on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in riot-hit parts of the country in order to combat an outbreak of urban unrest and moved to facilitate access to the job market and stamp out racial discrimination.

A leading Muslim cleric based in Qatar has called on Muslim communities in France to be "calm and reasonable," while Turkey urged immigrant communities in Europe to stay away from the riots.

Meeting in crisis session under the chairmanship of President Jacques Chirac, the Cabinet invoked a 50-year-old law originally drawn up at the start of the Algerian war which permits the declaration of curfews, house searches and a ban on public meetings. The measure was to come into effect at midnight after the government issued a decree setting out the geographical limits for the state of emergency.

The left-leaning Le Monde newspaper said that "exhuming a 1955 law sends to the youth of the suburbs a message of astonishing brutality: that after 50 years France intends to treat them exactly as it did their grandparents."

It was the toughest response to date to nearly two weeks of rioting in the country's high-immigration suburbs which has left more than 6,000 cars burned, public and private property destroyed, tens of policemen injured and one civilian death. More than 1,500 people have been detained.

Acknowledging the accumulation of social and economic handicaps in the Arab community, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin acknowledged that jobseekers with foreign-sounding names were not always given equal consideration with applicants with traditional French-sounding names when they presented their resumes.

He announced the creation of an anti-discrimination agency, the allocation of 20,000 state-paid jobs for inhabitants of poor suburbs, an extra 100 million euros ($120 million) for associations working there, and the creation of 15 new special economic zones with tax-breaks for employers.

In Qatar, leading cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi insisted that France was a friend and called on Muslim communities in the country ripped by urban violence to be "calm and reasonable."

Qaradawi, who hosts a popular show on Al-Jazeera, also called on French authorities to go beyond restoring security and start dialogue with Muslim community leaders.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a similar pledge to Turkish communities in Europe saying: "Those who claim to be the victims of discrimination and injustice cannot acquire their rights by violence, by attacking innocent people and their property."

"I call on our 4.5 million Turkish compatriots [in Europe] to act with common sense and caution," he said.

While condemning the spread of violence, the Arab media has mainly blamed riots on longstanding social malaise, unemployment and alienation.

Many Arab newspapers also feared that the "French fire," or the nightly rioting that began on October 27, was threatening to "spread" across Europe, noting incidents in Belgium and Germany.

"We give great importance to this issue because it may spread across Europe and affect the [Arab and Muslim] region," said Ahmad Sheikh, editor in chief of Al-Jazeera satellite channel.

In Lebanon, the An-Nahar newspaper said: "What is happening in France today shows the flagrant failure of the integration of immigrants.

"While it may be normal to give priority to security [concerns], the remedy to this situation cannot be limited to just that ... as the causes of this absence of integration should be tackled," it said.

Qatar's Asharq newspaper said: "There may have been wrongful reactions by the immigrants ... in attempting to obtain some of their rights, but the problem is [based] on long-standing cultural and human" disparities.

An editorial by the U.A.E.'s Khaleej Times said: "Immigrants may have a grievance or two, but should they go to this length and disrupt life this way? France has all along helped the millions of immigrants to live their lives with dignity ... for a mistake or two, no one must punish a country like this."

Paris,11 14 2005
The Daily Star
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