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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 November 2005, 19:07 GMT
In quotes: French Muslim voices
France is home to more than five million Muslims. Many live in housing estates near big cities and feel alienated from the rest of society. Here are the thoughts of some still living in the bleak suburbs, and of some who have made it out.

SARAH, 20, TEACHER IN AUBERVILLIERS NEAR PARIS

Sarah
Whenever Islam is mentioned on television or in the newspapers, it is always about terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden, and all that.

During [the Muslim holy month of Ramadan] I saw nothing about Ramadan on TV.

EDDY, 28, FROM VILLEURBANNE NEAR LYON

We are constantly being provoked.

During Ramadan cops on patrol came here, ate sandwiches and called out to provoke us: "Do you want to eat?" They have to respect for us.

ABDELWAHEB BAKLI, 31, MUSLIM YOUTH OF FRANCE PRESIDENT

Abdelwaheb Bakli
If on the one hand you tell people that they are French, but on the other hand treat them as outsiders, young men in search of an identity will feel lost.

They are faced with adults who tell him contradictory things. They are expected to get degrees, to be integrated, but in the end they face a wall.

FARIDA, 15, STUDENT IN AUBERVILLIERS

I want to become a lawyer.

If you are motivated you can do what you like. Where there is a will there is a way.

OMAR AIT BOUALI, 44, YOUTH WORKER IN AUBERVILLIERS
Omar

The young have not yet faced discrimination and may not realise the obstacles ahead.

They will face enormous problems to make it out of the ghetto.

NADIR DENDOUNE, 33, WRITER

If I refuse a glass of wine at a cocktail party people warily ask me whether I observe Ramadan.

Why should they care? I never ask people whether or not they go to Church on Sunday. Religion is a private business.

MYRYAM KONATE, 24, STUDENT
Myriam Konate

When people speak of young Muslims, they mean something very specific - people of North African origin living in housing estates. And the subtext says: young criminals, radicals, etc.

Whenever I hear "We must help Muslim people" I find it shocking. First, I don't think I should be defined by my religion. And moreover I know they are not talking about me.

SAMIA AMARA, 23, YOUTH WORKER NEAR PARIS

The problem with French-style Republicanism is that you are accepted as long as you fit a certain mould.

As soon as you have something that comes from outside, you are no longer viewed as entirely French. You are suspicious.

TEYCIR BEN NACER, 19, STUDENT NEAR PARIS

I get strange looks when I wear my headscarf around town. Some have a look of pity, that says 'poor girl, she is oppressed'.

Others are angry, and see me as a fundamentalist. Once a woman threw her shopping bag at me.

SONYA BENYAHIA, 19, STUDENT NEAR PARIS

When I get a job I want to continue wearing a headscarf. But firms will not let me, so if I want to work I will have to stay with Muslims, which is not necessarily what I want.

I like to have people with me who are different. But all the time, you are reminded that if you wear a headscarf you are a Muslim and you must stay with your own.

ADAMA BATHILY, 39, HOMELESS IMMIGRANT

Adama Bathily

Every day I go to the mosque - a small mosque.

Islam gives me self-confidence. It is a religion that comes from heaven.

It helps me overcome my problems.

DJAMEL, 31, LILLE

Preachers who call for murder should be banned. The Koran says you must obey the laws of the land where you live.

But I understand those who carry out attacks in Iraq. [The Americans and the British] invaded a Muslim land and must be fought.

FRANCK MORELLATO, 35, BUSINESSMAN, CONVERT TO ISLAM

Frank Morelatto
When I told my own parents it was like coming out - and this was painful. My mother was aghast: she imagined me with a beard.

For them Islam equals Bin Laden, the attacks in Iraq. So I don't speak about Islam because it irritates them. When I am with my parents I have to pretend I am not Muslim.

BRAHIM ELHADI, 29, YOUTH WORKER IN LILLE

Islam condemns injustice, whether Bush's or Saddam Hussein's injustice.

AZZEDINE GACI, 40, TEACHER AND MUSLIM LEADER IN LYON

Azzedine Gaci

Mosques are not dens of terrorism. Youths are not potential Bin Ladens, as they are often perceived to be.

The criminals who stage attacks in various places are betraying Islam, which is a peaceful religion and recognises other faiths.



SEE ALSO:
Anger grips Paris riot suburb
01 Nov 05 |  Europe
Ghettos shackle French Muslims
31 Oct 05 |  Europe
France holds 'jihad recruiters'
29 Apr 05 |  Europe
French MPs back headscarf ban
10 Feb 04 |  Europe


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