The Paris suburb of Trappes and the nearby suburb of Guyancourt some 40 km from Paris continued to be in the grip of violence on Sunday. A large police force had been deployed to control crowds who set fire to over 20 cars, damaged buildings and injured several policemen.
On Friday night, a violent mob of about 400 persons encircled the police station in Trappes to protest against the arrest of a Muslim man who attacked policemen attempting to fine his wife for wearing a full body veil with just slits for the eyes. Wearing a burqa or a niqab is banned under French law for “security reasons”.
The mob pelted the police station with stones and other projectiles. Police called in several coachloads of special reserve forces and helicopters were deployed to monitor the situation. The situation quietened down after Ramzan prayers were offered in the early hours of the morning.
But on Sunday, the violence began again, this time spreading to other deprived suburbs around Trappes, itself an immigrant-dominated poor suburb of Paris where youth unemployment is high and education levels low. There is a high crime rate and increasing following for radical Islam among the many immigrants from North Africa or sub-Saharan African countries like Mali, Mauritania, Niger or Senegal.
Amnesty International in a report published in 2012 slammed France for wide ranging discrimination against its Muslim community estimated at five million — the largest in Europe. Many Muslim women who wear the burqa or niqab have quit going out of their homes. “They are virtually under house arrest,” Farida Ayash, a social worker, told this reporter. The law against wearing the “full veil” in public entered into force in 2012 and carries a fine of up to €150.
On Saturday morning, the website islamophobie.net published the version given by the woman whose husband was arrested. “I have been checked and fined before. But this time the policemen were extremely aggressive. I would have removed my facial veil as I have done in the past. However, they pushed my mother at which my husband got angry. The policemen were extremely rude and pulled me by my veil,” she said.
Police counter this argument and the chief of police in Trappes said in a press conference that the arrested man had tried to strangle a policeman. The mob set fire to a building and damaged hospital equipment. A 14-year-old boy was seriously injured.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls said the police forces would remain on the spot until total calm returned. National Front leader Marine Le Pen said government laxity and uncontrolled immigration was the root cause of this and similar incidents. The right-wing opposition has accused the government of being “soft” on Muslims and allowing them to impose their own “archaic and anti-women values” on the rest of French society.