“France, you like it or leave it”: Response to Mr Sarkozy from someone who loved it and left it

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“France, you like it or leave it!”

How dare you, Mr the President? It is not really presidential

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to steal an opponent‘s motto without referencing him. Is it because he is an outspoken nationalist, Islamophobic and the “rooted conservative” (as he likes to describe himself) of the French political landscape?

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Come on, Mr the President! One would never dare associate you with such an individual. During

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a 2007 speech to the new members of the UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire) these famous words; a motto of the extreme right-wing MPF (Mouvement Pour La France) were rephrased and seasoned in the salts of President Sarkozy. So, does that make our French President a nationalist, Islamophobic and a “rooted conservative”? Some like to believe that you are what you say. But this is not today’s issue. Back to your comment, Mr. Sarkozy!

“France, you like it or leave it!”

The violence of the words you used left many of us at a loss. I mean, this isn’t really straight forward, Mr the President. Is it possible to like it (France) and leave it? Can you love the country in which you were born so much that you can no longer bear to stay in there? A bit like loving someone so passionately that you hate him when he betrays you. I met some of those who liked it and left it… I met them in the UK. Strangely, most of them are part of what we call the ethnic minorities; they are sons and daughters of Africans and North African immigrants. They were born in France but are still questioned about their identity and their patriotism. They love their country; there is no doubt about this but they left it… And I am one of them.

France: Why we liked you BUT left you?

What a strange feeling to be asked about the French culture, the French habits, to be teased about your French accent or simply to be called a Frenchie. After five years of living in the UK, I sometimes feel like I am an imposter; the owner of an ‘identity’ that does not really belong to me. Why do I feel more French when I am abroad than when in my native country? It has become a ritual; as soon as I open my mouth my accent provokes a flurry of predictable questions. They ask me: “Where were you from”? At the beginning I did not know what to answer. Am I allowed to say that I am French? I do have a French ID card but I don’t drink wine and I don’t eat pork. I feel these qualities make me less French but for the Brits it is easy, I am French. As they notice my background is not originally French, I always add “French-Moroccan” but to them it makes no difference. To the English I am French. Plain and simple. It reminds me of the mentality in Morocco; the country of my ancestors, where we are easily given the label: ‘French’.

So another interesting question arises: Do we (ethnic minorities) have to travel to be considered French? Yes, we liked it and left it but ironically it only drew us closer to it. This may seem a ridiculous explanation, Mr the President. As a man of law, you need some facts and not simple speculation. Here is a fact: According to a report published in May 2009 by the HALDE (the Haute Autorité de Lutte Contre les Discriminations et Pour les Egalités), 38% of the private sector employees feel they’ve been subject to discrimination. Forty-nine percent of these people attribute this ostracism to ethnic reasons (http://www.halde.fr/La-perception-des-discriminations.html). No wonder we all cross the border to find jobs and opportunities in this new El Dorado.

Many Frenchies – BlacksBeurs (French slang for Arabic) crossed the channel because they foresaw more opportunities in the UK. They simply gave up like Karim T. who admitted: “I will support France, I really will, the day it supports me”.

They felt discriminated against, unaccepted and unloved by their own country; the same nation which advocates Equality as being one of its pillars… How ironic!