The month of September: What a shame! (Société Générale, Brice Hortefeux, Polanski to Mitterrand)
The month of September is now over and just one article was published on the website. What a sad thing when so much could have been said. Lots of events or incidents occurred during the month of September. Some of them were even of the greatest interest for those willing to get to a better understanding of the French society and its complexity. Within one month my sociological eye was assaulted more than twice by striking events or incidents; each of them involving the expression of some form of discrimination, islamophobia, if not nationalism and silliness. The first event or incident to strike me has become known as the Societe General case. This case was first mentioned in the French newspapers sometime around the end of August; when Leila a young Muslim woman, was refused entrance in a Societe General branch on the account of her wearing the hijab- the Islamic headscarf. The lady who holds a bank account at the Societe General; and who is also a University student with a Bachelor degree in law decided to take the affair into court where it was finally ruled that the refusal was just another measure part of the anti-terrorism Vigi-Pirate plan. In other words, the Islamic headscarf that was just covering the young lady’s hair was judged as an impediment to a better identification of the customer.
If that first pill was easy to swallow, however; the second incident which took place in the same month of September leaves no doubt on its discriminatory and racist nature. Last September Brice Hortefeux, the French politician and Minister of the Interior, Overseas Territories and Territorial collectivities was caught uttering racist statements in a local meeting in the French Auvergne region during the UMP Summer School. The words and the scene were viewed by millions of French citizens on the net. In the video, as he was posing for a photograph with a young man of Arabic origin, the following conversation could be heard (translation): First voice – He is from Auvergne do not forget this, Mr. Hortefeux –
Ok! He will take place between the two of us for the picture – Another voice this is what integration means. Same male voice- He does speak Arabic. A female voice but he eats pork and drinks alcohol, so it’s ok! – Mr. Hortefeux- Oh, really? Well, he does not match the prototype at all! There is always one! When there is only one, it’s okay. It’s when there are many that problems begin.
These statements were of course very much criticized by the Muslim community in France. It also made it clear that to be fully accepted in the French society Muslims have to give up their Islamic culture and values. This strange conception of the notion of integration is casting more doubts on the real good will of the French government in this domain. Brice Hortefeux who was once the Minister of Integration, National Identity and Cooperative Development in the government of the French Prime Minister François Fillon may have been the real impediment to the genuine integration of the different ethnic groups in France for the last five years. He has always made it clear he was opposed to immigration. As a minister of Integration he was the promoter of a law that toughened the conditions of political Asylum in France.
The last event that took place in this same month of September and that I find interesting to comment is the Polanski case. Roman Raymond Polanski a famous Franco-Polish film director, producer, actor, and writer was arrested in Switzerland in the last days of September. He is charged with having fled the United-States some thirty years ago after he had pleaded guilty for the rape of a thirteen year old girl. Polanski who since then got the French citizenship and married the French actress Emmanuel Seigner received lots of support from French artists and celebrities. Most French celebrities see the arrest as a shame. However the most surprising reaction or protest against Polanski’s arrest came from the present French Minister of culture, Frederic Mitterrand; whose first words at hearing the news were: “but he is French” (speaking of Polanski). As if being French was synonymous with immunity against any wrong doing or punishment. This view point has nothing surprising in reality coming from a man who four years ago published a book in which he admitted to have had paid sex with young boys while on holidays in Thailand: “All these rituals of the market for youths, the slave market excited me enormously… the abundance of very attractive and immediately available young boys put me in a state of desire,” Frederic Mitterrand wrote in his book in 2005. This same book containing a whole chapter of pedophilia nature was not only a success, it also provoked no condemnation when first published four years ago.
These facts tell you a lot on our “modern” society. Frederic Mitterrand’s support for Polanski has cast shade on his own life. By doing so Frederic Mitterrand also put mud on the French culture he was appointed to represent, promote and defend. Taking all this into account it is also easy to understand why a category of the French population tries to avoid the mainstream culture and values through the wearing of the Islamic scarf. When the norm is shameful or decaying it is always very intelligent not to accept or adopt it as your norm.
By Moustafa Traore