/ DR. (Only Artist artist supporting clearly supporting the Romani community, and a big traveller himself)
I was so surprised these last few weeks that I could not find the appropriate words to express my feelings. What many of us used to say in private discussions has at last revealed itself to be true. Our country has finally been internationally recognised as having a problem with its ethnic minorities. The words “racist” and “racism” have not been used yet by foreign media but “discriminatory” and “injustice” openly appeared to qualify in the foreign press the situation the Romani community finds itself in France today. The European community in its vast majority condemned the French government’s policy and is even likely to take legal measures going in this sense soon. However, I remain quite sad and disappointed, especially with the French people. In France, the protests against the deportation of the Romani community to Romania and other East European countries were rather shy. Few artists, philosophers and celebrities -not to say none of them- openly expressed their discontent, concerns and worries about the way this community was treated by the French government. The shy form of protest illustrated through the only national demonstration in France was more a simple opposition to Sarkozy and his government rather than the expression of revolt against injustice or racism towards the Romani community. The political parties in opposition only contented themselves to criticise the government for its divisive policy instead of clearly pointing it out as racist and discriminatory. There is no doubt as underlined by most opinion polls that the French are quite divided on the deportation of part of the Romani community; hence, the lack of clear support from celebrities and most politicians. This new episode of French racism also puts another question on the
table. Have the ethnic minorities in France become so assimilated that they have adopted some form of racism and indifference that used to be in the past proper to part of the French white community? This is what I unfortunately tend to believe. Unlike what is the case in Britain, when it comes to be united and to fight effectively against injustice, discrimination or racism, French people “in the large sense of the term” still tend to be repeating the same story as with the Vichy regime during WWII. In Paris, I had the opportunity to interview on the issue few local organisations fighting against discrimination and racism; their message was quite clear: “this is not really our problem”. This lack of solidarity proves that many community organisations only fight against injustice and racism when they have the feeling of their community being directly singled out. In a contrast, when visiting
the city of Coventry in Britain this week, I was first surprised and then pleased to hear the Imam of the Coventry University prayer room recommend to the Muslims to do their best to welcome the new students entering the University this year. He made it clear that it was their duty of integration within the British society to help and welcome the new students, Muslims and non-Muslim alike. In front of the injustice towards the Romani community in France, I would have liked to hear and see such attitude from the Black African and North African organisations usually fighting against racism and Islamophobia. Being a Muslim I would also have liked some Muslim organisations usually fighting against discrimination to react just as part of the French Church did in front of such injustice. Unfortunately, it seems that having been willingly or unconsciously assimilated -and not integrated- ethnic minorities in France have also become more divided.