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While a study by the INSEE statistics institute released this week found 90 percent of children born to immigrants felt quite French, a survey by pollster TNS Sofres found 56 percent of respondents agreed with Cope that tensions in mixed-faith areas were a problem.
A PASTRY AND A CHAT
Muslims in the northern Paris suburbs said Cope seemed to be stirring up the issue of ethnic intolerance for political gain.
Abdel Hamza, 39, a bank employee, called it ridiculous.
“On the other hand, Cope is pretty clever to make this into an issue. He knows it will make the government uncomfortable, that it puts them in a difficult position,” he added.
Hollande has taken a tough line on crime in immigrant-heavy areas since taking power in a May election where security was a key voter concern, but he is also under pressure to bring down rampant unemployment among Arab youths in poor suburbs where opportunities are few.
“There is an urgent need to help these young people, because the far-right is trying to stir up tensions,” said Leila Leghmara, a centrist politician in the suburb of Aubervilliers.
Seeking to ease tensions over the issue, the CCIF association that fights Islamophobia set up a stand in Paris’s St Lazare station on Wednesday handing out free pains au chocolat to commuters and offering to discuss the issue.
CCIF volunteers said only one passer-by made an offensive remark as they handed out some 400 of the chocolate pastries.
“We got a warm welcome and lots of supportive comments. People told us they are fed up with petty remarks by politicians that stigmatise Muslims,” said Marcia Burnier, 26.
“We dispute the idea that there is tension between Muslim and Jewish groups. The issue is France accepting its diverse communities.”