• France's news in English

France's new 'national unity' starts to fracture

Ben McPartland · 19 Jan 2015, 17:15

Published: 19 Jan 2015 17:15 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

There was more evidence on Monday that the feeling of solidarity and unity that brought millions out on the street in the wake of the terror attacks was beginning to fade.

From lorry drivers going on strike and politicians lining up against each other once again, to incidents in schools and more reports of anti-Muslim attacks, it was becoming clear that France was moving on after the three days of terror that left 17 dead.

In one of the more high profile incidents on Monday it was reported that a French flag flying over a primary school on the island of Corsica had been burned and replaced by a Moroccan one.

An investigation is underway to find those responsible for an act that is punishable by a fine of up to €7,500 and six months in prison.

The national observatory against Islamophobia also released worrying new figures on Monday that there have been 116 anti-Muslim acts recorded since the Kouachi brothers opened fire at the offices of Charlie Hebdo.

That reflects a 110 percent rise on the same period in January 2014.

“This situation is unacceptable and we demand that authorities take measures, above just giving reassurance, to put an end to this plague,” said the president of the observatory Abdallah Zekri.

Muslims have also criticized the government for what they see as double standards for placing soldiers outside synagogues but not in front of mosques, even though some have been targeted.

Political fractions reappearing

French opposition politicians, who have steered clear of criticizing the government for fear they would come under fire themselves, have once again shown signs of reverting to their usual roles.

Former minister and UMP deputy Bruno Le Maire told France 3 on Sunday that he doesn’t want the “national unity to mean the current government gets a blank cheque”.

And in a sign Sarkozy is itching to get back in the ring with his old foe Hollande, he said this weekend that national unity will only continue as long as “debate is not inhibited”.

The fissures have been picked up by the French press.

“The first cracks appeared in the political union’s granite bloc,” wrote Nicolas Beytout in L’Opinion.

In the newspaper Midi Libre Jean-Michel Servant writes: “It had to happen sooner or later. Twelve days after the attack against Charlie Hebdo and the call for national unity, political life returns to normal.”

Several newspapers also point to the fact that truck drivers protested on Monday morning, causing traffic chaos and disruption for motorists across France, as a sign that things were returning to normal in the country.

In schools

Story continues below…

But perhaps the clearest cracks in the feeling of togetherness can be seen in French schools.

According to the Journal du Dimanche there has been around 200 incidents reported since the terror attacks.

Most of those are believed to be linked to pupils refusing to respect the minute’s silence in the day after the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

And on January 14th there were reports of fights between pupils from rival schools in the town of Senlis to the north of Paris, with one group of pupils goading another by shouting support for the killers of the Charlie Hebdo editorial team.

Education Minister Najat Valalud-Belkacem is putting together a raft of measures aimed at reinforcing the Republican and secular values in schools.

The French themselves seem to accept that things won’t always feel this united with 78 percent of respondents to a recent poll agreeing with the statement that the sentiment of unity was a temporary movement, linked only to the attacks and would only last a few days.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
France’s 'Jungle' children arrive in UK
Authorities will start to clear the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp on Monday. Photo: Denis Charlet / AFP file picture

The first group of children from the French "Jungle" migrant camp with no connection to Britain have arrived in the country, the Home Office said Sunday, ahead of the camp's planned demolition.

French FM calls for end to Aleppo 'massacre'
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says the international community cannot ‘come to a negotiation under the bombs’. Photo: Dominick Reuter / AFP file picture

France's foreign minister urged the international community to "do everything" to end the "massacre" in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Sunday after fighting resumed following a 72-hour truce declared by Damascus ally Russia.

French cheer police, reviving Charlie spirit
French police officers on Saturday demonstrated for the fifth night in a row to protest mounting attacks on officers. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

Angry French police have taken to the streets for five nights in a row -- and Parisians have started to cheer them on, reviving scenes last seen following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015.

Scarlett Johansson turns popcorn girl in Paris
US actress Scarlett Johansson greets customers at the Yummy Pop gourmet popcorn shop in the Marais district of Paris. Photo: Benjamin Cremel / AFP

Hollywood superstar Scarlett Johansson swapped the red carpet for a turn behind the counter at her new popcorn shop in Paris on Saturday.

US couple donates huge art collection to Paris
Marlene (centre) and Spencer (right) are donating their collection ‘for the benefit of art lovers’. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

A Texan couple who discovered their love for art during a trip to Paris in the 1970s are to donate the multi-million dollar collection they have amassed since to the French capital.

France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available