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EDITORIAL: Protests in France have only just begun to calm down after the burial of the 17-year-old boy of Algerian-Moroccan descent – who was shot by police during a traffic stop last week – but not before days of unrest, thousands of arrests and damage to public property and hundreds of vehicles.

The night before the burial authorities had to mobilise more than 45,000 security officials with specialized elite units, armoured vehicles and helicopters.

The shooting, which was caught on video and went viral on social media, and its aftermath has dealt a serious blow to France’s public image just one year before it hosts the Olympic games. It’s also hurt President Macron’s public image and approval ratings, not to mention his busy schedule.

Now, not long after he had to cancel British King Charles’s planned state visit because of the domestic situation in March, he’s once again had to withdraw from an official visit to Germany – to discuss Ukraine, Nato, etc., no doubt – to handle what the European press is calling the worst crisis of his leadership since the “Yellow Vest” protests that paralysed the whole country in 2018.

He will, of course, have to do a lot more than simply deny the presence of systemic racism in French law enforcement agencies.

Because as soon as people hit the streets in anger at the shooting, French traditional and social media was crucifying the country’s leaders for decades of “geographical, social and ethnic apartheid”. The youth, especially, has been at the forefront of these potent protests, which is very significant.

The French interior ministry said that the average age of those arrested, which number in the thousands, was 17. It was further revealed that 30 percent of the detainees were under 18 years of age.

This ought to worry Macron even more, because it indicates that the most important demographic in the country, the youth, has taken a very firm stand on an issue that has for years, even decades, been accepted and dismissed as business as usual.

There’s increasing evidence to suggest that racial-ethnic-religious minorities don’t always enjoy the West’s prized democratic freedoms.

Now, in the age of unbridled social media, it is becoming much harder for governments and security establishments to brush such things under the carpet like the old days. And since such human rights violations are striking a very sensitive nerve among western youth, the old approach will have to change.

Macron is already facing more heat from this incident than his controversial retirement and pension reforms, which even he admitted jolted his administration.

It’s not just France, of course, because this kind of discrimination that prompts custodians of the law to take innocent lives is observed across western countries; where human and democratic rights are far more advanced than the rest of the world, especially the dark corners of the third world.

There is, then, a big lesson to be learned from what happened in France over the last week. This particular story continues to play out, of course, but it is already clear that authorities will be a lot more careful when they bare their weapons before nationals who are not from the ethnic mainstream. This also puts the spotlight on how social media is changing things across the modern world.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Faiz Jul 04, 2023 12:23pm
Macron turned out to be Modi of France!
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KU Jul 04, 2023 09:26pm
The civilized Western powers are blessed with hypocrisy that no one can compete with, not because of intelligence but merely because it's shameful. The inability of Western leaders to condemn or enact laws to punish repeated desecration of the Muslim religion is clearly biased and translated into the freedom of speech. While the same freedom of speech is punished under the law when anyone publicly denies the holocaust.
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