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Threat to Culture Feared North Africa Immigrants a Volatile Issue in France
[Home Edition]
Los Angeles Times (pre-1997 Fulltext) - Los Angeles, Calif.
Author: Meisler, Stanley
Date: Feb 18, 1986
Start Page: 1
Section: 1; Foreign Desk
Abstract (Document Summary)

This downtown neighborhood of mosques, of cafes monopolized by men, of bazaars that sell World Cup soccer sweat shirts with Arabic lettering, is known officially as the Belsunce, but many people in Marseilles bitterly call it the Casbah, after the famous Arab quarter of Algiers in the days when the French ruled Algeria. No one who shops in the department stores downtown can miss the Belsunce. It borders the main street of Marseilles.

The immigrants are berated as the cause of many ills in the society. The criticism is far from subtle. Le Figaro's weekend magazine recently illustrated an article titled, "Marseilles: Capital of Fear and Violence," with an enormous color photo of Muslims praying in the streets of the city. The article said that 65% of the robberies and attacks in Marseilles were committed by Algerian immigrants.

The mood reflected by the success of SOS Racisme probably accounts somewhat for the halt in the rise of popularity of [Jean-Marie Le Pen] and his anti-immigrant movement last year. But in the long run it is far from clear whether the good feelings evoked by SOS Racisme are strong enough to drive away the resentments that many French feel about the immigrants, especially the North Africans, in their midst.

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