Unrest in Paris suburbs highlights changes in suburbs around the world

Tensions ran high last week in a Paris suburb as immigrants reacted to their economic and social conditions:

Weekend violence outside Paris triggered by France’s controversial veil ban has highlighted how tensions with the Muslim community are adding to an already-volatile mix of poverty and alienation in the country’s blighted suburbs.

The unrest in the Paris suburb of Trappes erupted after a man was arrested for allegedly attacking a police officer who stopped his wife over wearing a full-face veil in public.

Feelings of anti-Muslim discrimination, coupled with unemployment and tensions with police are creating an “explosive” mix in the suburbs, said Veronique Le Goaziou, a sociologist and expert on urban violence in France…

A few kilometres (miles) from the Chateau de Versailles, Trappes is a poor city of 30,000 surrounded by wealthy neighbours. In 2010, half the households lived on less than 13,400 euros ($17,600) a year and unemployment was at 15 percent.

“This is a terrifyingly common situation,” said sociologist Michel Kokoreff. “We are in an area that has problem after problem, where people have a profound feeling of abandonment.”

This is a reminder that the monoculture view of suburbs, that they primarily consist of the middle- to upper-classes around the world living in isolated communities, is simply not the case in many places.  American suburbs are increasingly diverse (recent posts: more poor residents, more aging residents, more immigrants looking for opportunities) and suburbs outside of many European cities have been poorer from the beginning (though the increasing religious diversity is of more recent decades). All together, there are plenty of suburban problems for American and French suburbs to address. The actions taken (or not taken) have the potential to set the course individual suburbs but also suburbs as a whole for decades to come.

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