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French press review 14 January 2016


Should Jewish men consider not wearing their little cloth caps in public, to avoid being the targets of fanatical attackers? Were the Arab Spring revolutions a complete waste of time and energy? Were they a threat to the stability of Europe? Is it a good idea to use public money to save a loss-maker?


Three papers give front-page or editorial coverage to yesterday's suggestion by a senior Jewish religious figure in the southern city of Marseille that Jewish men should seriously consider abandoning, at least temporarily, the wearing of the "kippa" or "yarmulke", the skullcap which is worn in public.

This follows Monday's machete attack in Marseille on a school teacher wearing the kippa. His attacker is alleged to have said he was acting "in the name of Allah and Islamic State".

Click here to read more articles on Paris attacks

The attack and the response have sparked a heated debate.

Left-leaning Libération asks if the French Jewish community is going to be obliged to go into hiding.

Catholic La Croix says the case is a serious test for the republican ideal of freedom, which is supposedly one of the pillars of French society.

The paper's editorial says the Charlie Hebdo attacks last January were against freedom of expression, the November massacres here in Paris targeted the freedom to go out for an evening, this Marseille incident is an attack on religious choice and our very capacity to live together, accepting our differences.

Says La Croix, unfortunately forgetting the parallel if more complex debate about dress requirements for Muslim women, every French citizen should have the right to wear the kippa, the muslim kufi skullcap, or the Christian crucifix or not to wear them. But that right can't be doled out on a community basis. We need to be united to defend the same freedom for everyone.

On other front pages . . .

Right-wing Le Figaro looks back five years to the so-called Arab Spring, the wave of popular revolution which swept across much of the Arab world. According to the conservative paper's analysis, the hope of increased democracy in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria rapidly evaporated, leaving violence and clan warfare in its wake, a situation which now threatens the very stability of the European Union as millions of refugees and migrants flock to our shores.

Le Figaro's editorial bluntly summarises the situation as "a revolutionary spring followed by an Islamist winter," which is hardly fair, even if you can see what they have in mind.

Even if the experiences have been very different, with Tunisia at the positive end of the scale and Syria at the other, the right-wing paper insists that, in every case, the brief hope of revolution was followed by the harsh reality of increased religious intolerance, a field-day for the holy warriors and an overall decline in individual freedom.

Click for RFI reports of the Charlie Hebdo killings

Worse, warns Le Figaro, the anger and frustration which drove the various Arab revolutions remain undiminished and will find expression, one way or another.

The right-wing daily also gives front-page prominence to the claim that saving the energy and engineering firm Areva is going to cost French tax payers something of the order of four billion euros.

The company specialises in the building and maintenance of nuclear reactors and used to be a profit-maker. Until it got involved in the construction of a plant in Finland and the money started to go down the gurgler.

Last year alone, on a turnover of about eight billion euros, Areva managed to lose nearly five billion, most of it swallowed up by the endless Finnish project. Now the state is trying to organise a recapitalisation using public money.

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