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French press review 7 May 2016


London has a new mayor. But will he have the courage and the capacity to solve the city's key problem and make accommodation affordable to ordinary Londoners? French socialists are divided on the place of religion in society. And many French women feel insecure in cities designed and built by men.


Right-wing Le Figaro notes that the election of Sadiq Khan as mayor of London marks the first time a Muslim has been elected to head a major Western capital. The conservative paper says the highly symbolic victory is, first of all, a reflection of the way London's population structure has changed over recent decades, with Muslims now representing nearly 13 percent of the capital's population and that share growing faster than any other community.

But Le Figaro then says it is unwise to focus on the question of religious identity since that very debate has masked the crucial problems facing ordinary London dwellers, chief of which is the lack of affordable accommodation. Neither Khan nor Zac Goldsmith, the man he beat for the top job, has proposed anything even vaguely credible as a solution, it claims.

For Le Figaro this London election has been a clash of cultures, the son of a bus driver against the son of a billionaire, but that superficial level seems to have blinded most voters to the absence of real policies which could make London a place in which ordinary people can continue to live.

French socialism and religion

Le Monde looks at the way in which the debate about the place of religion in French society is dividing the political left. The question is never far from the surface and has been given increased bouyancy by Islamist terrorism.

Le Monde says the divide concerns hardline secular republicans like Manuel Valls on one side, opposed to open society, multiculturalists like former Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, on the other.

There's no real answer to the conflict, says Le Monde. The problem is that it represents yet another dangerous crack in the façade of French socialism.

Geographical discrimination

The cover of Libération calls for more room for women in French public places.

The paper says that sexual inequality is built into the fabric of the modern Western city, a space constructed by and for men. In it women frequently feel unsafe, obstructed and the victims of macho prejudice. Women are left with the choice of renouncing on the use of public space or with evolving complicated strategies to avoid the traps that most men don't even recognise.

Libé's editorial says violence against women is not just a question of physical or mental attacks. There's is a spatial, geographical element to such violence and this is only slowly being recognised by urban planners, mainly thanks to the efforts of groups of women who have produced catalogues of the problem areas in their own localities.

BFMTV sacks Islamic affairs analyst

Elsewhere, Libération laments the fact that the TV station BFMTV has decided to stop using Romain Caillet, one of its most respected commentators on Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism and holy war.

Libé shows a certain courage in covering this story, since SFR, the phone company which owns the daily newspaper, also has a 49 percent stake in BFMTV.

Caillet has been shown the door because he didn't tell his employer that he had been interviewed by French anti-terrorist police in 2008, after he spent some time in Egypt working out what he calls his "intellectual curiosity" about political jihad. He was put on the official "S" list of suspects to be kept under surveillance but has no criminal record whatsoever.

What he does have, according to Libé, is a remarkable understanding of the mysterious and multi-facetted world of hardline Islamism. On a scruple based on a suspicion, itself based on facts which go back almost a decade and which Caillet himself has never concealed, the most-watched television news channel in France has deprived itself, and its viewers, of a real expert, opening the door to any number of the rent-a-mouth dopes who will happily explain anything to anyone for an appearance fee.

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