[FOUNTAIN]A preview of riots here?If you have ever been to Paris, you must have seen the North Africans, who have dark complexions but Caucasian features. They are immigrants from the Maghreb, which means “the end of the earth” in Arabic and refers to the northwestern region in Africa that includes Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The three countries have a lot in common. They experienced French colonial rule and use Arabic as their official language. A majority are Muslims and ethnic Berbers.
The Maghrebis began settling in France in the 1950s and 1960s after World War II. In order to resolve the shortage of labor following economic reconstruction, France invited a large number of the Maghrebis to do dangerous, dirty and difficult jobs such as mining, construction and manufacturing. In an aggressive effort to bring in foreign immigrants, the French government sent trucks to the Maghreb and encouraged anyone who wished to work in France to hop on.
In the early 70s, the miserable and isolated lives of the Maghrebi immigrants emerged as a social issue. The French government allowed the wives and children of the immigrant workers to join them in France, and Maghrebi communities were established. However, as the French economy experienced a prolonged slump after the first oil shock in 1974, many Maghrebi immigrants lost their jobs and moved to slums outside the cities.
In the meantime, Beurs, the second-generation Maghrebis, were born and raised on French soil. They hold French citizenship. The Beurs had an identity crisis as they experienced Islamic culture at home and French culture at school. Belonging to the lowest social class, they had to deal with invisible discrimination in French society and bore antagonism and hatred. There are some elite Beurs who became prominent in certain fields and thus joined the mainstream society. However, soccer star Zinedine Zidane, who is a Beur of Algerian origin, is a very rare success story.
The 1995 French film “La Haine” vividly depicts the reality of the Beurs. The movie follows three young protagonists ― a Jew, an Arab and a black ― in a slum near Paris, illustrating various problems in the immigrant community such as unemployment, discrimination, poverty, crime and a growing disparity of wealth. The recent Muslim riots in France are the “rebellion of the Beurs,” straight from the movie. The number of migrant laborers is increasing in Korea as well. The rioting in France should be a warning that we could have a Korean version of the Beur rebellion if the migrant workers fail to integrate in our society and the second-generation immigrants are frustrated by our discrimination.
by Ko Dae-hoon
The writer is a deputy city news editor for the JoongAng Ilbo.