France: Muslim candidates in local elections

Left or right, centrist or independent, Muslim candidates are leading a potpourri of party slates for the upcoming municipal polls in the French department of Seine-Saint-Denis, better known as L'neuf Trois and home to the largest Muslim concentration in France.

"We want French of immigrant backgrounds, especially Muslims, to be heavily represented in municipal elections," Youssef Alzawi, who is leading the independent Bobigny for All list, told Monday, January 28.

"Our election list features a mosaic of candidates; We have Muslims and non-Muslims from different backgrounds."

Running for the first time in French elections, Alzawi's program in the city of Bobigny, in which citizens of immigrant blood make up nearly 21 percent of its 46,000 population, pays undivided attention to youth.

"We are targeting the marginalized youth and want to re-channel money wasted by incumbent councilors into educational and cultural programs for youths."

Three years ago, Seine-Saint-Denis, located north-east to Paris, was the scene of the worst youth riots France witnessed in decades after the death of two young men of immigrant background while fleeing police.

The deaths ignited pent up frustration among the department's youth, many of North African origin, at racism, unemployment, marginalization and mistreatment by police.

Leila Bouzidi, a French Muslim of Algerian descent, is also leading slate of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

French municipal elections will be held on March 9 and 16. Up for grabs are all city mayors and municipal councilors in France's 100 departments.

France is home to some six to seven million.

Win-win Situation

Pascale Monftfort, a 36-year-old Muslim revert, is leading the Socialist Party's slate for the city of Aunlnay Sou Bois.

"I'm running to become a representative of all French; Muslims and non-Muslims," he said.

Monftfort, 36, is facing competition from two fellow Muslims: Rezak Bezzaouya for the independent Le Modem movement; and Mokhtar Farahat representing the UMP.

In Aubervilliers, Faycal Menia is leading the UMP slate.

"I was picked by the UMP since I have been active in Aubervilliers since 2002," he said.

Menia is campaigning for improving security and economic conditions in the city.

"Our campaign focuses on lowering unemployment rates, increasing public funding and improving housing and city planning.

"We also want to build a new mosque for Muslims in the city because the existing mosque is bursting at the seams with worshippers."

Hasan Farsado, leader of the Union of Muslim Association in Seine-Saint-Denis, said the potpourri of Muslim-led slates is a win-win situation for French Muslims.

"It is definitely a healthy phenomenon," he said. "Muslim are going to benefit from this competition."

Source: Islam Online (English)

See also: France: Mosques top issue in local elections

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