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An Islamic Journey Inside Europe
Part Three: Boiling Point in the Banlieues

photo gallery Photo gallery: Sylvia Poggioli's tour of the banlieues of Paris

Listen Listen to Part Three of this series, heard Feb. 26, 2003

Child at anti-violence rally
A child holds a balloon with the words "ni putes ni soumises" -- "neither whore nor submissive" -- one of hundreds of balloons simultaneously and silently launched during a protest in memory of a teenage girl burned alive in a Parisian suburb.
Photo by Adam Berry for NPR News

Feb. 26, 2003 -- The nation that gave birth to the modern notion of democracy, France, is having some difficulty integrating its citizens of North African origin -- like Great Britain, the legacy of an empire now gone -- into French society.

The nation is a secular state with the motto "Egalite, Fraternite, Liberte," yet many of its Muslims of Algerian descent live packed into airless, isolated ghettoes ("banlieues") in the outskirts of Paris.

Sylvia Poggioli visits with leading Moroccan writer Tahar ben Jelloun and tours the banlieues where disaffected Beurs (French, but of Arabic origin) are embracing a new, more radical version of Islam. Poggioli also reports on women's groups fighting sexism and gang rape -- a phenomenon becoming more common as the banlieues begin to boil over.

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