PARIS (Reuters) - The social exclusion of young Muslims in France partly explains their radicalization, and the government must give people from poor suburbs more hope of success to reduce the risk of more violent attacks, a cabinet minister said on Sunday.
Following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris which killed 130 people and stunned France, several senior socialist ministers as well as conservative and far-right opposition leaders have said poverty or discrimination could not excuse violence.
But, shifting the emphasis in the debate, Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron told Canal Plus television: “Exclusion is a fact of life in France. I am not saying that this explains or excuses what has happened, but those young people who have been radicalized ... often have no more faith in society.”
At least four of the gunmen who killed people in cafes and a concert hall in the suicide bomb and shooting attacks in Paris were French citizens. Some came from a depressed neighborhood of Brussels.
Fellow government minister Segolene Royal, in a rebuke to Macron over previous remarks on the issue, said she strongly disagreed with comments that appeared to exonerate the killers.
“The attacks were enough of a shock, there is no need to add guilt to it. There is absolutely no need for statements like this,” Royal, minister for energy and environment, told iTELE television.
Macron is a former Rothschild banker whose efforts to make the French economy and labor market more flexible have come under fire from the left of the ruling socialist party.
Macron, 37, said the French republican system had failed if job applicants with a Muslim first name were four times less likely to get an interview, referring to an October study by the Institut Montaigne.
He added that the political elite shared some responsibility for the exclusion of young Muslims. “We must provide a place for everyone, that too is brotherhood,” he said referring to the French Republican motto of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”.
“There is no need for self-flagellation but the responsibility of every political leader is to understand and to explain, not to excuse, and to make sure it does not happen again,” he said in remarks recorded for Sunday’s program on Friday.
“To understand is not to excuse or justify,” he said.
He added that as economy minister he would do all he could to make sure there is more social mobility.
In 2005, youths in France torched thousands of cars during weeks of clashes with police, the worst urban violence there in 40 years. Many residents of poor suburbs said then that the government was not addressing their problems.
Additional reporting by Simon Carraud; editing by David Clarke and Richard Balmforth