The HairCoiffure salon on Rue Jean Jaurès, a brief stroll from Trappes station, is providing a cut-and-blow-dry for girls at €18 (£15.50) and €15 for males, a banal statement on the centre of the most recent battle in France’s poisonous debate over spiritual extremism.
Hairdressers and their shoppers hit the headlines after native trainer Didier Lemaire claimed there have been no blended salons in Trappes – suggesting the city was within the stranglehold of Islamic radicalisation. He additionally claimed schoolchildren had been banned from singing and a few ladies barred from cafes. Lemaire has since been positioned beneath police safety following alleged dying threats.
The accusations got here on the eve French MPs voted on a controversial invoice to fight Islamist extremism, put ahead after the brutal homicide of trainer Samuel Paty final October.
However the claims have sparked anger and indignation from locals generally known as Trappists – probably the most well-known of whom are the actor Omar Sy, footballer Nicolas Anelka and fashionable French comic Jamel Debbouze. In an interview with the Observer, city mayor Ali Rabeh hit again.
“We’re being stigmatised,” he mentioned. “Most of the folks spreading lies, exaggerations and unjust accusations about Trappes don’t know what occurs right here. They’ve by no means set foot within the city.
“Sure, there are issues with medication, delinquency and radicalisation. I’ve by no means denied that. However we’re working to resolve them and these kind of assaults don’t assist. And naturally our kids sing: they sing in nursery, main and secondary faculties. We even have faculty choirs.”
Trappes, within the western suburbs of Paris close to Versailles, holds a grim nationwide file after greater than 60 native younger folks left to hitch Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, making it a tender goal on this political and ideological battle.
Additionally it is within the Yvelines division the place Paty was beheaded final October. So when philosophy professor Lemaire, 55, claimed the city was beneath the yoke of Salafism and “definitively misplaced” to the republic, he had a captive viewers. “There are not any extra blended hairdressers, north African ladies can not go to cafés, there’s stress on ladies over the veil … Trappes is not in France,” Lemaire instructed French TV. He claimed locals had been “dwelling in concern” and laicité – France’s cherished separation of faith and state – was defeated. (Lemaire later admitted his feedback on hairdressers had been “approximative” however doubled down on the remaining).
Rabeh, 36, the son of Moroccan migrants, responded angrily, accusing Lemaire and the media who gave him airtime of stoking division and making life much more difficult for locals. “Younger folks taking the baccalauréat this yr inform me they’re apprehensive sick about how they’re going to get locations at good faculties and universities after they say they’re from Trappes,” Rabeh mentioned. “It’s so unfair on them. It’s as if each single time we get our head out of water, somebody pushes us again beneath.” Like Lemaire, Rabeh has additionally been given police safety.
On a cold latest Friday, the snow-dusted streets of Trappes had been calm. On one facet of city, a cluster of males drank exterior a bar close to the station, on the opposite worshippers clutching prayer mats streamed from the native mosque. Yards from the Lycée La Plaine de Neauphle the place Lemaire taught for 20 years, the window of one other hairdressers, Saint Lou Hairstyle, was clearly marked “Masculin – Feminin”. The city boasts a contemporary music and dance faculty, with subsidised lessons for low-income households; the Trappes journal carries photos of December’s “Magic of Christmas” illuminations.
Contained in the city corridor, Rabeh was fuming: “We all know there’s a downside with Islamism right here however we’ve made progress. We’re working to resolve these issues and somebody comes alongside and assaults us with lies, exaggerations and unjust accusations. Typically I despair.”
He added: “Would a mayor with a special title be confronted with this? Trappes is a part of the French republic. It’s completely unfaithful to recommend in any other case.”
It could be straightforward to dismiss Trappes as yet one more rundown, problem-riddled Paris suburb had been it not for the truth that it has benefited from an enormous city renewal programme. Most of its dilapidated 1970s high-rise tower blocks have been demolished and the council estates renovated. Extra blended personal and public housing with flower beds and kids’s playgrounds are steadily changing low-rent housing. The streets are clear, native services modernised and Lemaire’s personal lycée boasts one of the best leads to the division. Unemployment is operating at 5.6% of the lively inhabitants – half of whom are beneath 30 – in contrast with 6.7% for Paris.
The image shouldn’t be all rosy, although: greater than 1 / 4 of Trappists dwell beneath the poverty line and Rabeh says the Islamic radicalisation downside is “complicated” and fuelled by a way that the republic has deserted native communities like Trappes.
When a TV crew made an unannounced go to locals crowded spherical to defend their city. Jacques Michelet who runs the Trappes basketball membership rejected the suggestion it had been deserted to Islamic extremism: “We’ve seen all ideologies, we’ve seen extremists and never simply Islamists … nevertheless it’s a marginal phenomenon in Trappes.”
Father Etienne Guillet, the native Catholic priest, contested Lemaire’s suggestion that non-Muslim inhabitants have fled. His congregation boasts as much as 700 folks from 45 completely different international locations. “When there are tensions, I meet with the native imams and we type issues out,” mentioned Guillet. “It’s not straightforward for everybody to dwell collectively and there ’s at all times the temptation for communities to withdraw, however what I see on this city is issues going effectively.”
Rabeh mentioned final week he was stepping again from the row, posting a quote by French socialist chief Jean Jaurès, whose statue stands exterior Trappes city corridor, on social media. It reads: “Braveness is to hunt the reality and inform it; it isn’t to be subjected to the legislation of the triumphant lie that passes, and to not echo, from our soul, mouth and arms to silly applause and fanatical booing.”
• This text was amended on 21 February 2021 to appropriate the spelling of Ali Rabeh’s title.