In the Netherlands, neighborhoods where many people live without money, a decent house and some perspective are called problem neighbourhoods. There is still something hopeful in the naming, problems are there to be solved, aren’t they? I so desperately want to believe that ‘our’ neighborhoods don’t even come close to the misery of the ‘ghettos’, the ‘shariah enclaves’, the ‘no-go areas’ of other European cities. In front of Fault lines For a year, program maker Sinan Can traveled back and forth between four notorious neighborhoods in four capitals and made four episodes that will be broadcast this week. Monday he was in Clichy-sur-Bois in Paris, Tuesday in Tower Hamlets in London, Wednesday and Thursday follow Rinkeby in Stockholm and Molenbeek in Brussels.
It looks like Sinan Can has taken up residence in those neighborhoods, at least temporarily. He has a house, a bed, and does his shopping there. He interviews people, or rather, he talks to them, that’s something different. Real people with real names and surnames invite him to their home, give him their food and ask him to go out. Even if that doesn’t feel very safe to them at all. He is allowed to enter a house on the ninth floor of a dilapidated flat where at least twelve ‘undocumented’, or ‘safelanders’ as we call them. Young men from Algeria without papers and without hope for a better life.
He walks with Erika DeLoffre through the streets of department 93, a quarter of an hour by metro from the center of Paris. We see the shabby houses, the street trade, boys rustling away behind containers. She tells about the year in which her house was robbed every month. The police did nothing, neither did the neighbors. “You think you’re safe because you’re black and live among your own people.” But it’s not like that. Rule number one is survival, she says. If necessary, by robbing other survivors. Her eyes dart in all directions nervously, someone is taking pictures, they are being watched.
Erika DeLoffre is married, her husband Cyril has converted to Islam, together they have eight children. She is a teacher and wears a headscarf. Two things that no longer go together in France. President Macron tightened the law three years ago: all expressions of religion are prohibited in public buildings. DeLoffre took off her headscarf before school and put it back on after school. Shouldn’t either, because that’s how she set the wrong example to girls. She’s been fired, and she’s not allowed to go on a school trip with her kids.
Just when you think there are weird rules in France, Sinan Can takes you to London a day later. In the United Kingdom, the state and church sleep on one pillow, and other religions cleverly huddle in between. Thus it could happen that in the Tower Hamlets neighborhood not the rules of the land are followed, but those of Allah. Separate schools for boys and girls, separate gyms and restaurants. Sinan Can talks about the benefits of this with girls (while shopping) and with the imam (while lifting weights).
What is more worrying is that the judiciary is also in religious hands. Islamic judges judge divorces, custody issues, domestic violence. In very exceptional cases, a camera is allowed in one of the Sharia courts. A man with an inheritance issue presents himself to Judge Haitham al-Haddad. When his father died, all children received an equal share, including his seven sisters. Exactly according to the law and the wishes of his father, but against the will of Allah who ordains that women inherit half of what a man gets. ‘Judge’ verdict: The sisters stole. They don’t get punished. Not now, al-Haddad oracles, pointing upwards. there is to be chief justice.