PARIS – Polygamy may have been a factor behind the unprecedented wave of riots that swept France over the past three weeks, senior conservative politicians said on Wednesday.
Bernard Accoyer, leader of the Union for a Popular Majority (UMP) in the National Assembly lower house of parliament, told French radio that children from large polygamous families had problems integrating into mainstream society.
The Financial Times quoted Employment Minister Gerard Larcher as saying large polygamous families sometimes led to anti-social behavior by youths who lacked a father figure and made employers reluctant to hire them.
Riots erupted on October 27 after the accidental deaths of two youths apparently fleeing police, but transformed into a wider protest mainly by ethnic African and North African youths at racism, unemployment and exclusion from mainstream society. Some white youngsters were also involved in the violence.
“There is clearly a problem with the integration of immigrants and, more importantly, their children,” Accoyer told RTL radio.
“In order for us to be able to integrate them, there must not be more of them than our capacity to integrate them. That’s the issue. It’s like polygamy….It’s certainly one of the causes (of the riots), though not the only one.”
He said polygamy led to “an inability to provide an education as it is needed in an organized, normative society like in Europe and notably France.”
The Financial Times quoted Larcher, who is expected to play a leading role in the government’s efforts to come good on its pledge to help ethnic minorities find jobs, as saying multiple marriages could disadvantage some youths.
“Since part of society displays this anti-social behavior, it is not surprising that some of them have difficulties finding work,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
“Efforts must be made by both sides. If people are not employable, they will not be employed,” it quoted him as saying.
A Larcher aide told Reuters that Larcher had based his comments on his own experience as a local elected official.
The minister had discussed the riots at a dinner with journalists, raising polygamy as one factor among many that lay behind the recent wave of riots.
“But polygamy is not the overwhelming cause of the recent events,” said the aide, who did not wish to be named.
Larcher had raised a case he knew personally of a youth arrested by police who further investigation revealed had come from a polygamous family.
“Gerard Larcher said that that was one of the factors which have to be taken into account, because these youngsters from polygamous families have no one to look up to, they have no reference point, they are unstructured, and he was using this example,” the aide added.