Socialist Worker

French unions resist after Muslims are sacked

by Christophe Chataigné
Issue No. 2026

Residents of Clichy-sous-Bois in Seine-Saint-Denis held a march last month for Bouna Traore and Zied Benna, two young people who died last year. Their deaths sparked riots across France against racism. For more on France and the riots see this month’s SR

Residents of Clichy-sous-Bois in Seine-Saint-Denis held a march last month for Bouna Traore and Zied Benna, two young people who died last year. Their deaths sparked riots across France against racism. For more on France and the riots see this month’s SR


Islamophobia isn’t just taking place in Britain. Authorities in France have withdrawn the security clearances for 40 mainly Muslim workers at the Paris airport of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle, one of Europe’s busiest airports.

The police prefecture of Seine-Saint-Denis, linked to the interior ministry, withdrew the clearances, claiming that the workers could become involved in terrorist activity.

The right winger Nicolas Sarkozy runs the interior ministry. He is planning to stand for next year’s presidential election.

According to Jacques Lebrot, the deputy prefect in charge of the airport, these workers “are linked to fundamentalist movements with potentially terrorist aims”.

The workers were called in for an interview by the prefecture. Karim has been working for the courier company Fedex since 2001. He said that all the workers called in for the interview were Muslims.

During the interview Karim was questioned about his religious practices. Karim said, “I explained to them that I was a practicing Muslim but that I had never belonged to an extremist current.

“I practice much less since I got a secure job and had three children. At the end, as I insisted to know what accusation they had against me, they said they were not accusing me of anything.

“They said that because of the international situation they had to interview potentially dangerous people.”

On 20 September Karim received a letter from the prefecture saying they had withdrawn his security clearance on the grounds that the interview hadn’t assured them that he wouldn’t be a threat to the security of the airport.

Since then Karim hasn’t received his wages. In another case a security worker who has recently converted to Islam had his clearance removed. His employers, International Consultants on Targeted Security-France, had previously congratulated him on his work.

Serge Nybelene, the general secretary of the airport CGT union branch, spoke to Socialist Worker about the cases. He said, “The prefecture says that there is a direct or indirect connection with radical Islamic groups. But in their letters the employees concerned received no reason for their security clearances being taken away.

“We are used to having security clearances withdrawn for meaningless reasons. But in this case the prefect doesn’t even have to justify his decision. He says that the interviewee didn’t prove that he wouldn’t be susceptible to becoming dangerous in the future.

“So it is for the accused to prove his innocence and not the accuser to prove the person is guilty! The focus is on Muslim workers because we are coming up to an election.”

The attack on Muslims is part of Sarkozy’s plan to win the backing of the right for the election.

Philippe de Villiers, an Islamophobic politician, has written a book called The Mosques of Roissy in which he talks about secret prayer rooms at the airport. He claims that Roissy is a nest of radical Islamists.

For Serge there is no doubt that politicians want “to go onto the Front National [France’s Nazi party] terrain. The wave of Islamophobia has to stop now. Muslim workers have been doing their prayers since the airport existed.

“But suddenly the prefect sent orders and the prayer mats either disappeared or were thrown away without their owners being told. Then some workers were told to trim their beards ‘correctly’.”

As Socialist Worker went to press, workers at the airport were meeting to discuss a proposed strike over the withdrawal of security passes.

Serge said, “The CGT has brought two cases to court in order to stop what’s happening. We are talking to a group of MPs to call for a debate on the question.

“We have also called on our members at the airport to debate mass action.”

In the meantime several workers who have had their security clearances withdrawn are taking their cases to court in order to have their wages paid as well as winning reinstatement.


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