Obama, Bringing Hope to the Paris Slums

His poll numbers over here may be falling, but the Times found a place where Barack Obama is still very popular and bringing the hope: The slum-like "banlieues"outside Paris dominated by Muslim immigrants, in Thursday's "Feeling Slighted by France, And Respected by the U.S." by France-based reporter Scott Sayare.

The residents of this poor, multiracial Paris suburb say they have been abandoned. For 30 years, they say, the French authorities have written off Bondy and neighborhoods like it, treating their inhabitants as terminal delinquents and ignoring their potential.

Obama evidently has the French slum vote locked up:

Begun in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks as part of an effort to bolster the image of the United States within Muslim communities across the globe, American outreach in these hard neighborhoods - often referred to collectively as the "banlieues," or suburbs - has grown in scale and visibility since the election of Barack Obama.

France is home to five million to six million Muslims, Europe's largest Muslim population, and the banlieues have long been considered potential incubators for religious extremism. But anti-American sentiment, once pervasive in these neighborhoods, seems to have been all but erased since the election of Mr. Obama, who has proved to be a powerful symbol of hope here and a powerful diplomatic tool.

Many suggest the Americans' warm reception is a measure of these communities' sense of abandonment. Others say it is the presence of Mr. Obama in the White House. Whatever the case, the United States is now more popular in the banlieues than at any other time in recent memory, say French and American officials.

And as the banlieues go, so go the banlieues!

In contrast, Times reporters had extremely harsh words for tough-on-crime French President Nicholas Sarkozy who dared to criticize the violent behavior of the slum residents:

"Mr. Sarkozy has often taken a ruthless us-against-them attitude...He also struck a conciliatory note, reaching out to the huge swath of French people who seem to fear him, especially in the country's ethnically and racially mixed suburbs, where he is accused of fueling tensions with his provocative language and an aggressive police presence."