By Molly Moore Washington Post Foreign Service Sunday, June 10, 2007; A18
LYON, France -- When Najat Vallaud Belkacem, a Moroccan Muslim immigrant, applied to France's most prestigious political science university, she recalled, her high school teachers told her she'd never be accepted: She wasn't rich, she wasn't from Paris -- she wasn't even from France.
Vallaud Belkacem graduated high in her class at Paris's Institute of Political Sciences and today, at age 29, is a member of the most diverse group of candidates ever to seek national public office in France. More Arabs, Africans, Muslims, blacks and women are running for the National Assembly in Sunday's elections than in any campaign in French history.
'If we want to be heard, we have to engage,' said Vallaud Belkacem, a Socialist Party candidate in this southeastern French city. 'When politicians don't look like the people they represent, they can't understand the problems of the people they are supposed to represent.'
Propelled by weeks of street violence in immigrant-dominated neighborhoods in 2005 and emboldened by record numbers of new voters from minority populations,"