Prejudice of any kind is certainly not uncommon in countries around the world. But a case that has recently hit the headlines here in France has shocked many and illustrates how, even in a multi-cultural society, some people still have problems dealing with those they perceive as "outsiders".
It involves a young farmer, Jean-Hugues Bourgeois, and the campaign of violence and intimidation launched against him by someone, or some people, in his local community since the beginning of this year.
And it has taken the involvement and interest of the national media to force the local authorities into opening an official inquiry.
It all started out innocently enough. Fresh out of agricultural college, and full of ideas Bourgeois looked around for some land to start farming and settled on a small plot of eight hectares, which nobody else really wanted in the hamlet of La Boge, which forms part of the village of Teilhet (population 300) in the Auvergne region of France.
His idea was to produce organic goat's cheese, and although he admittedly perhaps didn't really look the part, with his pierced ears and tattoos on each finger spelling out the word "Libertad" (liberty in Spanish), the locals pretty much left him alone to get on with what he was doing.
He was an outsider but he managed to strike up a friendship with one of the farmers, Georges Message, who was himself approaching retirement.
The two men got on so well in fact that Message even offered the "newcomer" the possibility of renting 50 hectares of prime land to expand his business - just the sort other farmers would have been interested in an area better known for cattle and cereal crops. And after the deal had been agreed by the mayor of the locality in which the land lay - as is required by law here in France - Bourgeois "took possession" of the first 24 hectares in January this year.
And that's when his problems started.
Towards the end of March, he found 10 of his goats dead - they had been shot, apparently with a type of gun only used by farmers - and the following morning he awoke to discover that his house had been daubed with the less-than-welcoming graffiti " La Boge for the locals - leave."
Over the next couple of months the intimidation and the attacks continued and escalated, in spite of his complaints to the police and local authorities.
A barn in which he kept feed for his goats was burnt at the beginning of August and his car was vandalised.
Then at the end of last month he had yet another chilling warning to leave after receiving a threat against his eight-year-old daughter. "We'll throw your daughter in a ditch, after having made a woman out of her," read an anonymous letter.
Receiving little satisfaction from either the local mayor, the police or the regional authorities,
Bourgeois took his plight to the media, and pretty quickly the national newspapers, radio and television had picked up on the story.
When cameras turned up in Teilhet last weekend, villagers had little to say apart from claiming that they had no idea who was behind the attacks.
But growing media interest led the region's public prosecutor, Dominique Bouclans, to open an inquiry and to repeat what many around the country must have been thinking when they heard about the story.
"In seeing this escalation of violence, we're witnessing a hate which is unacceptable and can only happen thanks to a conspiracy of silence from the local community towards someone whose only 'crime' is that he's an outsider," he said in a statement.
But any official inquiry will have to overcome the apparent refusal of the villagers to admit responsibility in the affair.
Comments from Bernard Duverger , the mayor of Teilhet and therefore its elected "leader" and someone who is supposed to represent law and order, probably won't have encouraged a quick solution to the problem either.
He rejects the theory that other farmers could be behind the attacks, defending them by calling for the presumption of innocence before proven guilty.
"I condemn these actions taken against Mr Bourgeois, and he has been a victim, but there's nothing to prove that the culprit is one of the other farmers," he is quoted as saying.
"If the media lynching continues, I'm afraid the violence will only escalate."
The 29-Year-old Bourgeois has said he intends to stay put, and at least he will have the backing of one local - Message, the neighbour, who agreed to rent out land to him
"I never thought it would go this far," Message told a national newspaper. "It's proof that we never really know our neighbours."
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