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The Death of France? By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, June 09, 2003


The notion of the death of France is not, by any means, an absurd notion. To the contrary: it is an increasingly plausible possibility - or a reality occurring right before our eyes, according to some. The presence of a huge and growing Muslim population in France has fundamentally altered the identity of the nation. Anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism have become endemic, as France chooses Islamicization and friendship with Arab dictators over friendship with America and Israel.

The reports that France helped Iraqi officials escape to Europe were not surprising, because France is now the European leader of the Arab world and of Arab interests.

In light of these circumstances, many would argue that France is no longer. . . .well, France.

Frontpage Symposium has put together a distinguished panel to deal with this phenomenon. In this two-part series (CLICK HERE to see Part II), we have the pleasure to be joined by Jean-François Revel, one of the most famous French writers and a member of the French academy. He is the author of many books, including How Democracies Perish and of the recently published L’Obesssion Anti-Américaine (The Anti-American Obsession) which has been on the best sellers list in France for more than three months; Charles Kupchan. a professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century; Guy Milliere, a Professor at the University of Paris who serves as an economist for the Bank of France. He is a columnist in the French press and is the author of L'Amérique-Monde (World-America), and Un Gout De Cendres: France, Fin de Parcours? (A Taste of Ashes. France: The End of the Road?); Alain Madelin, a former Chief of the French Department of Finances, former President of Democratie Liberale (a neo-conservative political party that is now part of the UMP, a moderate right coalition), President of Les Cercles Liberaux (a French neo-conservative think tank), and a prominent politician in France. Toni Kamins, the author of The Complete Jewish Guide to France and The Complete Jewish Guide to Britain and Ireland (St. Martin's Press), the first two books in a series of Jewish historical travel guides she created. She has graduate degrees in political science from the City University of New York, has lived in Paris for many years and studied at the L’Institut d'Etudes Politiques; and Yves Roucaute, a philosopher, writer, and professor of political sciences at the University of Paris.

Interlocutor: Welcome ladies and gentlemen to Frontpage Symposium. It is a privilege to have you here. Jean-François Revel and Yves Roucaute will arrive a little late for this symposium and will summarize their viewpoints near the end.

Let me begin, perhaps, with a little bit of a loaded question and we will see where the conversation goes.

I think that it is becoming increasingly obvious that the presence of a growing Muslim population in France is having quite a significant impact on the French government’s behavior. This is no surprise, perhaps, because, some thirty years ago, France made the conscious decision to create close ties with some Arab dictators and started to push Europe to become closer to the “Arab view of the world.” In part, it did this to create, for lack of a better description, an “anti-American alliance” between Europe and the Arab world.

So now, perhaps, it is no great surprise that France is behaving more and more as if it is the leader of the Arab world. One can only imagine what will be, within twenty years, when Muslims will be more than twenty per cent of the French population, and non-Muslims will be older than Muslims.

Today, we already see the consequences, especially with the reports that France helped Iraqi officials escape to Europe. True, the reports have not been verified, but in light of the circumstances, they are completely believable.

What do my guests make of these realities? Or are some of the points illegitimate and based on faulty assumptions?

Kamins: The assumptions are illegitimate and are based on a critical misunderstanding of France in particular (and Europe in general).

France has not taken an "Arab view of the world", it has taken a French view.  It may be at odds with the US view and even US interests, but the French have always had ambivalent feelings about the US and I view this as a manifestation of that.

France is in a difficult situation. For decades Muslims from France’s former colonies have settled in France proper.  But the French, who are loathe to accept anyone or anything non-French, have not made them welcome -- they don’t want them there.  And to drive that point across they have relegated them to living in what are known as the banlieue or suburbs.  These are government housing projects soulless places where the residents have little if any contact with the rest of French society except for a mind-numbing bureaucracy.

Unemployment is high, education is an afterthought, access to mainstream French society is nearly impossible, and being arrested for suspicion of this or that is common.  The disdain and contempt in which these people are held is palpable, and as comes as no surprise to anyone except the French, crime, drugs, and other social problems are rampant. 

The level of alienation that exists in the banlieue cannot be overstated and it is difficult for those who are unfamiliar with France (which seems to include every American who has written about France of late) to understand it.  The French have always dismissed the problem and hoped it would go away. 

But it has not gone away and now France is faced with 5 million plus Muslims in its midst many of whom have no interest in assimilating into the social or political fabric of the country.

Kupchan: The question conflates two separate issues -- the Muslim population in France and France's position on the Iraq war.

France's Muslim population is large -- some 5 million -- and growing.  In light of France's looming demographic shortfall, immigration will need to continue, if not pick up.  Many of these immigrants will likely be from North Africa.  France, as well as many other European countries, needs to do a better job integrating immigrants into mainstream society and ensuring that they do not feel like excluded, second-class citizens.  The spirit and practice of multiethnicity need to be nurtured -- urgently.

France's position on the Iraq war was influenced by its Muslim population -- France feared domestic unrest.  But the French government also opposed the war for several other reasons -- the impact on the Arab world, the difficulties of post-war reconstruction, the potential increase in terrorism, the need to tame U.S. power.  It is also important to keep in mind that most of Europe's electorate, including the French public, was strongly opposed to the war.

Madelin: One thing is right in the answers of Toni Kamins and Charles Kupchan: France is in a difficult situation. France has not enough babies and will have a very serious problem within a few years when the retirement system will be in full crisis (It’s already in crisis, but it’s only the beginning).

France will have another very serious problem in a few years, people who were born Muslims will become a larger part of the population. According to all the estimates, Muslims are now ten per cent of the French population. Within twenty years, they will be at least twenty per cent of the population. In front of this second problem, two solutions could be chosen. Solution one: to do everything to fully integrate the Muslims into French society. Solution two: to accept the idea that Muslims will be a “community” in a multicultural France.

The solution that has been adopted has been solution two. And the choice has been made a long time ago, at least thirty years ago. Young people who had never spoken the Arab language had  to learn the Arab language to “recreate a relation to their roots”. The professors were coming from North Africa, and their text book was the Quran. The creation of the Muslim Council of France is just a new step on the way to create a “Muslim community” in a multicultural France.

I hope it’s still possible to change the situation, but it would be necessary to act now. Within a few years it will be too late. Already it’s very late: the positions adopted by the French government concerning the war upon Iraq were partly dictated by the fear of riots. In many French schools, professors have to skip the history of the shoah.

If nothing changes, the French view of the world and the Arab view of the world will become so close, it will be hard to distinguish one from the other. It’s true, France would like to tame the US power, but France has no ways to do it, except to try to use the United Nations, and it failed. France would like to build Europe to make of it a kind of rival of the United States. The other European countries do not share this vision of Europe. The French public was strongly opposed to the war because the media, the elites and the politicians were all saying very loudly they were opposed to the war. If you give no explanation to people, it is logical that they will not understand. The role of genuine leaders is to be bold, to make the right decisions and to explain what has to be explained.

Milliere: I disagree completely with Toni Kamins. France today is completely unable to have a French view of the world. The French government today seems to believe it still has the power it had in the time of De Gaulle. It’s completely wrong.

France has no army and no police anymore. France is declining fast, demographically speaking and economically speaking.  France does not serve its own interest: as a part of the West, if it was the case, she would have to be on the side of the West, and so on the side of the United States.

France behaves more and more as if she does belong to the West anymore and as though she is the leader of the third world. Doing this, France has nothing to win, maybe just second-rate contracts and an ephemeral popularity among all the frustrated in the world. France will win only one thing, and for a short time, peace inside France: it will avoid riots among Muslims living in France now.

If many Muslims did not integrate in France, it’s because a long time ago the government has chosen subsidies and welfare instead of jobs, and lawlessness instead of order. Now comes the time to pay the price: France has many unemployed Muslims, many lawless zones where people live off of many illicit tradings and make there in one day what they could make legally in one month.

It starts to be too late to integrate Muslim immigrants into mainstream society, and it’s not the government choice to integrate Muslims. The government choice is to push the mainstream society to accept Islam more and more and to accept the idea that within twenty years, France will be either a Muslim society or a society very open to the values and practices of Muslim societies.

Nothing is done right now to push young Muslims to integrate into mainstream society. Everything is done to push them to think they belong to a different community: the Muslim community. Those coming from this community who disagree and who want to say they are completely French are pushed in the margins by the media and by the French politicians. For years, French schools have not pushed new comers to integrate and to love France; they have pushed them to hate France and western civilization.

For the years to come, France will stay in very bad shape: non-Muslim French people will grow older while Muslim French people will become the largest part of the French youth. The French welfare state has pushed many young Muslim people to understand they will be better off, financially speaking, if they become drug dealers instead of average workers. The French socialist state has pushed many young Muslim people to believe they are the "victims" of French society, and that French society has to pay now.

The recent creation of a Council of Muslim Faith by the French government is not a good sign at all: a) all the people who were born Muslims  will be counted as Muslims, even if they are not Muslims anymore (it’s a big victory for the integrists), b) only the people going to the mosque on a regular basis will be taken into account, according to the superficy of the mosque, and only these people will have a right to vote to appoint the members of the Council, c) as, on the average, only ten per cent of the people born Muslim in France go to the mosque it will mean the people elected by these ten per cent  will be the official representatives of all French Muslims.

The French government has made a choice.  The choice has been to give a stronger influence to Muslim organisations. The choice has been to create closer ties with Arab dictatorships and weaker ties with the United States.

Kamins: Mr. Milliere misunderstands my use of the term French view of the world (I meant it in the sense that it is its own view and not necessarily one held by other countries for whatever reason).  But be that as it may I think we are all in agreement that something has happened to France that has changed it from a country of Frenchmen to something else.  And we are in agreement that that something is the immigration of large number so Muslims and the failure of those Muslims to integrate or to be integrated into France.

I don't have an answer to the problem.  I don't believe anybody does.  If there were an answer it would have to have been put into place long ago.  But I believe this is the question that must be addressed.

There are similarities between France’s historical relationship with its Jews and its relationship with its Muslims.  Both groups are cultural and religious minorities in what was an essentially homogenous society. 

The Muslims in France are regarded with fear, suspicion, and hatred.  That was certainly true (and arguably still may be) of France’s Jews at the time they were granted civil rights two hundred years ago. Many Jews in France at the time preferred to be left to their own devices in terms of religious governance and many were afraid that becoming integrated into French society would result in a withering away of their Jewish character and of Jewish practice. 

The greatest challenge for France’s Muslims is to decide whether they want to remain Muslims in France or become French Muslims.   

Do they want to transplant their religion, culture, and way of life to La France Profonde without compromise and turn France into another Muslim state with all that implies?  Or do they want to embrace the rights and responsibilities of French citizenship and become part of a French future?  The former has grave implications, and not only for France.  Clearly there are advocates for both positions.

Kupchan: I associate myself with the remarks of Ms. Kamins -- she poses the core question directly: will immigrants be Muslims in France or will they be French Muslims?  The latter is clearly preferable from many different perspectives.  As with Jews, there has to be a push and a pull to make integration work.  Jews wanted to escape the ghetto and enter the mainstream.  French society, to varying degrees, was welcoming.  In similar fashion, Muslims in France have to want to become French Muslims.  And France has to be willing.  Otherwise the experiment is multiethnicity is likely to fail.

Milliere: I do not think I misunderstood what Kamins said about the “French view of the world”, and I think it is necessary to repeat that France has made choices that have consequences. France now has the view of the world held by other countries like Libya, Algeria and Syria. And I think it’s bad. The French government has made the choice to become the closest ally of Arab dictators. The recent visit of Dominique de Villepin to Arafat is a symbol of this choice.

I do not think there are similarities between France’s historical relationship with its Jews and its relations with its Muslims. Jews have been the victims of discriminations in France. Anti-Semitism was still very strong in France sixty years ago. The French police did all they could in their power to send as many Jews as possible to Nazi concentration camps in the forties. The discrimination
against Jews was completely unfair and without justifications. French Jews have never created troubles. As soon as they have received the opportunity to do so, they decided to become French Jews.

The problem posed by the Muslims now is completely different. Twenty years ago, there were much less Muslims in France, and they were doing their best to become French Muslims. It is not the case anymore. Muslims in France now are regarded with fear and suspicion because many young Muslims choose to live a thug life (fifty per cent of the inmates in the French jails are Muslim). Fear and suspicion have a basis in reality. The young Muslims that do not choose to live a thug life consider themselves members of the Arab-Muslim community more than they consider themselves as French citizens. Or when they say they are French citizens, they add very often: “we are French citizens, so the French government has to show more respect for Islam and the Arab world”. Only a tiny minority of young French Muslims are moderates: if they criticize the others, they receive death threats... It’s clear the choice of the immense majority of the Muslims living in France is to remain Muslims in France. Is there still a solution? I must say I’m pessimistic.

Kamins: Mr. Milliere puts words in my mouth.  I never said the French haven't made choices....even wrong choices.

Mr. Milliere seems woefully ignorant of the history of the Jews of France.  That history is not confined to the twentieth century....the Jewish community in France goes back to the fifth century.  During most of that time Jews were subjected to all manner of discrimination, anti-Jewish violence, forced conversion, and humiliation including segregation from the rest of the population.  During the French Revolution an emancipation movement arose from within the Jewish community and the French liberal class.  Napoleon Bonaparte established a Jewish council, very similar in nature to today's Muslim Council.  But there was also great consternation and upheaval among the Jews of the time that the compromises promulgated by Bonaparte along with the Jewish Council (which became the present day Consistoire Centrale) would mean that they would become less Jewish.  It was by no means an easy transition and it took decades.....some Jews of the time never did want to be French, they were perfectly happy just being Jews in France if only the French would let them live an unfettered life.

When Mr. Milliere says that "French Jews have never created troubles", he is correct. But in the eyes of many Frenchmen of the 18th, 19th, 20th, and even 21st centuries, the Jews of France are a blight on the country...indeed of the world.

I agree that the Muslim problem seems more serious and it is different in that Muslims have several countries backing them up.  This was not the case with the Jews.  I don't disagree with Mr. Milliere on this point.  There is the serious crime and drug problem etc.  But one has to wonder if an attempt to integrate them had been made on the part of the French government and society if things might be different.  I don't know.

Madelin: Let me interject here for a moment. One of the key problems in this whole issue is the failure of integrating the majority of the Muslims living in France.

From my perspective, this failure has many roots.

First root: The unemployment rate in France is very high. It’s often very difficult for a young Muslim in France to find a job. Some discrimination exists, it’s impossible to hide it. If France was stronger economically speaking and if there was no unemployment we would be on the way to find a solution.

Second root: France is a welfare state where it’s easy to earn more money asking for assistance than looking for a job. In many families, and now many Muslim families, assistance has become a way of life. If you spend your days doing nothing, you can start to have temptations. If you see drug dealers driving around in fancy cars, your temptations take shape.

Third root: For years, the police have been very weak. Law and order have disappeared in the most part of the suburbs of the big cities. If you think it’s not too risky to become a dealer, you become a dealer. If you see the police are afraid of you, you lose respect for the police and finally, you lose respect for the French government.

Fourth root: In schools, leftist teachers teach young Muslims that France colonized their countries and that the French army committed atrocities. The result: many young Muslims hate France. It’s not their fault it’s the fault of French education. Fifth root: For years, France has permitted to countries like Saudi Arabia to build many mosques and to send many radical imams to preach in these mosques. The result is a new generation of young radical Muslims.

I still think there are solutions, but the problem is huge.

Interlocutor: Thank you Alain. Ladies and gentlemen, we are out of time for this first part of our dialogue on the death of France. We'll continue this conversation tomorrow. Take care for now.

CLICK HERE to see Part II

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Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.


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