Riots have now continued for eight days in and around Paris. Thursday night, November 3, Muslim rioters burned 315 cars. In the previous week, they torched 177 vehicles and burned numerous businesses, a post office, and two schools. They have rampaged through twenty towns and shot at police and firemen. In an episode that summed up the failure of France’s efforts to create a domestic, domesticated Islam, when moderate Muslim leader Dalil Boubakeur, head of the Paris mosque, tried to restore calm, his car was pelted with stones and he had to rush away.
The riots began on October 27 when two Muslim teenagers ran from police who were checking identification papers — why they ran is as yet unclear. The police did not chase them, but evidently the teenagers thought they were being chased; they eventually hid in an electrical power sub-station, where they accidentally electrocuted themselves. That night young Muslims took to the streets for the first time, throwing rocks and bottles at police, burning cars, and vandalizing property. The next day rioters, throwing rocks, bottles, and Molotov cocktails, injured twenty-three police officers in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. The violence continued over the next few days: more destroyed vehicles and injured police officers. Then on Sunday, October 30, a tear gas shell hit a mosque, further enraging local Muslims; French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy stated somewhat cryptically, “I am, of course, available to the imam of the Clichy mosque to let him have all the details in order to understand how and why a tear gas bomb was sent into this mosque.” Since then the riots have continued unabated, defying appeals for calm from French President Jacques Chirac and others. The crisis now threatens to swamp the French government.
Why have the riots happened? From many accounts one would think that the riots have been caused by France’s failure to implement Marxism. “The unrest,” AP explained, has highlighted the division between France’s big cities and their poor suburbs, with frustration simmering in the housing projects in areas marked by high unemployment, crime and poverty.” Another AP story declared flatly that the riots were over “poor conditions in Paris-area housing projects.”
Reuters agreed with AP’s attribution of all the unrest to economic injustice, and added in a suggestion of racism: “The unrest in the northern and eastern suburbs, heavily populated by North African and black African minorities, have been fuelled by frustration among youths in the area over their failure to get jobs and recognition in French society.” Deutsche Presse Agentur called the high-rise public housing in the Paris suburbs “a long-time flashpoint of unemployment, crime and other social problems.”
One might get the impression from this that France is governed by top-hatted, cigar-smoking capitalists, building their fortunes on the backs of the poor, rather than by socialists and quasi-socialists who have actually strained the economy by spending huge amounts of money on health and welfare programs. Nor does the idea that the rioting has been caused by economic inequalities explain why Catholics and others who are poor in France have not joined the Muslims who are rioting. Of course, all the news agencies have either omitted or mentioned only in passing that the rioters are Muslims at all. The casual reader would not be able to escape the impression that what is happening in France is all about economics — and race.
The areas hardest hit by the riots, according to Reuters, are “home to North African and black African minorities that feel excluded from French society.” AP shed some light on this feeling of exclusion: “the violence also cast doubt on the success of France’s model of seeking to integrate its large immigrant community — its Muslim population, at an estimated 5 million, is Western Europe’s largest — by playing down differences between ethnic groups. Rather than feeling embraced as full and equal citizens, immigrants and their French-born children complain of police harassment and of being refused jobs, housing and opportunities.”
So evidently France’s failure to live up to its policy of playing down the differences between ethnic groups has bred the simmering anger that has now boiled over in the riots. However, in fact France has done just the opposite of playing down the differences between ethnic groups. In her seminal Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, historian Bat Ye’or details a series of agreements between the European Union and the Arab League that guaranteed that Muslim immigrants in Europe would not be compelled in any way to adapt “to the customs of the host countries.” On the contrary, the Euro-Arab Dialogue’s Hamburg Symposium of 1983, to take just one of many examples, recommended that non-Muslim Europeans be made “more aware of the cultural background of migrants, by promoting cultural activities of the immigrant communities or ‘supplying adequate information on the culture of the migrant communities in the school curricula.’” Not only that: “Access to the mass media had to be facilitated to the migrants in order to ensure ‘regular information in their own language about their own culture as well as about the conditions of life in the host country.”
The European Union has implemented such recommendations for decades — so far from playing down the differences between ethnic groups, they have instead stood by approvingly while immigrants formed non-assimilated Islamic enclaves within Europe. Indeed, as Bat Ye’or demonstrates, they have assured the Arab League in multiple agreements that they would aid in the creation and maintenance of such enclaves. Ignorance of the jihad ideology among European officials has allowed that ideology to spread in those enclaves, unchecked until relatively recently.
Consequently, among a generation of Muslims born in Europe, significant numbers have nothing but contempt and disdain for their native lands, and allegiance only to the Muslim umma and the lands of their parents’ birth. Those who continue to arrive in Europe from Muslim countries are encouraged by the isolation, self-imposed and other-abetted, of the Islamic communities in Europe to hold to the same attitudes. The Arab European League, a Muslim advocacy group operating in Belgium and the Netherlands, states as part of its “vision and philosophy” that “we believe in a multicultural society as a social and political model where different cultures coexist with equal rights under the law.” It strongly rejects for Muslims any idea of assimilation or integration into European societies: “We do not want to assimilate and we do not want to be stuck somewhere in the middle. We want to foster our own identity and culture while being law abiding and worthy citizens of the countries where we live. In order to achieve that it is imperative for us to teach our children the Arabic language and history and the Islamic faith. We will resist any attempt to strip us of our right to our own cultural and religious identity, as we believe it is one of the most fundamental human rights.” AEL founder Dyab Abou Jahjah, who was himself arrested in November 2002 and charged with inciting Muslims in Antwerp to riot (Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said that the AEL was “trying to terrorize the city”), has declared: “Assimilation is cultural rape. It means renouncing your identity, becoming like the others.” He implied that European Muslims had a right to bring the ideology of jihad and Sharia to Europe, complaining that in Europe “I could still eat certain dishes from the Middle East, but I cannot have certain thoughts that are based on ideologies and ideas from the Middle East.”
What kind of ideologies? Perhaps Hani Ramadan, grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan Al-Banna and brother of the famed self-proclaimed moderate Muslim spokesman Tariq Ramadan, gave a hint when he defended the traditional Islamic Sharia punishment of stoning for adultery in the Paris journal Le Monde. In Denmark, politician Fatima Shah echoed the same sentiments in November 2004. That same month, filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who had made a film, Submission, about the oppression of women by Islamic law, was murdered in Holland by a Muslim, Mohammed Bouyeri. Bouyeri later declared in court: “I did what I did purely out my beliefs. I want you to know that I acted out of conviction and not that I took his life because he was Dutch or because I was Moroccan and felt insulted.” In other words, his problem was religious, not racial: Van Gogh had blasphemed Islam, and so according to Islamic law he had to die. Significantly, Bouyeri maintained during his trial that he did not recognize the authority of the Dutch court, but only of the law of Islam.
How many European Muslims share the sentiments of Mohammed Bouyeri? How many of these are rioting this week in Paris? Alleviating Muslim unemployment and poverty will not ultimately do anything to alter this rejection of European values by growing numbers of people who are only geographically Europeans. And the problem cannot be ignored. For France is not alone: Muslims in Århus, Denmark have also been rioting this week. And in France, Sarkozy recently revealed that this week’s riots are just a particularly virulent flare-up of an ongoing pattern of violence: he told Le Monde that twenty to forty cars are set afire nightly in Paris’ restive Muslim suburbs, and no fewer than nine thousand police cars have been stoned since the beginning of 2005.
Blame for the riots in France has thus far focused on Sarkozy’s tough talk about ending this violence. On October 19 he declared of the suburbs that “they have to be cleaned — we’re going to make them as clean as a whistle.” Six days after this, Muslim protestors threw stones and bottles at him when he visited the suburb of Argenteuil. He has been roundly criticized for calling the rioters “scum”; one of them responded, “We’re not scum. We’re human beings, but we’re neglected.” However, as a solution the same man recommended only more neglect, saying of the Paris riot police: “If they didn’t come here, into our area, nothing would happen. If they come here it’s to provoke us, so we provoke back.” Others complained of rough treatment they have received since 9/11 from police searching for terrorists: “It’s the way they stop and search people, kneeing them between the legs as they put them up against the wall. They get students mixed up with the worst offenders, yet these young people have done nothing wrong.”
But of course, all these problems are exacerbated by the non-assimilation policy that both the French government and the Muslim population have for so long pursued: the rioters are part of a population that has never considered itself French. Nor do French officials seem able or willing to face that this is the core of their problem today. It is likely that the riots will result only in intensification of the problems that caused them: if French officials offer an accommodation to Muslims, it will probably result only in further intensification of the Islamic identity, often in its most radical manifestations, among French Muslims. The French response to the riots is likely to unfold along the lines of a decision by officials in Holland last May: they declined to ban a book called De weg van de Moslim (The Way of the Muslim), even though it calls for homosexuals to be thrown head first off tall buildings. The Amsterdam city council did not want to contravene “the freedom to express opinions.”
That decision is a small example of what the Paris riots demonstrate on a large scale: the abject failure of the multiculturalist philosophy that disparate groups can coexist within a nation without any idea that they must share at least some basic values. The French are paying the price today for blithely assuming that France could absorb a population holding values vastly different from that of the host population without negative consequences for either.
That French officials show no sign, on the eighth day of the Paris riots, of recognizing that this clash of values is the heart of the problem only guarantees that before they will be able to say that their difficulties with their Muslim population are behind them, many more cars will be torched, many more buildings burned, and many more lives destroyed.