Tuesday, November 8, 2005 at 11:38 AM

World beware: French riots affect us all

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Disillusioned and disaffected youths continued their riots for a twelth night undeterred by the French goverment’s show of force

Progressive political observers have commended President George Bush for expressing sympathy for President Jacques Chirac as he grapples with nightly riots that are fueling the flames of anarchy all over France. Of course, this commendation is notable only because many (political) dead-enders – who fought for the invasion of Iraq – see Chirac’s incendiary woes as form of purgatory for impugning Bush’s integrity and undermining his efforts “to bring democracy to Iraq” and, ultimately, to assimilate all Muslim nations into the family of world democracies.

But Bush is right to eschew such jingoistic gloating (especially if one truly believes that “what goes around comes arounnd”). Moreover, as I warned in this previous article, it behooves Chirac’s myopic critics to appreciate that the root causes of the French riots are spreading under fertile ground in countries all over the world.

Reports are that young people in France’s African (Muslim) communities erupted in this nightmarish violence because they are fed up with chronic unemployment and feelings of discrimination, alienation, and marginalization. Indeed, just as young blacks in America fought against the virulent racism their parents tolerated, young Muslims in France are fighting against the caste-like presumption that they will provide the cheap labour their parents provided.

Now, not only Paris, but all of France is burning

But this violence is untenable and ultimately self-destructive. And it is instructive to note that it was not those who torched American cities in frustration who won civil rights for black Americans; instead, those rights were won mostly by young blacks who sat-in at lunch counters and participated in mass non-violent civil disobedience (like the protest marches led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott spirited by Rosa Parks). Therefore, for the sake of our aggrieved Muslim brothers, let us pray that the fatwas now being issued by inspired Imams soon resonate amongst these rampaging arsonists.

If not, then it’s only a matter of time before young Muslims in other European countries, and young people living kindred lives of seething desperation all over the world (like Haitians throughout the Caribbean and Hispanics in America) erupt in similar violence.

(Apropos, there are reports this morning that copy cat Muslim riots have already spread to neighbouring Belgian and German cities.)

In fact, it is in this rather ominous context that Bush’s expression of sympathy with Chirac is so enlightened. Because it reflects an understanding that Chirac now faces a universal imperative to restore law and order (ASAP), without appearing to make concessions to the rioters. (Since conveying the message that rioting pays will only embolden marginalised youths everywhere to seek similar concessions by similar riotous means.)

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy ordered French police – in vintage Churchillian fashion – to confront the rioters in the ghettos, in the suburbs, along the Champs-Elysées or wherever they may be. Because, he vowed, France will never surrender [again] to marauding, fanatical thugs

Unfortunately, French leadership in the midst of this crisis seems woefully inadequate to the task. Because it is sheer folly for Sarkozy to declare “war without mercy” against rioters he called “rabble [and] scum” on one hand; whilst on the other, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is promising a potpourri of social benefits (like education scholarships, jobs for everyone and billions of euros in community development), if only they would stop their rioting. Meanwhile, Chirac has hardly distinguished himself by showing up on TV – looking more like Rodney King than the President of France – to make a dazed and confused plea for generic calm.

Chirac (R) with his enabling PM de Villepin, at the Elysee palace in Paris echoing Sarkozy’s law and order pledge but also appeasing the rioters with grandiose promises

Clearly, this will not do. Chirac must first establish law and order (by imposing curfews and declaring martial law where necessary – as the American president did to quell black riots in the 1960s). Then, all too belatedly, his government must redress the root causes of this pernicious marginalisation of and percolating rage amongst Muslim youths. And, this redress (commensurate with serious national introspection) must begin with government initiatives that are designed to transform the consciousness of white Frenchmen to accept the assimilation of Africans and Muslims; not merely as French ideal, but as a fact of life. After all, even PM de Villepin concedes that:

“It’s also the responsibility of each of us to change our behaviour, to change the way we look at people.”

Beyond this, however, the riots in France should serve notice on other developed nations that have relegated immigrants to ghettos where crime and every order of vice pervade (and, incidentally, where Islamic jihadists troll for guerilla fighters and suicide bombers). Because these riots demonstrate what little spark it takes for the simmering grievances that burn in ghettos to set nearby cities ablaze and terrorize an entire country.

Alas, there but for the grace of God…

Note: Isn’t it a curious thing to see poor and dispossessed rioters (like those in France or Liberty City, Miami) invariably destroying property in their own communities (including schools and hospitals); instead of taking out their destructive frustrations on establishment properties (like those along the Champs-Elysées)?

***UPDATE: Despite vowing only yesterday to resist imposing martial law, toda
y PM de Villepin announced sweeping curfews to help restore law and order – pursuant to a national state-of-emergency decree that will effectively put France under martial law at midnight…It’s about time!


  1. ChrisWoznitza November 8, 2005 at 12:00 pm

    Hi I´m Chris. Greatings from Germany Bottrop !!

  2. Anonymous November 8, 2005 at 12:11 pm

    For an informed comment on what is actually going on in Paris from a professional journalist on the ground I recommend:



    Video: Times reporter responds to questions.

    which is particularly clear and informative, without the misinformed hyperbole of this blog.

    See how real reporting and comment is done.

    You may have to register with the NY Times to see the video but it is worth it.

  3. Anonymous November 8, 2005 at 12:28 pm

    To anon plugging the nytimes:

    With all due respect, the NY Times and it’s reporter Judith Miller have been discredited by an American special prosecutor for publishing the unreliable and politically motivated news about WMDs that got us into the mess in Iraq.

    So thanks but not thanks. Oh, and does the name Jayson Blair ring a bell?

  4. Anonymous November 8, 2005 at 12:36 pm

    On the one hand the French do not want African’s, Muslims, and anything else not French in their country. On the other they talk about improving the standard of living of these same people that they do not want in their country.

    So how do we rationalize the fact that on the one hand the thought of Muslim youth burning down neighborhoods and cars bring thoughts of Muslim terrorist? I’m told that these Muslim youth are causing unrest and the word terrorist quickly flashes through my mind. Speaking for myself, in that context I find it hard to feel any sympathy for their cause. After all, the world has been hearing the same litany of phrases since Sept. 11th, 2001; Islamic radicals, Muslim terroist, Muslim suicide bombers, etc.

    I know that the idiots that are doing all the bombing and maming and killing do not make up the entire Muslim population. But after everything that we have been force fed it’s hard to identify with their cause.

    Just my two pennies.


  5. Anonymous November 8, 2005 at 1:05 pm

    To blame the New York Times for “unreliable and politically motivated news about WMDs that got us into the mess in Iraq” is pushing it a little.

    The source of that ‘intelligence’ and the ‘leaks’ was the Bush Administration, which manipulated news sources and disseminated false information. The blame for the Iraq mess lies with Bush and his buddies, not with the NY Times.

    As for Jayson Blair, the black reporter who no-one questioned for fear of being ‘politically-incorrect’…. quite simply not relevant.

    The NY Times reporter is reporting from Paris and clearly knows what he is talking about.

    Criticism of the NY Times may have its merits, but it doesn’t make this blog any better, nor does it mean that the Paris report is incorrect, biased, politically-motivated or unprofessional.

    Which is more than I can say for most of the articles on this blog.

  6. Anonymous November 8, 2005 at 2:50 pm

    petty squabbles aside, the structural demographic shifts in Europe and elsewhere in the world, had better draw the attention of governments across the world. matters of class and race still dominate the landscape of modern society and at times it appears as if we have learned precious little from our history. i honestly feel there is real work to be done on both sides in terms of respect for cultural/local values and a willingness to make a positive contribution to society..

  7. Anonymous November 9, 2005 at 11:24 pm

    I read with interest the retiring comments by Noel below. The interest compounding in his sentences was that, as one suffering from – perhaps – an unbearble lightness of being, he could hardly be expected to maintain a separation between the complex reasons behind the riots in France.

    How telling !

    This exhaustion is perhaps as dangerous as the riots themselves, since it refuses to accomodate the complexities of a world made complex by the very comforts of indifference that ushered in this rage.

  8. Juan J. Noyles November 11, 2005 at 12:03 am

    It’s amazing, both to see the birth of a new civil rights movement and to realize that no one has learned the lessons our movement was supposed to teach.

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