Friday, November 11, 2005

Unrest Easing in France?

Or being clamped down?

According to an Associated Press article by Jamie Keaten, "Unrest Eases in France; Officers Suspended" (November 10, 2005):
Violence in France fell sharply overnight, the police chief said Thursday, one day after the government toughened its stance by imposing emergency measures and ordering deportations of foreigners involved in riots that have raged for two weeks.
Hmmm . . . well, if the French government has had to resort to emergency measures and threaten to deport foreigners 'involved' in the riots, then this 'easing' has been anything but easy.
The emergency decree empowers officials to put troublemakers under house arrest, ban or limit the movement of people and vehicles, confiscate weapons and close public spaces where gangs gather. For much of France -- including Paris -- the state of emergency had no perceptible effect.
No perceptible effect? Does this mean that the emergency measures did not 'ease' the rioting? That the rioting continues? That the rioting was already 'easing'? What? Oddly, the next very next paragraph implies that the measures had some effect:

But the fact that such extraordinary measures were needed...
Needed for what? 'Easing' the unrest? Anyway, this imperceptible "fact":
...has prompted national soul-searching about France's failure to integrate its African and Muslim minorities -- seen as a key reason behind the rioting. Rioters included the French-born children of immigrants from France's former colonies in North and West Africa.
African and Muslim minorities? Does the writer mean African and Arab minorities? Or just Muslim minorities? Or a mix of Muslim and Christian minorities? The Big Hominid, who has been posting on the riots and translating articles from the French, poses a relevant point:
If the riots in France have nothing to do with religion, we should be seeing some data about the gangs of disgruntled, unassimilated African Christians setting fire to everything.
Even if some such Christians showed up in the data, they would likely be what statisticians call "outliers" -- or in plain English, "exceptions." So, what does religion, i.e., Islam, have to do with the riots? That depends upon what one means by "Islam." From most reports, the young rioters are not particularly pious. They rebel not just against French society and the French state but also against their parents and their parents' traditional Muslim piety. So, they turn to other sources of identity, either criminal gangs or Islamist groups. Either way, their identity moves toward a radically Islamist one. Why? According to Michael Radu, "Europe, Fall 2005: Gangs in Search of an Ideology," Watch on the West (Vol. 6, Nr. 7, November 2005), the problem stems from alienation and extends beyond France:
The reasons for all this are often attributed to factors like "alienation from both parental roots and country of origin, and the society in which they live." Sociologists call this phenomenon re-Islamization, and it is increasing in intensity among second and third generation Muslims in Western Europe. Those young Muslims who were born in Europe lost their ties with the country of their parents, while at the same time their families suffered the same disintegration as their native ones, with parents losing control over their children, to gangs and/or Islamists. Hence, such youths are no more Algerians, Moroccans, or Pakistanis, but neither are they French or British. Therefore Islam, however understood or misunderstood, becomes the default identity.
In short, whether the alienated youths join a gang or an Islamist group, they share a Muslim identity by default, which suggests that the line between gangster and Islamist is rather thin. Illustrative of this, the picture drawn by Hugh Schofield, "Alienation and boredom root of youth riots in France," The New Zealand Herald (November 7, 2005), shows the fascination that Islamist violence holds for the gangster youth:
Karim, aged 15, pulled back his sleeves to reveal gold bracelets and then opened his shirt to show a gold chain. Both nicked (stolen), he winked. Another boy held a mobile phone. "Come and look," he gestured, laughing. It was a short film of a Chechen (Muslim) guerrilla cutting off the head of a Russian soldier.
How do these gang members justify their violence? They imply that they are the instruments of a vengeful Allah:
"I hate France, and the French hate us," said Abdelkarim. "The wicked get punished. See what happened after the Americans made war on Iraq? Allah sent the hurricane. We are getting our revenge."
Cellular phones, television, the internet -- all of the modern media supposedly globalizing the world and bringing us all together is also transforming local grievances into world-historical forces capable of rocking entire nations, even entire continents.

The clash of civilizations is coming to you.


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