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November 04, 2005

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Good grief--the man called the people who were throwing things at him "thugs?" How in the world did someone with such a useful grasp of the obvious end up in de Villepin's government? It's like finding the Hope Diamond in a box of Cracker Jack.

They live on the dole for very long periods, which both reinforces an angry dependency and gives them time to engage in agitation.

Right. French socialism is obviously to blame here. Any fool knows that in more laissez-faire countries, unemployed youths never turn to crime and violence.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that unemployment rates for 21-29 year olds in these areas is above 30%. They live on the dole for very long periods, which both reinforces an angry dependency and gives them time to engage in agitation.

actually, my understanding is that it is at 50%. This is further complicated by the fact that a lot of people 'live on the dole', so that to reduce somehow reduce the number of Muslim youth on the dole would either be discriminatory, or would entail such a structural change in how government assistance is structured as to be impossible.

One of the reasons Muslim fundamentalists were allowed to do so much in France is because they were one of the few forces that could control the immigrant ghettos.

I'm not sure if I understand this. The problem is (at least to my eyes) that the state pursues a rather forceful policy of secularization. However, those who refuse to go along with that policy are basically put at the margins of society.

In addition, the militancy of muslim immigrants arose _after_ the rise of the French far right (led by Jean Marie Le Pen). This was one of the main topics of conversation when I lived in France in the early 80's, and in fact, Le Pen's first major foray into the national debate (in 1984) was turned back in large part by a youth campaign by SOS racisme

The fact that the National Front was able to garner about 15% of the vote has me suggest that it is not as simple as ungrateful Muslim youths.

"Furthermore, the rioting began in response to two men who were electrocuted while they thought they were hiding from the police, even though the police weren't searching for them."

Or so the police say, but as Mandy Rice-Davies once put it, they would say that, wouldn't they? After the Charles de Menezes incident I'm not about to take on good faith anything policemen have to say about people who are no longer alive to testify on their own behalf.

One has to ask oneself what it is about the way in which the French police interact with the residents of the banlieues that would drive innocent youths to the extremity of trying to hide in such a dangerous place: it cannot be because the gendarmerie are the epitome of understanding and patience in dealing with residents of the ghetto.

"If statements like, "I use real words. When someone shoots at policemen, he is not just a ‘youth’, he is a lout, full stop," count as provocation it is a wonder that US cities aren't in a state of perpetual riot."

All well and good, except that isn't what was provocative about Sarkozy's remarks. He began by dismissing the two youths who died as hoodlums only for it to be subsequently revealed that neither had a criminal record, and then he compounded his error by talk of "cleaning out" the banlieues with German-style fire-hydrants, a turn of phrase one needn't be a limp-wristed multiculturalist to find repugnant.

At any rate, as tempting as it must be for many in America to leap to the usual "look at them Muslims!" reasoning, I think it is abundantly clear that these riots had nothing to do with Islam, and everything to do with bad social and economic policies which have been building up tensions for years, a point even a contemptuous misanthrope like Dalrymple is forced to concede in his article. One needn't be criminal, Muslim or even poor to be treated like dirt in Paris: being black or (worse yet) Arab is enough, a point which has been made to me through the experiences of several personal acquaintances of mine who've visited the place as well as through the exceedingly many blatant expressions of anti-Arab racism I've witnessed coming from the mouths of supposedly sane Frenchmen. Some Americans may find it hard to believe, but not everything in this world is about September 11 and Osama Bin Laden.

Abiola,
in one of your comments at your foreigndispatches link, you also suggest that the unemployment rate for muslim youth is much higher than the above 30%. I remember reading that as well, but I'm wondering if you found a source. I've been searching unsuccessfully.

I remember reading the City Journal article when it came out and being shocked, because in the 80's, the Arab sections were a bit seedy, but still a place that you'd visit to get your leather jacket and shemagh that was the standard youth uniform at the time.

Finally, I'm wondering if there is a breakdown of the number of true immigrants versus the number of Algerian harkis (who came between in 1962 when, strictly speaking, they weren't immigrants but French citizens) and their descendants.

Could it be that only they had a view of right and wrong clear enough to wish to intervene?

my my. what a leap!

maybe it could simply be that people don't want to approach criminals who are bold enough to act in broad daylight on a busy street.

Ed Koch for mayor of Paris!

Could it be that the "Muslim fundamentalists" give these Arab-French youth something they cannot find in the broader French society? A sense of worth? A sense of empowerment? A chance to shed the self-perception of victimhood?

And perhaps that is fundamentalism's one and only appeal.

it was the best of times, it was the worst of times...etc. etc. etc. etc.

there's nothing new here. it's been repeated throughout history again and again and again.

what precipitates it always is an obscene and obvious gap in wealth, but bring up how to ensure such gaps are lessened and you're painted as a pinko commie

"you also suggest that the unemployment rate for muslim youth is much higher than the above 30%. I remember reading that as well, but I'm wondering if you found a source. I've been searching unsuccessfully."

The problem is that the French government doesn't collect statistics by ethnicity or religion, so hard numbers aren't easy to come by, but this article quotes a Zinedine Houacine as saying 50 percent of all of France's unemployed are Muslim. Seeing as Muslims make up no more than 10% of the population, and the French unemployment is 10%, that would indicate that some 1 in 2 Muslims aren't working.

From personal experience, middle-class and middle-aged Frenchmen and women can be some of the most virulently and blatently racist people to be found anywhere. The loss of Algiers left a big angry mark on many French, often expressed as profound contempt / hatred / loathing of north africans.

there is also a much sharper divide between the political class and the middle class. Again from personal experience (time spent in bars in the early '80s), many of the working class felt utterly disconnected from their government and its immigration policies.

[anecdote is not the singular of data; i have no idea whether my impressions accurately reflect the french electorate. but given the success of Le Pen (a virulent french nationalist), I suspect that i'm not far off.]

[it's also noteworthy that i lived in France 20 years ago, so my recollections are just a smidge out of date. for example, the young kids marching in the streets chanting "Touche Pas a Mon Pote" (hands off my buddy) are now the middle aged middle class who should be remembering their youth and trying to do more to integrate north africans into the french economy. why that hasn't happened is beyond me.]

*Shrug* Why should we care? This will probably all turn out very nicely for Those People.

Let them eat cake.

Something big is going on in Paris, but I'm not sure we really know what it is.

Unrest in les banlieues has been a problem for some time. If you have not seen Mathieu Kassovitz's 1995 film La Haine, that might be a good place to start. Also:

...the weeklong tumult reiterates the persistent difficulties of integrating a predominantly Muslim minority plagued by unemployment, crime and identity crisis.

This is not a problem of unemployment or socialism. It is a complex issue. Parts of it are tied up in language. Parts of it are still linked to Algeria an to the legacy of colonialism. Parts of it have to do with the French government's commitment to having a completely secular approach to culture and identity. It's not just about bored minority youth corrupted by the indolence of life on the dole.

Nor should my analysis above be taken as an attack on the French government or on the French in general. I do not think that the French were a nation of evil colons (in the French sense, no bilingual pun intended ;). I think that they are doing their best and that there is a lot of frustration on all sides.

francis:

From personal experience, middle-class and middle-aged Frenchmen and women can be some of the most virulently and blatently racist people to be found anywhere.

I have no personal experience, but I can recall many articles over the years concerning the racism practiced by the French toward the Algerian and other muslim peoples in their midst.

Racial profiling in law enforcement is, reportedly, routine in France. The level of official racism seems to be far excess of anything that occurs in the US, and is probably the root cause of this unrest.

The closest parallel seems to be Watts, 1965.

Rioting is happening in Denmark as well, so it is not specifically a French problem.

More at Watch

DaveC, the Denmark link is about potential islamic terrorists, whilst the piece Charles quotes states that the Paris Riots are NOT about islamic activism.

Violent disturbances are nothing new in the bleak public housing projects on the urban periphery, where intelligence officials say that the two most powerful social forces are the drug underworld and Islamic activism. Even minor incidents pitting police against youths periodically set off arson attacks on cars and assaults on symbols of the state: postal workers, firefighters, day-care centers.

But the current rioting has lasted longer than in the past and spread alarmingly, authorities say, because of accumulated frustration and tension and incitement by small-time gangsters trying to reassert control over turf. Although Islamic extremism is seen as a serious problem in some of the affected neighborhoods, there is no indication that fundamentalist leaders have encouraged the unrest, officials say.

As stated by several posters, the French banlieus are a rotten environment. We have had discussions about them for decades, though mainly focussing on the drugsproblems. The French and the Dutch have very different points of view about drugs, addicts, treatment and prevention.

I wish this New Orleans would have turned out like this. Then we could have a real outlet to express our rage.

Continued ambivalence is probably the most we can muster about these riots.


the Denmark link is about potential islamic terrorists

There was an earlier entry about riots in Arhus, and those riots have ended. I also saw that recently was the anniversary of the murder of Theo Van Gogh.

I wish this New Orleans would have turned out like this. Then we could have a real outlet to express our rage.

I dont think riots are good. The recent riots in Toledo, the 2001 riots in Cinncinati, didn't help anybody. I am surprised that so many people are in favor of class and race warfare. It's as if you think somebody is actually going to benefit. I used to stayover and visit the beautiful Museum Center in Cincity and the riverfront, etc. but haven't bothered to in the past few years.

I am surprised that so many people are in favor of class and race warfare. It's as if you think somebody is actually going to benefit.

Someone is benefiting from it right now (see current tax cuts), and it is going to cause a backlash very soon.

The riots in the '60s were part of the impetus for the Great Society. It was cheaper to spend money on welfare and the like than to hire more police to keep people from burning large sections of cities down and keep the violence from spilling over into the wealthy neighborhoods. At the time America had lots of money, so it made sense to try to address the structural inequalities.

The '60s were not the first in the cycle, either. Look at the Republic Steel Riots in the '30s and the Haymarket Riot in the 1880s.

It's cyclical and isomorphic, and there are too many selfish and callous people on either side for it to ever reach equilibrium. Call it the 'invisible backhand.'

the Denmark link is about potential islamic terrorists

I also saw that recently was the anniversary of the murder of Theo Van Gogh.

Which, again, is about islamic terrorism. I don't think the riots in Paris are specifically islamic in nature. According to my newspaper one of the Imams in the mosques said the young perpetrators were thugs too, deliberately using the same word as the one Sarkozky gets the heat for. And the police in France says that the only group of salafists they saw in the neighbourhood was trying to calm things down.

The riots are bad, and a sign of a hugh underlying problem that has existed for decades and has only gotten worse in that time.

I am surprised that so many people are in favor of class and race warfare.

You mean like cutting the Federal budget for [email protected]^&^$ food stamps while still stubbornly holding on to tax cuts that benefit that top 3-5%? That kind of class warfare? Or is it only "class warfare" when poor people do it?

The recent riots in Toledo . . .

Neiwert is required reading on this.

"I wish this New Orleans would have turned out like this. Then we could have a real outlet to express our rage."

Because we lack any other, more productive, outlets.

And injury to innocents matters less than demonstrating rage through violence.

I suggest strong reconsideration of the wisdom in this.

"I am surprised that so many people are in favor of class and race warfare."

Indeed. And the party carrying it out via such acts as making declaring bankruptcy harder, or cutting food stamps, or raising the deficit with yet another tax cut solely for the 3% making over $200k/year, should stop engaging in it, and people should stop voting for politicians who support such class warfare. It's quite terrible; what would the Republican Party of Teddy Roosevelt say?

The word "racaille" is not "thugs." It means "garbage" or "scum" only it is stronger than those words. He (the interior minister) said he would go into the neighborhoods and *sandblast* (not "clear out" or other more innocuous forms of expression) the *garbage* (meaning the human beings who live there). This disingenuous mistranslation is really too much. There is a lot of info out there about what is going on and how it stems from socio-economic causes and the Islamist canard is just that, Sarkozy pandering to the racists who think he is a sort of a cool Arnold Schwarzenegger type guy. It's totally disgusting.

Reading the comments about the French situation on various blogs I think it is amusing (in a painfull way) that a lot of people forget that the present French government represent the conservative French (not the socialist ones), whilst in Brittain Blair leads the socialists, not the conservatives.

My Oxford French/English dicationary says that "racaille" translates to "rabble." Rabble sounds more like "thugs" than "scum" to me. In addition, I have heard several French reporters on the BBC suggest that translating "racaille" into "scum" is a gross mischaracterization.

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