THE FRENCH CARE LITTLE for what other people think. As the recent unrest assumes a more quiet aspect, the French nation must consider how it deals with The Other, the immigrants in their midst, and just what it means to be “French.” France is nothing but a contradiction looking down on all others as less, but its whole is not more than its parts. France as a nation is in many ways an illusion, a cobbling of countrymen and women who aspire to share a tongue, but who from region to region speak harshly of each other, no more so than the Parisians with their accent above all others. The country that would span Europe and beyond with imperial dreams in times Napoleonic and beyond in many ways now is at war with itself.
IRONICALLY OR NOT the places that most easily endured the dark night of the French soul are what some would consider the least French in character of all. The Washington Post points to a place like Marseille.
"Marseille was made by immigration," said Pierre Echinard, a local historian. Of a population of 800,000, a quarter is of North African descent. Residents say they miss the ethnic variety when they leave the close quarters of their city, which is squeezed against the Mediterranean Sea by hills. . . .
Marseille, a city more than 2,600 years old, long predates France, not to mention the Roman Empire. (It was so anti-Roman that emperors used to send troublesome consuls to Marseille as a kind of uncomfortable exile.) "Marseille feels it submitted to a power -- Paris -- that didn't bring it benefits. Marseille had long stood on its own and it was always open to the world," Echinard said. . . .
One final element contributes to the peculiar cohesiveness of the city: No part of town is off-limits or off-putting to the poor. The Old Port is effectively the central plaza of Marseille, but unlike other urban tourist magnets in France, it has not been cleaned up to the point of being without grit.
MARSEILLE THRIVES in its tolerance of The Other, not just the other from another country, but the other who has less in his pocket. The society that is open to all is less threatened by some unrest.
THE FRENCH MODEL of assimilation will now be in the spotlight and some see change inevitable. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is calling for American model affirmative action. [Guardian UK]
France's interior minister and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy, his popularity soaring, last night threw down the gauntlet to President Jacques Chirac, saying some form of affirmative action was essential to overcome the problems of the country's ethnic minorities.
After three weeks of the worst urban violence to hit France for 40 years, Mr Sarkozy, one of very few French politicians to favour positive discrimination, said in an interview and in the senate that "special measures" were needed to help youths of north and black African origin find jobs. . . .
In an interview with L'Express, he said: "I challenge the idea that we all start life on the same line. Some people start further back because they have a handicap - colour, culture or the district they come from. We have to help them."
Mr Sarkozy's rise in popularity came despite widespread criticism of his allegedly inflammatory language and tough-guy approach to the rioting. The minister referred to the troublemakers as "yobs" and "rabble", and promised to "clean out" rundown suburbs "with a power hose".
SARKOZY IS NOTHING but a contradiction. The man who talks down the toughs now talks up a tough program for the rest of France to follow. Or not
A SIDE NOTE: Marseille and its recent good fortune were attributed to its openness to the less fortunate. In the America of tax cuts and gated locked communities set off by themselves, is there not perhaps a lesson? America, founded on the rights and liberties of the individual, also in its very Constitution is cited as a commonwealth. What is good for The Other may good for us if we can find a way to look beyond our selves.
JUST WHAT WE NEED A talented, polarizing politician who speaks well, but nobody is quite sure what he means and which way he is going. Say hello to Sarko. The French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkosky is all over the map, literally and politically. At once tough on recent rioters, he labels as “scum,” more than any other French politician, he recognizes the problem with “The French Model” approach to immigrants and has some new ideas. To Americans, Sarkozy is the essence of France: a contradiction. The contradiction France must now address is how to be true to the ideals of its past if it is to have a true future.[Speigel]
In short, when Sarkozy speaks, it's difficult to tell whether he is politically to the left or the right. This lack of political identification makes each new paragraph in his speeches sound like fresh, fascinating politics, like an adventure and an outrageous yearning for democratic dispute. Anyone who hears Sarkozy speak for the first time is overwhelmed by his talent as a speaker, and those who hear him for the 10th time still remain anxious to hear the latest rhetorical trick up his sleeve. Rarely has there been such a talented public speaker, and Sarkozy's most impressive trick is that the moment he leaves the stage, he seems to have provided the perfect answer for every significant question. But, as it happens, all the significant questions remain unanswered -- burning questions, at that.
IS SARKOSKY THE FRENCH answer? Are the French at some crucial turning point? As our own politics reveal, leaders who hector on about the exacting moment in history often prove lazy in following through in process where things actually change. The narcissistic moment of recognition of circumstance is a love in vain, a look in the mirror that distracts from duties done elsewhere in the house. The rioting underclass of France has challenged more than the French Model. The rioters have challenged the idea of France, itself. [Francoise Mouly/Tom Dispatch]
Facing off against them in the prolonged verbal sparring are three hommes d'état (statesmen), each using a very different verbal strategy. The President, Jacques Chirac, may have acknowledged early on that "the absence of dialogue could lead to a dangerous confrontation," but then he neither spoke, nor encouraged his minions to speak. The haughty silence Chirac's government dispensed in response to night after night of provocative TV images was received as the ultimate affront by the "nine-three" -- the poor inhabitants of the Parisian department of Seine Saint-Denis where it all started. They clearly got the message: They were not even worthy of being talked to.
FOR ALL THE AMERICAN perception of France lazy and on the left, the reality lies more to the right. The French Revolution may be over two hundred years ago, but a top driven desire for order abides in responses to the riots. The flag of France, tri color red, white, and blue is blue in blood for royalty lost. The blood running most strong now is of a red state kind. And apres Chirac, le deluge?
After leading the French right-wing Gaullist party for the past thirty years and being president for the past ten, he will finally step down in time for the 2007 presidential election. This has created a heated contest between his two presumptive heirs, Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. Although all three players are on the right, only Sarkozy is an economic neoliberal who advocates "openness, suppleness, and letting citizens make their own choices." A second-generation immigrant with a Greek-Jewish mother and a Hungarian father, Sarkozy openly admires American neoliberalism, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Rudolph Giuliani. He regularly counteracted the lofty pronouncements of the patrician Chirac with comments like "I do what works." As one French ghetto kid put it, "He acts and speaks like a gang leader."
A GANG LEADER who opposes the gangs? Sarkosy will be a force in France for years to come, if not President sooner. We the people of the United States who barely pay attention to our own politicians might want to pay more attention to Sarko across the water, dealing with the rioters’ fire in France.
RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL READING The Mouly piece at Tom Dispatch is immediately followed by another must read by Mark Levine which puts the French problem in stark terms: Assimilate or Die. . . .
HERE'S MARK LEVINE . . .as Interior Minister Sarkozy's comments at the start of the violence laid bare, neoliberal globalization has a nasty habit of intensifying the prejudices and suspicions alternatively nurtured and suppressed by France's republican-nationalist ideology. In fact, Sarkozy's language makes even more sense when we recognize that, in the present advanced era of globalization, the order is no longer "assimilate or die," but rather (as a New York Times editorial described it years ago), "dominate or die."
THE LAND OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY? BICULTURAL EUROPE IS DOOMED [Mark Steyn] Whether or not one believes in "celebrating diversity", that's a lot of diversity to celebrate. But the Continent isn't multicultural so much as bicultural. There are ageing native populations, and young Muslim populations, and that's it: "two solitudes", as they say in my beloved Quebec. If there's three, four or more cultures, you can all hold hands and sing We are the World. But if there's just two - you and the other - that's generally more fractious. Bicultural societies are among the least stable in the world, especially once it's no longer quite clear who is the majority and who is the minority - a situation that much of Europe is fast approaching, as you can see by visiting any French, Austrian, Belgian or Dutch maternity ward.
THE HERETIK KNOWS at some point demographics determine which “culture” thrives and which culture “dies”? But in that mindset is embedded a presumption that one more deserves to live and the rise of The Other is a killing detriment to the population who claims to have come first. Yet the population claiming primacy now assuredly in the mists of time once emerged as another The Other. All France, all Europe is riven with conquest, of master and serf in person and population. Whether one culture “thrives” while another one “dies,” all will evolve for better or worse.
THE SITUATION IN FRANCE continues unsettled as before. Some see improvement as the number of car fires is less. Interior Minister Sarkozy gets booed inspecting police. The internet and cellphones are tools for action. Copycat attacks hit Belgium and Switzerland. Copycat attacks hit Belgium and Switzerland. [story]
France's worst rioting since the 1960s seems to be nearing an end, the national police chief said Sunday as fewer cars were torched nationwide and Paris remained calm despite Internet and cell phone messages urging violence in the capital's streets. . . . A firebomb was tossed at a Lyon mosque but did not explode. . . For the first time during the unrest, youths and police clashed in the heart of a major city, trading tear gas and stones at Lyon's historic Place Bellecour. . . . More copycat attacks occurred in neighboring nations. Belgium had its worst night in a week of attacks, with 29 cars, trucks and buses torched, the government said. In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, youths burned four cars, police said. Two cars were set afire in the Swiss town of Martigny
. THE LID IS OFF THE POT Whether the stew is simmering or whether it boils depends on whom you ask. The Lone Elm has the most conspiratorial roundup and take from the right:
. . .all is not quiet in France. Don Surber comments on the French press's effort to influence politics by not reporting on the rioting. (Yes, they don't want the evil right to take hold.) Captain's Quarters has the quote from the interview with the French TV news executive that admits the French media are colluding to "skew" the news. CQ says: "Dassier told an Amsterdam conference of news broadcasters that he would rather lie about the riots than allow the truth to promote a right-wing agenda." This is quite a dynamite admission. Brussels Journal also reports on the media blackout, not only in France but Belgium and Denmark, where incidents also continue. Also see Sunday's report from Brussels Journal for a good wrap up of Saturday night's action.
THE “SKEWING” OF NEWS cited by Captain’s Quarters comes from the Guardian UK. It provides some opportunity for commenting on some problems we share closer to home. Is anyone ever neutral? Are we on th edge of a "Eurarabian" Apocalypse?
"Politics in France is heading to the right and I don't want rightwing politicians back in second, or even first place because we showed burning cars on television," Mr Dassier told an audience of broadcasters at the News Xchange conference in Amsterdam today. "Having satellites trained on towns across France 24 hours a day showing the violence would have been wrong and totally disproportionate ... Journalism is not simply a matter of switching on the cameras and letting them roll. You have to think about what you're broadcasting," he said. Mr Dassier denied he was guilty of "complicity" with the French authorities, which this week invoked an extraordinary state-of-emergency law passed during the country's war with Algeria 50 years ago. But he admitted his decision was partly motivated by a desire to avoid encouraging the resurgence of extreme rightwing views in France.
ARE WE NOT ALL victims of our pre conceived notions? How do we get around that?
THE HERETIK NOTES the same critics that attack Dassier and say he is “lying” for providing an incomplete picture have recently defended President Bush for providing an um incomplete picture of pre-war intelligence and attacked those who say he lies. Odd that. If any of these same commenters have asked to see more complete coverage of United States soldiers coming home in coffins, please leave a note here.
AMERICENTRIC? The New York Times goes with an odd lede: “The recent unrest roiling France continued to subside today without having touched the capital's tourist districts, as had been feared."
WaPo Duh Award: "Police said it was unclear whether the attack was linked to the other violence around the country. Many of the youths involved in the rioting are Muslim."
BOILING?[The Independent UK] Both the attack on the mosque in Carpentras in the Rhone valley - a known hot-bed of ultra-right activity - and the internet calls for an attack on Paris run contrary to a clear reduction in the level of violence over the last four nights. It appears that there some militant elements would like to see the violence continue.
RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL READING THE MYTH OF EARLIER AND EASIER IMMIGRATION [link] Behind the hostility to immigrants was often the fear of l'invasion, the invasion of France by large numbers of foreigners who were seen as briseurs de greve, pushing down the wages of the honest and hard-working Francais de souche, threatening the social order and the purity of French womanhood (Bernard: 1993 p.21). The other fear was of l'inassimilablit, the concern that these immigrants would not integrate sucessfully into French society. Italian and Polish immigrants, for example, were attacked for their religious devotion by a French working class that was no longer regularly attending Church (mass, confession etc.) and given the derogatory term Christos (mainly the Italians) or calotins (mainly the Polish). Their religion - Catholicism not Islam or Judaism - hampered immigrants' integration into French society. This hostility inevitably led at points to violence. The economic downturn that occurred in the late nineteenth century led to a rise in violent xenophobia and attacks on France's immigrants were frequent. Anti-Italian riots, for example, occurred in Marseilles in 1881 and Lyon in 1894. The most notorious attack on immigrants occurred in 1893 when a mob, inflamed by the assassination of President Carnot by an Italian anarchist, set upon Italian immigrants in the town of Aigues-Mortes in southern France killing eight Italians and injuring many more. The contemporary `problem' then of recognisably different immigrant communities that cannot or will not assimilate as opposed to earlier generations of immigrants who could and did assimilate, can be seen to be myth. At many points in French history, sections of the population and political �lites have felt threatened by immigrants and have responded with hostility to them, blocking their integration. The enforced and often violent repatriation of Polish miners in the 1930s is the clearest example of this.
ALMOST TEN THOUSAND MORE police are in the street. A Muslim group has issued a fatwa against the rioters in the unrest. A curfew is called. Paris is cooling down some, but France now sees measures not imposed since the war in Algiers. Fifty years later colonial chickens come home to roost. The French who sent their legions to Algiers now contend with a legion of discontent of discontent over racial policy. [story]
The French Cabinet Tuesday authorized local officials to impose curfews in an effort to halt the riots that have inflamed poor neighborhoods in the Paris suburbs and 300 towns across the nation for the last 12 days. "We will now be able to act in a preventative manner to avoid these incidents," said Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. "The policy of the government is firm, level-headed and measured."
SARKOZY WHO IRONICALLY has viewed the French model of assimilation as a policy failure stands at the center of controversy for his hard line response. Division among Muslims burst forth on the fatwa issued. A man was attacked trying to put out a fire and later died.[AP]
The man was caught by surprise by an attacker after rushing out of his apartment building to put out the fire, [police spokesman] Alain Rahmouni said. . . . The growing violence is forcing France to confront long-simmering anger in its suburbs, where many Africans and their French-born children live on society's margins, struggling with high unemployment, racial discrimination and despair - fertile terrain for crime of all sorts as well as for Muslim extremists offering frustrated youths a way out. France, with some 5 million Muslims, has the largest Islamic population in Western Europe.
WHAT FRANCE NOW WITNESSES is the ghost of Algiers rising in flames around them. The country that would colonize now finds colonies of the disease of former policy spread around the body of France.
RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL READING THE FATWA [Reuters] France's main Muslim organisations feuded on Monday over a fatwa one group issued against rioting after officials suggested Islamist militants might be fanning unrest across the country. The Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF), a large group linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, quoted the Koran and the Prophet Mohammad to support the religious edict issued late on Sunday condemning the chaos and destruction the unrest caused. But Dalil Boubakeur, head of France's Muslim Council and rector of the moderate Grand Mosque of Paris, denounced the move on Monday as equating Islam with vandalism and blaming all Muslims for the rioting whether they were involved or not. "It is formally forbidden to any Muslim seeking divine grace and satisfaction to participate in any action that blindly hits private or public property or could constitute an attack on someone's life," the UOIF fatwa said.
THE HERETIK NOTES the fatwa may have mixed effects. If violence decreastes, nativist French citizens will rest easier, but then point out the rising power of Muslim leaders.
THE FRENCH MODEL [Reuters] With every night of violent rioting that scars France's rundown suburbs, more and more French say their distinctive model of integration, based on the revolutionary ideal of equality for all, has failed. But President Jacques Chirac and his conservative allies are unlikely to join the critics, as that would mean accepting the approach France considers superior is no better than integration policies abroad. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is the only top politician saying France's "republican model" falls short and that the U.S. or British "melting pot" approach could help break the cycle of minority exclusion, unemployment and revolt. This desire to change the system lies at the heart of his rivalry with Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who defends the supposedly colour-blind French model against the racial quotas and help for Muslim groups that Sarkozy advocates.
THE HERETIK NOTES in France as in the United States, the biggest mistake often is the inability to admit mistakes. Whether the mistakes most important are recognized as recent or more distant will play an important role sooner rather than later.
COMING HOME TO ROOST [link] France's role as a terre d'immigration in the history of migration movements from both within and without Europe has been significant. . . . It is something of a paradox that while most European countries in the postwar period were withdrawing from their former colonies in Africa and Asia and creating closer political and economic links with other European countries, the trend in migration movements as the opposite. France began to receive fewer and fewer immigrants from Europe and more and more from its former colonies in north and Sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. Colonialism created the most effective channel for migration movements into France. As the major colonial power after Britain, France could call on a potential workforce from what is called the Maghreb (North-West Africa: Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia . . .
THE HERETIK UNDERSTANDS the French will fight the symptoms of unrest and address the French model as policy. Whether a larger debate about colonialism and empire emerges is doubtful.
MARGINALIZED [AP] Years ago, France welcomed their parents as labor, often to do menial jobs most French did not want, they noted. And now, there are no jobs _ or no one willing to give them one, they said. . . .None of the youths said they have participated in arson attacks, but their sympathies are clearly with the rioters . . ."The 'elders' of the projects have tried to calm us down, but we don't care," said 20-year-old Karim . . . The target of their rage is Sarkozy, who angered many in the suburbs by calling neighborhood toughs "scum." "Before it was a gang warfare between different projects. Sarkozy's given us a common target _ the government," said Karim.
THE HERETIK SUSPECTS if the current underclass suspects a quick fix is in on a solution to their problem, the French are fixed for yet more problems in the future.
OTHER NOTABLE VIEWS FROM RIOT TO REVOLUTION? [Captain Ed] On the eleventh night of spreading and intensifying violence, French rioters shifted tactics as the French finally began to respond. Last night, the mainly Muslim rioters fired on French police, wounding 30 and transforming the unrest into something more overt . . . The police union has thrown in the towel and demanded that the Army supercede its own officers in enforcing the law. That voluntary surrender of privilege speaks volumes about the morale of French police and their willingness to participate in Nicolas Sarkozy's efforts to re-establish a rule of law in the so-called no-go areas in France -- areas which have expanded exponentially over the past twelve days. And what of this fatwa and the "official suggestions" that Islamists have led this unrest from its inception? The American media have studiously ignored any such suggestions.
THE HERETIK ACKNOWLEGES some see this as a far more broad Islamist rebellion on the edge of subverting order in society. Shifting tactics presumes the unrest responds to some central command. The Heretik sees inequality with a Muslim population for once a the center of discussion for a solution. With the conflict cast in such dramatic terms (riot or revolution?) here and in France, the larger question is whether the riot will be quelled and order restored, or whether there will be a revolution in how immigres are perceived in France, as well as the rest of Europe. The problem presented in fire each night is broad. The world will be watching to see how France negotiates the narrows.
FRANCE GOES from land of culture to kulture kampf in a fortnight. The bright color of France now takes more somber black and white hues, amidst the hue and cry for justice and the clamor for control [Spiegel]
A spokesman for the police officers' union is calling for the government to bring in the military. And all this against the backdrop of concrete walls covered in brightly painted murals, the work of local children in a program sponsored by the mayor's office.
PROGRAMS FAIL and now bullets may fly. Nicolas Sarkozy shot off his mouth. Now the French will need a shot of more than cognac if a polite café society is ever to see the light of day again in the luminous City of Light Paris. Quite clearly words fall by the wayside.
Clichy-sous-Bois serves as evidence that the French route of soft integration has failed miserably. Of what use is education when there are no jobs? The hardnosed approach French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has taken has only made matters worse. And when Sarkozy, who has ambitions of becoming France's president, called the youth gangs "scum" and "riffraff" who must be dealt with severely, he was only adding fuel to the fire.
THE START OF TROUBLE is literally shocking. And it is testament to reality that what people believe is true is all important. True or false, perception trumps reality.
On October 27, two local teenagers died in circumstances that have yet to be clarified. They had been running from the police, it is said -- although officials have since denied this was the case -- and they ended up in a dead-end alley at the end of which was an electricity substation. The warning sign Mayor Dilain had had affixed to the building's entrance -- featuring comic book characters for the area's youth -- was no deterrent to 15-year-old Banou from Mali and his 17-year-old Tunisian friend, Ziad. They were electrocuted to death. A third boy survived but was seriously injured. A rumor that the police had driven the two boys to their deaths quickly began to spread.
FRANCE STANDS on edge, unalone. The rest of Europe with significant minority popluations, with similar lack of success in integrating people to culture may soon have a kampf as well. PREVIOUS RELATED HERETIK POSTS [Copy That] [City of Light on Fire] [The Inferno]
A SMALL DETAILThe term immigré as it is used in France refers not just to recent immigrants but also to men and women of ethnic origins who have spent all their life in France and, in many cases, have been born there. Interestingly, the term is rarely used to describe immigrants, or their children, of European descent (Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, Belgians, Poles etc.) and is mainly applied to those from North and Sub-Saharan Africa and from South-East Asia. [link]
THE HERETIK RESPECTS language. Language, its proper use, its terms we apply to others are the cacaphonous collision of cultures. We war with words as surely as we do with weapons of more mass destruction. If one wishes to find a metaphor for how France ended where it has, consider the French language and its war on things unFrench.
FRENCH MAY NOT BE "anglicized" or bastardized. It must remain as "French" as possible, a linquistic clue to the French imperial mind, an empire lost in lands, a wish that yet remains vestigial in words.
THE SHOCK OF THE NEW voice of underclass discontent may shout over Europe. What started in stone throwing and flames may be a sonic boom as those told to assimilate assume more assuredly an identity their own as cars and opinions burn in Paris. [story]
France's national police chief warned Monday that a "shock wave is spreading across the country" as rioting intensified in cities throughout France during an eleventh night of violence. Officials from neighboring countries expressed concern that the unrest could leap across international borders. . . . "We are witnessing a sort of shock wave that is spreading across the country," police chief Gaudin said, adding that the violence seemed to be subsiding slightly in the Paris suburbs as it worsening elsewhere in France. He said police made 395 arrests in connection with the unrest Sunday night.
THE POWER OF THE INTERNET and television are blamed for the “copycat” effect. The original cause now clearly is lost. More than just the death of two Muslim boys fleeing police is driving this. Is this some Spiritus Mundi?
"What do you expect?" said Paul Merault, a police spokesman interviewed by telephone in the southwestern city of Toulouse, where bands of youths set fire to 50 cars Saturday night. "For the last 10 days these kids have been watching TV, and naturally there is a copycat effect, a desire to imitate what they see on the screen."
SOME CLAIM a clear connection to the politics of the Middle East here. But much of this problem is French and homegrown. Politics may be global, but the French must act locally. Now.
ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING COLOR BLIND? [Times Online] Under the ethnically colour-blind “French model”, the immigrant workers who came in the 1950s and 1960s from the former colonies in North and black Africa were to be regarded as equal citizens. They and their descendants would take advantage of the education system and generous welfare state to assimilate with “white” France. To promote the idea of assimilation, neither the State nor any other body publishes statistics on ethnic or national origin. In practice, France turned its back on the minorities, shunting them into suburban cités denying access to the so-called ascenseur social (social elevator) that was supposed to lift immigrants into the mainstream. Unemployment on the estates is up to three times the 10 per cent national average. Laws supposed to promote integration and oppose multiculturalism, such as the ban on Muslim headwear in schools, have often heightened resentment and the feeling of exclusion. This has in turn fed the rise of Muslim radicalism, which has now become the dominant creed of the young in the French ghettos.
THE HERETIK SEES that while the French have claimed to be color blind, the reality is they have looked more to the ideals on paper for success and been blind to realities on the street.
A KEY EXCERPT THE FRENCH MODEL [link] Academics and policy-makers in France share a certain way of conceptualizing immigration that is differs fundamentally from what we might loosely call the Anglo- American model. For many French politicians, demographers, social scientists and commentators, the concept of ethnic minorities is an unacceptable Americanism. It opposes the French republican or, as it is sometimes called, the Jacobin tradition, of assimilation and is considered by many, as a euphemism for ghettoization or a kind of `soft apartheid'. A key strand within the republican/Jacobin tradition in France has been the assimilation of regional and ethnic differences to a unitary idea of Frenchness and French citizenship. French national identity should ideally take precedence over other forms of ethnic, linguistic or religious identification. The key concept here is assimilation: the immigrant takes on a French identity and becomes a full French citizen in the process.
THE HERETIK NOTES “minority,” while small possesses the strength of identity, which is lost in assimilation. Assimilation, by its nature, presumes the larger majority superior. Here is the root of the problem. The "minority" doesn't want nor will accept being a faded copy of anything else.
COULD IT HAPPEN HERE? [Iddybud] This new trend of Westen governments summarily stripping people of their citizenship and smothering their freedom of speech is going to reinforce an already-growing image of Western elitism in the Middle Eastern world that will weaken the war of Western ideas and strengthen the cause of extremists . . . France's failure to ensure the social mobility of ethnic minorities is a likely contributor to their current troubles. The growing appeal of radical Islam is another major contributor. America is not immune from either of these factors - especially with the economic and foreign policies promoted by the current presidential administration and the Republican leadership that has blindly supported those policies. We've made big cultural strides - backwards - for the past five years. We're inviting what we see happening in France today, but it's not too late to find our vision and to once again show this world how to lead - instead of following them down the path of sure failure.
THE HERETIK AGREES and sees a larger problem with government that strip the rights of citizenship and muffle free speech. At some point more than minorities in Europe and immigrants here affected by the Patriot Act will do more than just speak up.
PARIS CONTINUES to be lit by car fires and buildings are ablaze too. Ten cops were hit by shotgun blasts. Retribution flames higher than reconciliation in the current atmosphere. [story]
Rioters fired shotguns at the police in a working-class suburb of Paris on Sunday, wounding 10 officers as the country's fast-spreading urban unrest escalated dangerously. Just hours earlier, President Jacques Chirac called an emergency meeting of top security officials and promised increased police pressure to confront the violence. . . . "This is just the beginning," said Moussa Diallo, 22, a tall, unemployed French-African man in Clichy-sous-Bois, the working-class Parisian suburb where the violence started Oct. 27. "It's not going to end until there are two policemen dead."
He was referring to the two teenage boys, one of Mauritanian origin and the other of Tunisian origin, whose accidental deaths while hiding from the police touched off the unrest, reflecting longstanding anger among many immigrant families here over joblessness and other hardships.
THE FLAMES SMOLDER and relight across the northe and south. [story]
There were 95 arrests last night and at least 530 cars were set alight across the country. On Saturday, at least 1,300 vehicles were burnt from Lille in the North to Montpellier on the Mediterranean, including more than 30 vehicles in the Place de la République and the 17th arrondissement in Paris.
NICOLAS SARKOZY has become a flash point for blame. Sarkozy is a walk tough, talk tough type.
MPs in M Chirac’s Union for a Popular Movement have questioned President’s delay in speaking. François Hollande, leader of the Socialist Opposition, said that M Chirac’s entire Government was in question. The violence is widely blamed on the harsh rhetoric and tactics of Nicolas Sarkozy, the Interior MP minister and UMP leader.
LIBERTE, FRATERNITE EGALITE is taking a beating in France this week. On the immigrant Muslim side, egalite is getting the worst of it.
ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING MORE ON SARKO [Business Week] Sarkozy, 49, is France's most popular politician, and looks more and more like the man to beat in the 2007 Presidential election. In a center-right government that has been slow to deliver on promises, Sarkozy stands out for fast action, from putting more policemen on the streets to crafting a plan to save French engineering company Alstom from bankruptcy. "He's the only person able to make things move in France today," says Nicolas Baverez, author of the best-seller France in Decline. "Sarko," as he's widely known, is a new breed of French politician. Dynamic and unabashedly ambitious, he puts pragmatism ahead of ideology, taking his case directly to the public. Sarkozy's ascent is all the more remarkable because President Jacques Chirac has tried to block his path.
THE HERETIK NOTES a new breed of politician, an old bred culture in conflict with a new wave of immigrants. How The Immigrant is embraced, if at all determines if progress comes at arms length
SEEDS OF CONFLICT [International Journal for Peace Studies] The first incident that sent ripples across French national life occurred on 22 October 1989, when thousands of Muslims staged a demonstration in Paris in support of the Muslim girls who were expelled from their school, Gabriel-Havez Secondary School in Criel, for wearing the head scarf. French Education Minister Francois Bayrou had introduced a regulation banning the wearing of "ostentatious religious insignia" in French schools. The demonstrators protested against the decision of the French Ministry of Education. The incident stirred reaction in other cities in France and neighboring European countries.
THE HERETIK KNOWS a minority population whose integral religious markers are treated as ostentatious at some point will make a show of its displeasure.
IDENTITY AND ISLAM [WSJ] Every night, Magid and fellow members of the Tabligh sect of Islam fan out across the grim projects of this poor, immigrant suburb of Paris and try to talk some sense into the angry young men who have been setting it ablaze. "We tell them: 'if you're violent, you're no longer a Muslim. Islam is moving away from you,' " says Magid, who sports a skullcap and a long, curly red beard. The 31-year-old declines to give his last name for fear of drawing government scrutiny. "When they hear that, they usually feel alone and they calm down." As France enters its 12th night of rioting, Islamic organizations like the Tabligh, which originated in the 1920s in India, stand to benefit from the unrest and emerge strengthened from it. The Tabligh advocates a strict adherence to Islam but also a disengagement from society. . . . These groups don't preach violence, but they do advocate something that is troubling Europe's secular democracies: that Muslims should identify themselves with their religion rather than as citizens.
THE HERETIK KNOWS the power of identity gives worth to those who are told they are worthless. The new strength of the formerly week can cleave the society of the previously strong. Societies that benefit from the contributions of the underpaid and the ignored pay a higher price if wait until the crisis point to pay any attention at all.
THE STAKES NOW are higher with every night the flames grow. Days of reckoning are upon The Republic, challenging its principles. Some like Sarko will say some have had too much liberte. Fraternite may be a memory if Muslims are not grasped as brothers and sisters. And egalite is an ideal more than a reality.
THOSE IN POWER will view any concession as a weakness. The powerless will take what they can in the moment, with hope for something more solid in the future burning in the flames of the present.
ALSO RECOMMENDED LETTER FROM EUROPE [NY Times] The French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, was booed and whistled at when he said at the annual conference of one of this country's most important Muslim groups last month [April 2003] that Muslim women would have to go bareheaded when posing for pictures for their identity cards. He did not seem to notice -- or perhaps chose to ignore -- that a vast majority of the women in the audience were wearing head scarves.
LAYING DOWN THE LAW [The Astute Blogger] The French ineffectiveness here - as in the Ivory Coast, and elsewhere has fed the flames. And Chirac's threat to arrest the perp and make them serve jail time is panzy-assed nonsense: French prisons are a hotbed of islamism already; anyone they send there will come out worse. They need to be ruthless. It will send the right signal: "don't mess with us." Anything short of that just invites further escalation. BTW: I used the word insurrection (above) on purpose: this intifada is a direct threat to the rule of law and the economy of France. Chirac must come to realize that "it's us or them" and the "us" ain' his UMP but French/European France.
THE HERETIK NOTES The Astute Blogger hosts "The No Nuance Zone" and no nuance is known, zone. Here we have some serious Conrad "Heart of Darkness" Exterminate the Brutes! Kurtzian kill joy. Oy.
EXTERMINATE EXPEL THE BRUTES [BBC] French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed to deport any Muslim cleric preaching violence. Speaking after meeting his Spanish counterpart in Madrid, Mr Sarkozy said he would seek the expulsion of imams in France "whose sermons are radical". [via Iddybud]
TWO MUSLIMS YOUTHS DIE fleeing police and now France is on fire. The cinders from one blaze spread across the nation. Over three thousand vehicles have been set on fire. The scene sounds like Giuliani’s New York, New York shoot first Westworld with the worst parts of a Super Bowl celebration. Serious analysis of the situation ranges from the demographics of guest workers and and a French intolerance for Muslims going back to colonial days on one side and the beginning of the last Crusade on the other. [story]
Rioting broke out for the 11th consecutive night in France tonight, just hours after the French government met in special session to try to find a way to stem the increasingly violent disturbances that have now swept into the heart of Paris from suburbs with large Arab and African populations. . . . Mr. Chirac is under growing political and popular pressure to stop the rioting, which has spread to towns across France and resulted in at least 800 arrests, including of boys as young as 13.
WHAT IS CLEAR is that fires are burning all across France. What is less certain is when they will end, what continues to fuel them, and what they mean. The initial spark of the story, of two youths dying, has been lost in the great conflagration. More than a few commenters on the right have derided the term “youth” for those who act now setting fires. Protester against oppression, lawless hooligans, or the advancing army of Allah, subverting security in the suburbs of Paris one car fire at a time?
GRAND MANICHAEAN SCHEMES suit some, usually when they wear the white in the battle of light and darkness. Those who would wear the white both fear and must vanquish The Other. The Other is chaos come to rain ruin on the reigning home team. Those who see the world in black and white deny tones of gray, not to mention a population of many colors, even in Europe.
THE EUROPE OF NATION states is but a recent creation. The European Union is economic, not a time of campfire Kumbaya. Identity in France and the Continent is often a small minded, small town thing. Don’t trust the stranger from the next town over is not an oversimplification. The reality now is for the French, colonial chickens come home to roost.
RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL READING WAKE UP, EUROPE [Mark Steyn/Chicago Sun Times] Today, a fearless Muslim advance has penetrated far deeper into Europe than Abd al-Rahman. They're in Brussels, where Belgian police officers are advised not to be seen drinking coffee in public during Ramadan, and in Malmo, where Swedish ambulance drivers will not go without police escort. It's way too late to rerun the Battle of Poitiers. In the no-go suburbs, even before these current riots, 9,000 police cars had been stoned by ''French youths'' since the beginning of the year; some three dozen cars are set alight even on a quiet night. ''There's a civil war under way in Clichy-sous-Bois at the moment,'' said Michel Thooris of the gendarmes' trade union Action Police CFTC. ''We can no longer withstand this situation on our own. My colleagues neither have the equipment nor the practical or theoretical training for street fighting.'
THE HERETIK HEARS the faint echoes of Paris 1968. Will it be a time of a street fighting man? Who will have sympathy for the devil? The Heretik apologizes for thinking these fires are more than a jumping jack flash in the pan. Something slouches toward Paris. What is the mark of the beast? Is there hysteria in the high flames and when will the heretics burn?
HERE COMES THE MUSLIM INTIFADA [Captain Ed] Violent riots in France have spread throughout the nation and now have crossed into Paris proper after remaining on the outskirts for ten days. The police have not yet shown any ability to contain the rioting, nor has the government come up with much of a strategy to oppose the escalation of the arson and protest. Last night's violence generated the most destruction yet, including a the loss of a police station to firebombers
THE HERETIK NOTES violence, reaction, and rhetoric all will rise along all fronts in the coming days until the French government deals with The Problem. Just what the problem is and how it is best solved will no doubt be a battle at the barricades down the block.
UPDATE [CNN] "The absolute priority is to reestablish security and public order," Chirac told the nation Sunday after emerging from an emergency meeting with top members of his Cabinet. . . . . "The law should have the final say, and the republic is determined to be stronger than those who want spread violence and fear. Those people will be apprehended, judged and punished." As he spoke, increased security efforts were already visible in the capital, where thousands more police were in the streets and helicopters hovered overhead. Chirac also said he also wants to address what some observers have blamed as the cause -- unemployment as high as 50 percent among the nation's poor immigrant youth and discrimination against them.
DARK VICTORY? [Blogoland] I'm struck by the unrestrainedglee emanating from rightybloggers over the rioting in France this past week. For instance, this is just one of many, but InstaPundit links to a blogger who bizarrely declares: "The current intifada in France has stripped the American Left of its second Utopia in a generation. The Left lost its earlier worldly utopia when the Soviet Union fell apart." Are they kidding? [via The Green Knight]
THE HERETIK DECLARES hail and hosannas, high times and the apocalypse must be upon us. Or not.
THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE [Tim F/Balloon Juice] In pundit circles these are fat times for people selling an eternal struggle between the enlightened West and Islamic darkness, a la LGF. That line seems to have some takers among the French themselves, or at least the not-very-popular French president Prime Minister Villepin, but I’d argue that taking that attitude is not just wrong but dangerously wrong. Let’s go back to Tim F’s First Law: In the context of a debate, calling another’s motivations ‘evil’ should be considered synonymous with, ‘I don’t understand and am too lazy to find out.’ Going by my law, people like Villepin who use simplistic pejoratives to describe their antagonists fail to understand them and, by failing to understand them, practically guarantee that they’ll lose. If a substantial minority of the French population decides that society and its laws offer them no hope of addressing their grievances, they will look elsewhere for a solution. That’s how short-term riots can descend into a neverending guerilla war, an Algeria fought within France itself. The key, in my view, is that these riots are happening not because the rioters are muslim, but because they’re French.
THE HERETIK SEES The Other is the person looking back at you in the mirror you don’t recognize yet. The Eternal Struggle lies within.