Monday, November 07, 2005


French Riots and Islam

It's interesting to see the attempts to tie the riots in France to Islam, as the Washington Times did with it's Friday lead headline "Muslim Youths Battle Paris Police." Similarly, I was listening to NPR yesterday and they were bringing on Fuad Ajami to talk about the French unrest. Ask yourselves why one would want the opinion of Fuad Ajami (whose scholarship is on Lebanon, especially the Shia of Lebanon, and who on his website lists the following as areas of expertise: Middle East; Persian Gulf; Iran; Iraq; OPEC; international relations; Islamic religion, culture and law) on what is going on IN FRANCE!!! Would it not be useful to have somebody who knows very well the situation in France, who is knowledgable on the social and economic conditions of the Parisian suburbs, of the tensions between the residents of the housing projects and the police, between these residents and the government, the issues specific to immigrant communities in France. And yet, because many of the immigrants living in the housing projects happen to be Muslim, NPR can ask anybody who bills themselves as a "Middle East" expert, and he or she can make some generalizations, and it is reinforced that there is some fundamental character of Islamic culture that leads to violence, and so on.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports:
The country's biggest Muslim fundamentalist organisation, the Union for Islamic Organisations of France, issued a fatwa forbidding those "who seek divine grace from taking part in any action that blindly strikes private or public property or can harm others".
And yet the rioting continues? But I thought all we had to do was ask Muslim organizations to condemn something and that would be that (or so I gathered from reading Tom Friedman's drivel). Perhaps this isn't about Islam after all. Perhaps it has something to do with the inequitable treatment of immigrants in France (and Europe more generally).
"These are young people who are generally resigned, they face discrimination everywhere, for housing and work, and their malaise gets expressed in violence," said Ahmed Touabi, principal of an elementary school in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil. The troublemakers "feel rejected by France, and they want to spit on France."
Hmmm... I wonder how being called "scum" by a major political figure would lead one to feel rejected? One scary thing is that this isn't limited to France, and indeed there were incidents in Brussels and Berlin over the weekend.

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