It is clear that radical Islam played the main protagonist in the Paris riots. Yet some critics have defensively proclaimed that the riots, and the French crisis upon us, is not about Islam. But then the question must be asked: what is the crisis about? If it isn’t about Islam, then why didn’t the riots involve all other minorities in France, such as Asians? Indeed, why were the rioters all Arabs and Muslims who screamed "Allah Akbar" as they destroyed public property and set it aflame?
To discuss these and other questions with us today, Frontpage Symposium has assembled a distinguished panel. Our guests today are:
Mohamed Ibn Guadi, an Islamologist at Strasbourg University and a researcher in Semitic Philology. He is a contributor to Figaro, Le Point and other journals. He has lectured at the Theological Seminary of Montpellier (France) in Islamic Law and Islamic Warfare during the Abbasside empire at Fez (Morocco) and has taught Persian, Arabic, Sumerian and other Semitic languages in Switzerland. Dr. Hans-Peter Raddatz, a scholar of Islamic Studies and author of Von Allah zum Terror? Der Djihad und die Deformierung des Westens (From Allah to Terror? Jihad and the Western Deformation).Olivier Guitta, a Washington DC based consultant on European, Middle Eastern affairs, and terrorism. And Nidra Poller, an American novelist who has been living in Paris since 1972, where she writes with equal ease in both English and French. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin (1956 BA, History) and Johns Hopkins University (1969, MLA, Writing Seminars). Since the outbreak of the jihad-intifada in Israel in September 2000, she has been using her skill in the art of the novel to observe and analyze current events.
FP: Olivier Guitta, Mohamed Ibn Guadi, Nidra Poller, Michel Gurfinkiel and Dr. Hans-Peter Raddatz, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
Mr. Guitta, let us begin with you. Let’s begin with a simple question: have the chickens come home to roost for les Francais?
Guitta: Yes Jamie, they indeed have. But in my opinion, the recent riots in French suburbs are just the tip of the iceberg and we can expect future chaos in France.
The writing has been on the wall for at least fifteen years, but has been totally ignored by successive French governments whether from the left or the right. Indeed as early as 1990, when one of the first grave riots erupted in the Lyon’s suburb of Vaulx-en-Velin, the Renseignements Généraux – a unit of the French police- started warning the different administrations about the ever-increasing violence in these suburbs, which have become no man’s lands, the soaring radicalization of young elements of the Muslim community and the potential for home-grown terrorism.
Ex-Prime Minister Socialist Lionel Jospin used to say that he did not want to read these reports because they depressed him too much. Obviously, most French political leaders were hoping that by turning a blind eye, the problems of immigration, integration and Radical Islam would go away. But as the world witnessed, they were so wrong.
To be perfectly honest, France has tried one thing to solve these issues: money. Indeed, appeasing with money has been the name of the game: after showering the suburbs with billions of dollars in the 1990’s, the latest plan put in place way before this recent wave of violence calls for a 36 Billion USD help over the next five years for these suburbs.
But this is not going to have any effect on the roots of the problem. Most of the press has explained the revolt as a refusal of the French state to integrate this mostly Muslim population. But not a lot of commentators have pointed out the fact that some Muslim youths do not want to integrate because they don’t consider themselves French (even if they hold French citizenship) but first and foremost Muslim. This state of mind is the result of the work of organizations such as the French branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, UOIF (Union des Organisations Islamiques de France), the Tabligh and people like Swiss Islamist Tariq Ramadan.
FP: So we have critics denouncing France for not assimilating a population that does not want to be assimilated. Wonderful. So if certain groups do not want to assimilate and have contempt for multiculturalism, why should Western societies take them in? And another thing: if these immigrants to France hate France so much and do not want to assimilate into French society, why do they remain in France? Why don’t they go home to their home societies? Ms. Poller?
Poller: The problem Jamie is that most of these “immigrants” were born in France. Many of them are third generation. It is impossible to understand what is happening in Europe today without asking why these enraged young men, most of them born in France, are called “immigrants.” The common assumption is that a harsh inhospitable French society refuses to integrate them. And this supposedly explains their anger, and their anger justifies their violence and, according to that logic, the solution is to reshape French society in such a way that their presence will be evenly distributed on all levels, frustration will give way to satisfaction, and healthy conflict will open the way to harmony.
In fact there is a blueprint for harmonious relations between these “immigrants” and the host European countries. Its name is “Eurabia.” And its aim is not integration but fusion of European and Muslim societies, under cover of something that sounds like a lovely conversation: the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue.
In the heart of this Euro-Mediterranean dialogue, which in fact concerns Muslims, not Mediterranean, countries, immigrants become an ethnic group. The status of immigrants is maintained from generation to generation. It is a privileged status that offers surplus rights and reduced responsibilities.
Of course blueprints are simplifications, and in reality millions of Muslims have settled in Europe for myriad, essentially personal reasons. At the same time they are acting in response to willful geopolitical projects, planned by elites and transformed into incentives, enticement, and other types of pressure.
The Euro-Mediterranean dialogue is exploding in the faces of French people today. I agree with Olivier—the recent insurrection is just the beginning of very serious trouble. It has been building for decades, and rapidly accelerating since the fall of 2000 when the first pro-Palestinian demonstrations resounded with cries of “Death to the Jews.” Over the past five years, France’s public image has been draped in white togas of purity. The government boasts of its virtues. The media act like griots, singing the praises of France without borders, without violence, without enemies—except perhaps for Israel, the US, and Great Britain. France has posed as the prince of peaceful conflict resolution.
Behind this smokescreen, terrible violence has been churning and bubbling. French society is totally unprepared to even acknowledge what is happening. The government is ineffectual. And it will only get worse. Because the reaction to this first big outburst has been to thicken the smokescreen.
By pretending that everything can be settled by dialogue, by demonizing the Israeli and American governments for responding to attacks by defending themselves with vigorous military action, by denying that evils exist and must be confronted within French society, the government and its willing intellectuals have placed citizens in an impossible situation of crippled sovereignty. If the police can’t protect them, what shall they do? Stand naked before mob violence? After all, they’re French, not immigrants. They can’t go back home.
FP: This sounds like an irresolvable nightmare. Dr. Guadi?
Guadi: Yes, more or less. The immigration problem has evolved over several decades. But there is an obvious contradiction in the French system. France does not recognize the ethnicity of these young Moslems and Africans. The French feel that if they were born in France, they are French and that person should speak French, not Arabic or African. This is understandable from a certain point of view. On the other hand, the government allows these people to have dual nationality including the country from which their parents arrived. How can they maintain allegiance to France while lending allegiance to another country which they never knew and don’t speak the language of? I believe that France, unfortunately, did not think sufficiently about these problems.
Many Arabs who left their countries in the sixties for France still have a permanent resident card (permit equivalent to the Green Card). For 40 years these people have lived in France with this permit without knowing the French language and never expressed the desire to obtain French citizenship. The problem it is that they had children who were born in France. In addition, much of these people about which I speak are not necessarily religious Moslems.
The problem is also the fact that French society has a very bad image of itself. Immigrants or not, the French people are in a crisis with themselves. A crisis of identity. Being French today does not have the same significance as it once did. I do not think that all these issues will be solved in the years to come. The evolution of the French society is such that it will still be a few decades before the French policy of integration is modified. The system has become ideological. People do not accept it yet that their country is multi-ethnic.
Moreover, in a country like France where the religious tradition has almost entirely disappeared from all the layers of society, it is normal that Islam fills the spiritual gap.
FP: So in some ways there is a yearning for something spiritual and militant Islam is filling that void in French society?
(To read the answer)