Sunday, November 06, 2005

Riots: Is Paris Burning? No, But France Is

From the latest edition of Newsweek International. (A shorter version is running in the U.S. edition):

Newsweek International: The Fire This Time, 6 Nov 2005
Years of racism and neglect explode in a week of riots across France's mostly Muslim immigrant ghettos.

By Christopher Dickey
Newsweek International
Nov. 14, 2005 issue - Word of the deaths spread quickly through Clichy-sous-Bois, a grim collection of housing projects an hour by train and bus from the center of Paris. Two teenage boys had been electrocuted while trying to hide near a transformer. Rumor said they were running from police. Soon, dozens of angry young men came from the soulless high-rises looking for cops to fight and cars to burn on streets named, as it happens, for heroes of French culture: Boulevard Emile Zola, Allee Albert Camus, Rue Picasso. Dead white men. "It's Baghdad here," the rioters shouted. By the end of that first night, Oct. 27, police would count 15 cars torched and six arrests. No firefighters or cops were injured and authorities claimed the situation was stabilized. But they were very wrong.

Night after night last week rage spread through the ghettos that ring Paris, then beyond—to the slums of Dijon in Burgundy, Rouen in Normandy, Toulouse, Rennes, Marseilles. When, on the fourth night, a tear-gas canister exploded near the entrance to a warehouselike mosque in Clichy-sous-Bois, forcing hundreds of worshipers to flee barefoot and gagging into Place Anatole France, a new cry went up from the vandals. "Now this is war," said one. Others cried "jihad."

It was neither, in fact, and the Paris known to tourists was not burning. It was far from the city center that cars and dumpsters were incinerated, buses attacked with Molotov cocktails and hundreds of arrests made. Police said gangs were increasingly organized, using the Internet and cell-phone text messages to coordinate. Dozens of people were injured and shots were fired at police; on Friday night alone nearly 900 cars were torched nationwide. But at the weekend, no one had been killed. The Los Angeles riots of 1992, by contrast, claimed the lives of more than 50 people.

What has shaken the French government, and badly, is its continued inability to contain the metastasizing anger spreading through the country's many predominantly Muslim ghettos. Like a Middle Eastern intifada, the violence is stripping away whatever comfortable assumptions existed about the authorities' ability to cope. Decades of French policies intended to force the integration of immigrants and their children into French society are seen to have failed, and in the age of terror, the fear is that rage like this will swell the ranks of radical Islamists in the heart of Europe. For years, itinerant preachers have moved through these same communities recruiting for holy wars in Bosnia, Chechnya and now Iraq, where a few young French Muslims have gone to die as suicide bombers. Madrid and London have shown what happens when that sort of fury is turned inward. ...

Also worth a look is Tracy McNicoll's onscener from earlier in the week.

Eric Pape, Marie Valla, Carla Power, Tracy and I have written a great deal about Muslims in Europe over the last few years. Some of the more interesting and useful articles:

Newsweek Intl: Immigration: At the Gates, 16 Oct 2005
As the European Union expands, it's coming face to face with the new world.

Newsweek: Jihad Express, 13 Mar 2005
For Islamic Militants in Europe, Iraq far outshines Afghanistan as an urban-terrorism training ground

Newsweek Intl: The New Crusade, 1 Nov 2004
Fighting for God in a secular Europe, conservative Christians, the Vatican and Islamic militants finda a common cause.

Newsweek Intl: Europe's Southern Shadow, 11 Oct 2004
Immigration from North Africa is the problem of the coming decade

Newsweek Intl: The Return of Hate, 1 Mar 2004
Anti-Semitism, fueled by an angry minority, is on the rise. But the real problem is that no one seems to care.

Newsweek Intl: Generation M, 1 Dec 2003
Europe: A young generation of homegrown Muslims is challenging the region’s self-image

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