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But who to surrender to?

November 9 2005 at 10:43 PM
Octopus  (no login)
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Response to The backlash has already begun...

Such a dilemma, faces de Villepin and Chiraq!

Couldn't happen to a nicer people, I have to admit. Who doesn't love the polite, gracious, unassuming French? I mean, besides everyone?

November 9, 2005
Why the Islamists May Succeed in France
By Jack Kelly

As the French intifada spreads into its second week and across the country, the French government has a dilemma. To whom does it surrender?

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin -- whose name may one day be as synonymous with appeasement as Petain's is with collaboration -- would like to make a deal. His problem is finding Muslim "community leaders" who can stop the rioting. In communities where law and order are absent, it is thugs with guns who are in charge, not the voices of moderation, such as they are.

The rioting began Oct. 27th in the Paris suburb of Clichy sus Bois when two Muslim teenagers sought to hide from police in an electric power substation and accidentally electrocuted themselves. It has since spread to other Paris suburbs, to Paris itself, and now to dozens of other cities. The remarkable thing about the spark that set off the rioting is that there were police in Clichy sus Bois for the youths to flee from.

About ten percent of France's population are Muslims. The overwhelming majority live in concrete ghettoes like Clichy sus Bois, which the police as well as ordinary Frenchmen tend to treat as "no go" areas. The result is these ghettoes are largely under the control of criminal gangs and religious extremists.

The news media have gone to considerable lengths to avoid mentioning the rioters are mostly Muslim, or to report that there is an anti-Western component to the violence. The rioters typically have been described as "French youths" who are upset by high unemployment and racial discrimination. But these youths are French only in the sense that most were born there. Many don't even speak French. Their alienation from the culture and mores of the country in which they live could hardly be greater.

Unemployment is high in France. At ten percent, it is double what it is in the United States, and is especially high among young people with little education who speak French with difficulty. This would seem to suggest that France's welfare state model is less desirable to follow than many American liberals believe.

The discovery Saturday of a large Molotov cocktail factory in a southern suburb far from Clichy sus Bois suggests the violence is not spontaneous. But if it is jobs the rioters are after, it must be as automobile workers, because the principal tactic of the rioters has been to torch cars, along with nursery schools and the occasional police station.

A commenter on the Web log "Belmont Club" thinks this focus is a clever form of brinkmanship. Car burning is spectacular, but not serious enough to provoke lethal force, especially from a French government loathe to use it.

The tactics used by the rioters "bear an eerie resemblance" to those used by Chechen rebels against the Russians in Grozny, said Richard Fernandez, proprietor of the Belmont Club. The French respond slowly and with little force to the hit and run tactics, so the violence spreads wider as contempt for the authorities grows.

Most of the rioters are petty criminals. But others seek de jure recognition of a de facto partition of France that's been under way for some time. "Some are even calling for areas where Muslims form a majority of the population to be reorganized on the basis of the millet system of the Ottoman Empire," wrote Amir Taheri, who lives in Paris. "Each religious community (millet) would enjoy the right to organize its social, cultural and educational life in accordance with its religious beliefs."

A de facto millet system already is in place in parts of France, Taheri noted: "In these areas, all women are obliged to wear the standardized Islamist hijab while most men grow their beards to the lengths prescribed by the sheiks."

Unless the invertebrates in charge can grow spines, France seems poised to become what Spain was before Ferdinand and Isabella, a patchwork of principalities where Moors ruled some communities, Christians others, with constant tension between them. It seems inconceivable that a civilized Western nation would bargain away to a handful of thugs its democratic principles and sovereignty over much of its territory.

But the Islamists may well succeed. For though what the Islamists believe in is vile and reactionary, it is something. The French believe in nothing.

Jack Kelly is national security columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Blade of Toledo, Ohio.

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