Sunday, November 06, 2005

Riots in France

Of local interest is the fact that one of the two teenage boys who died in the power station was of Mauritanian origin. More substantively, I've been scanning the stories every day to see when the riots hit Marseilles. So far they have not. This fact strikes me as somewhat important for Marseilles has always been swarthier than the rest of France in virtue of being a port city. And has presumably done a better job of integrating immigrants. If the immigrant community in Marseilles riots, then you know that the French social model is hopelessly flawed because the most open city would have failed to make it work.

Addendum: It should be noted that the French government seems not to recognize the fact that something is wrong. See, for example, this op-ed in Le Monde by Sarkozy which just repeats the argument that we all benefit from security and so we should never question the need for more. Surely there is a place for law enforcement in this, but for all the official rhetoric to concern nothing but security is rather sad.

UpdateDamn, Le Monde is not the best source for news on France. The Guardian reports that there are riots in Marseilles. France is troubled.


Anonymous dick said...

While something may be wrong with France (may?) there is, in my opinion, something VERY wrong with Islam. It seems, more and more, when Islam meets the West, that the intransigence of Islam and the primitive character of its tenets do not harmonize with cultures other than Islamic. When one culture has been in neutral for for centuries and the other has gone-through-the-gears, then there is little in common other than the need for space. France and Islam have both failed to blend, it appears, and the reasons are at once complex and evident. If Islam wants to be part of the gang, then they must flex; but according to their religious laws, there is no room to flex for they know the only and the right path.
My fear is that events in recent history are but the tip of the cultural collision to come.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Isaac said...

I don't know. I'd say it has everything to do with France being very bad at integrating immigrant groups and the current Arab population in France being the largest immigrant group ever. Plus, 100 years ago immigrating meant breaking most ties with home because of communicating. But now there are still tighter links. This has to effect the dynamic.

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Angelica said...

We have to be careful when we talk about the 'intransigence of Islam' as if intransigence is a built-in, unchangable feature of the religion. It is not. If you want to talk blithly of 'centuries' ago, you will find that the Ottoman empire was exceptional in its tolerance of Christians and Jews within their communities, while European countries of the day were cauldrons of simmering religious hatred.
So what changed? Well, I can go into detail about the various ill-advised western forays into the region that have left ugly scars and wounds that are still bleeding. But I have a feeling that Dick is not too interested in such ancient history when they go against his comfortable conventional wisdom.
So let's focus on things as they are in the present: Both Dick and I agree that it would be a good thing for Muslims immigrants to intergrate more into the secular society of their host countries. How is this to be accomplished? By showing young muslims that they are welcome and included in our society. That is the chief thing that is going to make us safer, not more 'security measures' that single Muslim men out for treatment that would not be acceptable to other groups.
By the way, another dent in Dick's theory that the current conflict between Islam and the west is due to some intrinsic intransigence in Islam is the fact that many among this generation of young muslims are far more militant and fundamentalist than their elders. I don't offer any pat, facile explanations for why this is so. But it does put a dent in Dick's defeatist vision of an unchangeable Islam.
The best way to make sure that a clash of civilizations happen is to talk and act as if it is inevitable.

8:02 PM  
Anonymous dick said...

I don't know, Angelica, if I have "conventional wisdom" or not and I'm not sure just where that came from. In fact, my years and wisdom seem to say that all is gray. I take back the remark about Islam being "intransigent" since, given the many Islamic sects extant (even in Iraq, a small area, the sects are hostile to each other), they differ mildly or more in their interpretations of the Koran; enough to hate each other. Quakers in Tucson (where I attended college ages ago) couldn't agree and split the group up. Given so many Islamic sects, they must not be completely intransigent.

The point is, I suppose, that intransigence in itself easily leads to stress and strife; among cultures as well as among individuals. George W. Bush is hailed for his resoluteness, which leads to war and innocents being killed and maimed. They say that, though he makes questionable moves, he must be admired for his intransigence. He sure sticks to it, no matter the it!

Islam, as a religion, perhaps leads most religions in its intransigence. Catholics can flex without having tongues cut out and hands cut off and women stoned, as can Jews, Southern Baptists (Carter) and others.

The resoluteness of the Muslims invited to France (to do the mundane work of the people) surely has contributed to their inability to integrate. The Elders and Imams make it difficult for their subjects (and youth) to step outside into the real French world, fearing art, love and bare arms. In the US where deference to Indians (American), Quakers, Hutterites, Amish, etc., is made in lieu of integration into the heart of the society, some intransigence survives.

(Conservatives are delighted that Mexicans are here to "do the work that no one else wants.)

They say that Muslims in France are distraught because they lack jobs and are not accepted into the mainstream. But which way does the mainstream flow? Are there streams that feed into it into which the Muslims can swim...or is swiming into a mainstream forbiden by the Koran?

Angelica says that "many among this generation of young muslims are far more militant and fundamentalist than their elders. I don't offer any pat, facile explanations for why this is so."

I think that correct. But it is easy to fathom why. The youth are between the devil and the deep blue sea. Their elders demand intransigence, but the youth bump elbows with the free thinking of the French, and free thinking seems to be more satisfying, more fun, more advantageous, more attractive to them. I wonder why.

Angelica reveals that the Ottoman Empire was tolerant, but that the "european religious cultures were cauldrons of simmering religious hatred." is religious intransigence here, religious intransigence there...through history and not just Muslim by any means. It is ongoing in spite of occasional well meaning cultures, like the one in which we live.

But alas, I still fear that Islam will inspire a larger cultural collision in years to come. Radical Islam seems to breed more radicals.

Angelica has a warm, optimistic, (dare I say feminine?) view which speaks for putting women at the helm. Surely it's time. Are you running with Hillary, Angelica, or against?

9:23 PM  
Anonymous battlepanda said...

I think I agree with Dick about religious intransigience in general -- It's dumb, whether we're talking about the attempt to deny women abortions in the U.S. or the fatwa on Salman Rushdie. I also don't deny that some of the most virulent religious fundamentalism in the world rignt now is coming from the Muslim world. However, I am very wary of anything that implies there's something especially and intrinsically intransigent about Islam coming from the core of the religion rather than its current manifestation -- Dick talks about the ability of Catholics to 'flex', well that is a very recent phenomenon indeed! Young muslims must also be encouraged to think that their religion can flex, and while that is something that we can't necessarily impose from the outside, surely it does not help to characterize their religion as the primary problem.

We must also remember that, in terms of world conflicts, this current wave of conflicts is generating negligable casualties, especially on the western side. A quick wiki search revealed that WWII killed 50-60 million people, almost 4% of the world population at the time. And the world was at the perpetual blink of nuclear war throughout the cold war. Compared to those conflicts, the current threat from the Islamic world is small potatoes. I don't mean to be callous about the victims of 9/11 or the Madrid bombings or 7/11. What happened to them is terrible. But if we do not keep the fear in perspective it causes us to take disproportionate measures that only deepen the conflict.

9:09 AM  

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