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A Complex Web

Reader comment on item: Reflections on the Revolution in France*

Submitted by Aidan Maconachy (Canada), Nov 11, 2005 at 14:22

This rioting in France was sparked by a number of factors.

Most of the rioting was the work of Muslim youths. I don't believe they were consciously acting as an Islamist destabalizing force, because interviews with these youths often lack coherency and reflect immaturity. These are angry kids, and yes many do ascribe to notions of a global umma and cultivate a certain type of jihadist chic, but most of them are clueless when it comes to the deeper political ramifications of their actions.

Racism played at least some part in this. Despite its generous social services, France runs a two-tiered society. Racism is France is rarely overt, but is practiced in whispers and also in exclusionary behaviour directed at immigrants and others who are deemed to be non-French. Unlike N.America were citizenship confers equal partnership, France still operates a double standard. The creation of these sink estates in which to warehouse immigrants reflects a mindset that clearly wants to keep newcomers at arm's length. Such estates of course become spawning grounds for terrorism as a consequence, so in a sense French policies are helping to cultivate the home grown terror.

This racist tendency in France isn't exclusively directed toward Muslims. There is also a lot of anti-Semitic feeling. This was borne out very clearly not so long ago, when the French Ambassador to the UK made the "dirty little country" remark with respect to Israel.

I am not of course denying that there was an Islamist influence in these riots, and for writers like Haroon Siddiqui in the Toronto Star to deny this, is frankly stupid. This is what Siddiqui said in his Toronto Star column of November 10, 2005 ...

"The rioting youth include non-Muslims of West African descent and from France's island colonies. They also include whites, mostly of Portugese descent. Yet post 9/11 Islamophobes are trying to link the troubles to Islam. Ignore them."

This is a man in denial who uses his column space in the Star to indulge in his "Siddiqui spin bowling". The fact that the war cry of a lot of these rioters was "Allahu Akbar" is of course purely coincidental. As for "white Portugese youths" lol - yes well, Siddiqui must really be desperate to dig that deep.

To try and pretend that is has nothing to do with an Islamist agenda is profoundly misleading. Notice that Siddiqui responds to the counter arguments raised by people such as Dr Pipes with "ignore them" ... the inference being that he has some transcendental access to the truth and doesn't even need to defend his assertions (don't megalomaniacs think that way?) .

I saw a number of these "North African" Paris-based gang members interviewed prior to these riots. These kids were well fed, decked out in the coolest fashions and accessories, hooked into their own brand of jihadist hip hop chic and exuded an air of smug confidence. They didn't look like hungry job seekers to me.

It was clear that they viewed French society as "other" - something to be played and scammed, but not to be taken seriously. Their entire identity was derived from some larger belief in an Islamic umma or "community" and they referred to it the way an exiled son fondly refers to the family back home. Sure, this isn't refined jihadist activism ... but it is a cultural statement that shows where these kids' loyalties lie and for people like Siddiqui to suggest that the Islamist influence is nowhere at work in any of this, is almost laughably naive.

These I repeat, were not guys who looked hard done by or in need of a leg up into the French mainstream. Any complaints they had on that score appeared to be voiced in order to play into the leftist concerns of the interviewer, rather than a concern that was genuinely felt. Their rhetoric was crafted and their cynicism coolly focused.

It can be enormously empowering to be part of a sub-culture, fighting a common enemy. Truth is a lot of these kids are probably having the time of their lives. What sixteen year old male who feels repressed and misunderstood wouldn't love to douse his "fascist" dad's Mercedes in gasoline and toss a lit match. It's the ultimate teen fantasy.

What makes this more sinister, is that it isn't simply the underdog kicking back in a passing fit of rage, but has the potential to morph into an urban resistance with much more serious implications. And by the way, creating jobs programs for these youths won't necessarily prevent that from happening, because this clash goes deeper than temporal needs and a desire to climb the ladder of social mobility.

It amazes me that so many people choose to see this in basic socio-economic terms. If only it was so simple!

As for Siddqui's spin bowling - accuracy re the actual wicket would certainly help.
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