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Suburban Paris Riots
From today's IHT:

The greater issue for the French is the validity of their cherished approach to integration, which stresses the equality of all citizens, no matter what their ethnic or religious origin, so long as they embrace the fundamental French values of "liberté, egalité, fraternité." The French have long regarded this as superior to the British and American approach, with its emphasis on diversity and ethnic pride. But the myth of equality in France also serves to hamper affirmative action and community outreach.

At the same time, efforts at imposed integration, like the celebrated ban on Muslim girls wearing veils in state schools, often serve only to antagonize. Over the past week, many French officials publicly acknowledged that the state has done far too little for the suburbs.

The rioting of the past week is not yet a revolution. But unless Sarkozy's "zero tolerance" for crime is joined by better opportunities in jobs, housing and education for the new citizens, the suburbs will get a lot hotter.

That ending seems overly optimistic -- the fact that opportunities are a solution. Here's a more pessimistic, and probably more realistic take on it -- a letter I posted a few months ago from a friend in France:

...Like said in one of the articles I sent you, they want to impose the dark ages back upon us, which is a difficult pill to swallow for us in the Occident, children of the Siècle des Lumières. Since the end of the 18h century, in aspiration of freedom & equality, most western countries, starting with the United States & France, went thru some type of revolution (rather violent in France). It has taken us over two centuries to attain all the rights for all citizens & as we seem to reach to point of accomplishment, these dark fanatic knights want to bring us back to the time of Inquisition.

And more from my friend:

You ask if there is a difference in the way immigrants are dealt with in France vis-à-vis English “multi-culturalism” vs French “integration”. The way I understand it, this is not the problem. Whether they are treated well or not, put in ghettos or not, are given equal opportunities or not, nothing will change the fact that they want to do away with our way of life. Period. France has been a land of immigration & integration for centuries. Refugees came to France for the same reasons tourists do. Its freedom, its way of life, its facility of assimilation after one generation, i.e. thru their children who attend French schools, l’école de la République. It is very much the same in the United States. On the other hand, the Muslims do not want to assimilate or to integrate, whichever way you want to say it. They do not want their children to be educated as petits Français. You should see how these kids disrupt classes, how they refuse to study certain subjects.

My hair stands straight on my head when I hear Americans speak of the way Muslims in France live in “ghettos” & how they are treated by the French. It simply is not true. If in their quarters there is violence (knifing, gang rapes, beatings, delinquency, drug dealing etc.), it is not gangs of French kids going there to do it, it is the Muslims (or whatever they should be called) who are doing it. It is Muslim gang against Muslim gang. The many gang rapes are of their own young neighbor Arab girls! Then they go out & gang up against the French. When you hear of anti-Semitism in France, of vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, do you believe one minute French people do it? No, it is the delinquent Arabs in France. But nobody is saying it because these “Arab kids” are second or third generation, thus French nationals. And also because stupid "political correctness" is a must. So, who destroyed graves in a Jewish cemetery? “French” people!

...In the opinion of most French people, it is only a matter of time for terrorism to hit again. And it is my opinion also. What will be hit in France beside public transportation, department stores & markets? I see the Louvre, Notre Dame cathedral, Versailles, nuclear power plants, schools, hospitals…I also think that Arabs will be killing Arabs in France, Arabs such as the rector of the Mosquée de Paris. They’ll slit his throat right in the Mosquée because he shows no hatred for the French.

Amy, forgive me for sounding so pessimistic, but that is the way I see the future in Europe. With these people, there is no talk possible, no common grounds, only escalation of the hatred & killing of the Infidel. It is going to be a bloody war of religion. And yes, it is going to be WWIII.

The entire letter is at the link above.

Posted by aalkon at November 4, 2005 4:01 AM

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Amy, the link to your friend's letter doesn't seem to be working.

Posted by: deja pseu at November 4, 2005 8:32 AM

Thanks. Should be working now.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 4, 2005 8:46 AM

I remember reading that letter the first time you posted it. My reaction now is the same as it was then -- your friend is sickeningly prejudiced against the Arab sub-population.

I don't have any first-hand knowledge of the Banlieu Nord -- I've never set foot in Argenteuil or Aulnay-sous-Bois -- but I do happen to be very familiar with a certain southern market town which was a major settlement of Harkis (Wikipedia will explain) after WWII. 60 years later, the sub-population of Arab descent in the town is still not properly integrated. You don't see arab faces in the police force, working in banks, collecting taxes. Instead you see them behind market stalls, in untidy auto body shops, and just hanging around. The typical all-vanilla french person treats them with the same kind of suspicion as does your friend, Amy. When anything at all bad happens -- an unexplained accident, vandalism in the vineyards -- the reaction is "C'est les Arabes." I have also never seen an Arab face in my village café and I strongly suspect (but admittedly do not know for sure) that a group of teenagers of Arab descent would not get served there. Your prejudiced friend may be right about the impending Religious Warfare. The question is, on which side does the fault lie?

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at November 4, 2005 9:22 AM

Mark Steyn describes these neighborhoods, and gives us reason to worry for Amy on her next vacation:

I would beg, beg, beg, anyone concerned about events in Paris this week to read two quick blog posts from Mickey Kaus:

My short version: Ethnic isolation and welfare culture are a deadly mix. But poverty can fuel social integration, if the immigrant cultures turn to employment: "Let work do the work of assimilation!"

Posted by: Crid at November 4, 2005 10:22 AM

'Nother. Don't be put off by the title:

Posted by: Crid at November 4, 2005 11:30 AM

As for that last article, Romanian (spelled Rumanian in the article for some odd reason) men are pompous hardasses, but they also tend to have less meat on them than a high heel. They talk a tough game but a stiff breeze will send them running. That Palinka (think grain alcohol) that they drug themselves with at every wakeup gives them less drunk muscle than they need to back up their runaway mouths.

The Arabs, on the other hand, are definitely something to fear.

Posted by: little Ted at November 4, 2005 6:27 PM

Conclusion, then: White French people have done nothing wrong and when non-white French people do something wrong it's okay to deny their nationality.

Posted by: Lucy at November 7, 2005 1:45 PM

Is that your conclusion, Lucy? Or are you volunteering to do a little leap for somebody else?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 7, 2005 2:38 PM

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