A process described by some as the Islamization of Europe, by others as the failure of Europeans to integrate Muslim immigrants, has reached a breaking point in France. One of the most troubling manifestations of this discord is the development of a particular type of violence that is more than the sum of its parts. A sampling of this year’s news reports reads like a catalogue of stomping, stabbing, shooting, torching, and sacking; attacks on teachers, policemen, firemen, old ladies, and modest retirees; turf wars, tribal fights, murder over women, over attitude, over nothing; dead youths, murderous youths, bodies scattered across a national battlefield.
Is there a connection between the endless series of seemingly disparate criminal incidents and markers openly displayed in insurrectional riots and demonstrations—kaffiyeh face masks, Hezbollah flags, intifada slogans, Islamic chants? A general French tendency to withhold information and a deliberate decision to avoid ethnic and religious symbols leads to white noise coverage of criminality. Names, photos, and background information about perpetrators, suspects, and victims are usually suppressed, especially those that might create a negative image of Muslims.
|In May 2004, tens of thousands of mostly Jewish marchers in Paris protested terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and the thousands of attacks against French Jews tallied since the September 2000 outbreak of the “Aqsa intifada.”|
Yet there is ample evidence that immigration has brought specifically Islamic antipathy to Jews, contempt for Western values, and other antisocial attitudes reinforced by religious zeal and aggravated by the clash between an authoritarian family structure and permissive French society. Many second and third generation, French-born Muslims, anxious to separate themselves from a “French” identity they reject, are no less vulnerable to these influences than recent immigrants.
A supposedly reassuring “it’s not Chicago” occasionally tacked on at the end of a report about a lawless neighborhood adds to the confusion. In fact, it is not Chicago but more like Algiers, Jenin, or Bamako.
Gaza on the Seine
“We don’t want to import the Mideast conflict.” These soothing words were repeated by officials from Left to Right every time Muslim rage over supposed Zionist persecution of Palestinians was “avenged” by violence against Jews in France, notably the countless attacks against Jews tallied since the outbreak in September 2000 of the “al-Aqsa intifada.” Initially dismissed as “insults and bullying,” the worst wave of anti-Jewish aggression since World War II was subsequently attributed to the quirky import of a “foreign bug” that troubled harmonious relations between local Jewish and Muslim communities. Meanwhile, the media were importing the conflict with all their might, pro-Palestinian nongovernmental organizations were agitating, and peace marches against the Iraq war blossomed into punitive actions against Jews.