Monday, November 14, 2005

Do Not Believe Right-Wingers' Theories About France!

I keep reading comments in the foreign press and particularly in some American media, that link the social unrests in France to the rise of radical Islamism but this absolutely wrong. If it were only right-wingers like Bill O’Reilly, who hold such views, it would be one thing, but I have also found some confusions in some liberal papers and blogs.

Time magazine has a good article that clarifies the issue. Here’s a revealing excerpt:

The driving forces are socio-economic injustice and racial segregation, not a thirst for infidel blood on the march to a global Caliphate. The infuriated youths burning cars and stoning police in the dismal suburbs of Paris, Toulouse, Lille, Rennes and beyond are demanding a piece of France's modern, materialist dream, not its replacement with some imported mixture of Shari'a and fatwas. They want the fraternity, equality and liberty France promises as national ideals—but largely reserves for its whiter citizens.
This is totally right. While the social reasons why the violence has erupted and spread are numerous and complex, religion has nothing to do with them. In fact, and quite paradoxically, the riots have shown precisely that the youths in those ghettos do not find the comfort they need in religion. That’s the positive aspect of the whole thing.

A religious interpretation of the events should not come as a surprise. It reflects the current prejudice against and fear of Muslims in our post-9/11 world. These events have been a great opportunity for right-wing conservatives to fire both at France (which they hate) and at a religion which they hate and fear even more. Indeed, fear is what draws people to believe in such extreme ideologies. You are scared of what you don’t understand. This is why it is important to understand what the current events in France are really about. Not because they are important to France but because a misleading analysis could have ripple effect. Indeed such rumors only serve to fuel the rhetoric of many jingoists who wish for a “clash of civilization”. But the Apocalypse is (probably) not for tomorrow.

As it turns out, immigrants in Europe, and their European-born children, do not want to change Europe but to be more part of it and not be spurned at every turn.


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