Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Les Émeutes de Paris

The best place to go to see what the blogosphere is saying about the Paris riots is here. The right hand column has the most popular bloggers discussing the riots. The best list of news summaries regarding events in France is here. The best editorial I've seen on the riots is by Mark Steyn, available here. The best single article I have read explaining why Paris is burning is here.

One of the best recent background studies of Muslims in Europe is Joel Fetzer and Christopher Soper, Muslims and the State in Britain, France, and Germany (Cambridge 2005), available here. According to Fetzer and Soper:
In contrast to Britain ... France has been far less accommodating to the religious needs of Muslims. France has rejected multiculturalism as an appropriate educational model in the state schools. Aside from [a few] short lessons ... French secondary schools learn nothing about Islam.... French Muslim leaders estimate that "hundreds" of Muslim young women have been expelled from public schools for refusing to remove the hijab. These young women are then forced to study by correspondence, rely on volunteer Muslim tutors, or abandon their education altogether.... The state has been vigorously secular and opposed to the notion that public institutions should be made to assist the religious practices of Muslims."
The worst statistic I have seen is the spread of rioting as calculated by the loss of cars. The first three days of riots saw an average of 24 car losses per day. But this Friday there were 897 car losses, then 1,300 on Saturday, and 1,408 on Sunday. We can only hope the riots will not continue to spread at this pace.

UPDATE: Several comments criticize my reference to Mark Steyn's editorial. On reflection I can see why. I recommended it only because it strongly expresses the lack of assimilation and recognition of Muslim groups in France, and the impact that is having and will have in the future for France. But I agree that it is over the top in other regards, such as asserting that the future of Pakistan is more hopeful than Denmark or that this is a modern day Moorish battle akin to a new Dark Ages. Fiona de Londras at Mental Meanderings points to a better article in the Washington Post stating the same point without the hyperbole. She also has a nice critique of Steyn's piece on her blog which is worth a read.


Blogger F said...

Mark Steyn has got it so wrong in that editorial that it's actually quite frightening (http://fdelondras.blogspot.com/2005/11/mark-steyn-just-doesnt-get-it.html)....

Molly Moore in the Washington Post is much much better (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/05/AR2005110501515.html)

11/08/2005 2:46 AM  
Blogger Lorenzo Zucca said...

I agree with the previous comment. Steyn got it so badly wrong, it is embarassing.
It is not only about muslims, not even primarily. The crisis is primarily due to a set of social, constitutional and economical failures of France as a regime, as I explain on my blog http://transatlanticassembly.blogspot.com/ . Moreover, it is not only a French problem, it is equally a German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Belgian, British problem etc. France is simply leading the revolt as it did many other times in the past. Please avoid looking at european structural problems through the american looking glass. Or, what is worse, through a 'universal perspective.'
Young muslims in this case are only the easy scapgoats. The real outlaws are european elites, starting precisely with the French elite and its irresponsible President.

11/08/2005 7:08 AM  
Blogger Andreas Paulus said...

Dear Professor Alford,
As the previous posts, I find Mark Steyn's comment shocking - and nonsensical. And, frankly, I am saddened that you recommend such a piece. Steyn's reference to the French position on Iraq tells more about Mr Steyn than about France or the riots. It was not France who invaded Iraq without regard to international law and without an idea how to manage the occupation.
It is even more shocking to see so much Schadenfreude relating to a problem that is not completely alien to the US - remember the Rodney King riots? Blaming both Islam and French secularism at the same time for the French riots is contradictory, to say the least. There is a great majority of Muslims living in Europe who do not use violence. Whether in the US or in Europe, we have to learn to live with each other at a time in which multicultural and multi-religious societies are getting the rule rather than the exception. Neither European anti-Americanism nor American anti-Frenchism (if the term does not exist, it is nevertheless the only fitting description for Mark Steyn's comment) will be helpful. Rather, we should reflect how to get our respective minorities out of the ghettos some of them live in - or, rather, how to de-ghettoize the places most of them live in.
Blaming "European elites", however, Mr. Zucca, is only a small part of the story, and quite a general one at that. Yes, we have a problem of integration, in Europe as well as in the United States, the difference being that it is the inner cities in the US and the suburbs in France. But there is no easy solution. If there were, one could at least name one country where integration was successful. How to do better is what we should be talking about, rather than finding easy scapegoats.
Best wishes,
Andreas Paulus, Munich, Germany

11/08/2005 8:42 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

I completely agree with the other comments. With an editorial such as Steyn's and a comment that he's got it right suggests that both of you live under rocks and imagine a reality that doesn't exist.

see my take on it at http://idiotsatthewheel.com

PS. I live in the region, so I see it first hand.

11/08/2005 12:40 PM  
Blogger Roger Alford said...

Thanks for the comments. The part that grabbed my attention from Steyn's columns was this: His articulation that there are young men from North Africa growing ever more estranged from the broader community and that there is a potentially explosive "Arab street" in Europe. I would welcome your thoughts as to whether you think that is off-base. It rings true to me.

In the morning light I wish I had not recommended the editorial because I was really just focused on that strong expression of estrangement, not his broader ruminations and hyperbole which I do not share.

Roger Alford

11/08/2005 1:26 PM  
Blogger Julian Ku said...

There are lots of useful lessons on both sides here. I agree that the Schadenfreude of U.S. conservatives on this is distasteful, but it is understandable. One cannot travel in Europe a whole lot without hearing constant sniping at the U.S. treatment of black Americans (e.g. all the coverage of New Orleans, for example). No doubt both black Americans and French Muslims have legitimate grievances, but it is easy to assume the worst when you are sitting at a distance.

So if the European elites agree to NOT assume the worst about the States, I think it is fair to ask the U.S. elites NOT the assume the worst about France. But this kind of fairmindness has got to go both ways.

11/08/2005 2:35 PM  
Blogger Chris Borgen said...

Perhaps I am reading way too much into your comment, Julian, or perhaps this explains in part why we see things differently. You write:

"So if the European elites agree to NOT assume the worst about the States, I think it is fair to ask the U.S. elites NOT the assume the worst about France. But this kind of fairmindness has got to go both ways."

I don't think fairmindedness has to go both ways. One should be fair because (a) it is the right thing to do and, if that doesn't persuade you, because (b) it leads to better decision-making. We should be fairminded about others regardless as to whether they give us that same courtesy; it is not only the right thing to do, it is the strategically smart thing to do.

11/08/2005 4:54 PM  
Blogger Andreas Paulus said...

Thanks to Roger, Julian, and Chris. There is no doubt in my mind we all agree on the importance of fairness, and all deplore the very human attitude of Schadenfreude (I hope it is not only German in nature ...), which does not help to truly understand the underlying problems. But the issue is larger than that. There is a European anti-Americanism that fails to distinguish between (unjustified) contempt for the US at large and entirely legitimate criticism of the Bush administration's disregard for international law on the use of force and torture. In my opinion, the latter criticism is not anti-American, but actually constitutes a defense of American values against their perversion by parts of the Bush administration. My suspicion is that similar considerations apply to some American attitudes to the French riots or the German economic decline - using criticism of, for instance, the extreme French secularism or incomprehensible German taxatiion schemes for rousing anti-European feelings, if only as exchange for an alleged European "betrayal" regading Iraq (which is of course nonsense). I would like to end by inviting my American friends to criticize Europe as much as we criticize US policies, but not to fall into the trap of identifying certain policies with France, or Europe, at large. Both Europe and the US are much too diverse for such oversimplifications.
Best wishes, Andreas

11/09/2005 6:20 AM  
Blogger Lorenzo Zucca said...

I really enjoyed this exchange, thanks!

I have few other comments:

Firstly, it is really good fun to have a transatlantic conversation on socio/political issues.

Secondly, it teaches something very important on how to judge foreign experiences. I entirely agree with Chris on the importance of fairmindedness at any price, even if your interlocutor does not show much of it. Being fair, in other words, does not have to be reciprocal, it may simply be unilateral. In the long run, it is the winning strategy.

Thirdly, as a consequence, shadenfreude (that is, taking pleasure at somebody's else misfortunes) is not a fair attitude. Of course, it does not matter at all who is the receptacle of the shadenfreude (can be France, US, UK, Italy etc..it is always unfair).

Fourthly, on the idea of an 'Arab street in Europe': this is not a discovery, I am afraid. But it should be put in context. Europe in general is failing to 'empower' immigrants. This is not a new issue, it is a very old problem that has very many layers; it partly goes back to our colonialist past; it is also due to strong class divides (the best book on this issue is P. Bourdieu, Noblesse d' Etat).

The religious issue we christian/ their muslim is not what this story is all about. If you're poor and christian, and you leave in one of those suburbs, you're very likely to end up burning cars in protest, notwithstanding the religious difference.

It is mainly the Vatican that is insisting on that issue. I wrote on this issue on the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies: 'Does the Europena Constitution Need Christian Values,' December 2004.

11/09/2005 7:05 AM  
Blogger Ampersand said...

Another post I'd recommend is this post by Doug Ireland, a journalist who used to live in France. I haven't seen anything better written about the riots in either the blogs or the mainstream media.

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