Paris is Burning

Parisian housing projects and suburbs have exploded in Muslim and Arab rioting in the last few days, after an incident in which two youths were electrocuted after fleeing police. It’s like the movie, La Haine, come to life. The resentment, alienation, and problems creatd by millions of young, underemployed, and in many cases unassimilated Muslim youth in Europe is palpable. While their parents came to work, their sons feel not at home, superior, and put upon all at once.

As reported by Theodore Dalrymple in a prescient 2002 article in City Journal, their rage is intense, stemming in part from the hair-trigger Muslim and Arab obsession with respect and the desire to control their communities--particularly their women--while enjoying western freedom for themselves.

Belmont Club has observes that these riots are simply Exhibit A that the post-national leftist prescription for social peace does not work:


The only question is whether another nation has been reborn under the events of the last week; a nation once called France. There is in a sense, something magnificent about the stirrings of identity among the Muslims in the Parisian ghettos; all the grander in comparison to the tentativeness, doubt and reflexive abasement of the officials of the Fifth Republic. The riot police, fire department and public order apparatus may have been present in the rioting banlieus, but the Idea of France was conspicuously absent. The Idea of France, not the hodgepodge of welfare benefits, Marxist obscurantism and world-weariness that that is palmed off as sophistication, is what has to present itself as an alternative to the Green Banner of Islam. Otherwise it will be a contest between something and nothing.

The Muslim uprising of the last week is a challenge to the half century of policy that has brought France to this point. Polices which deprecated European culture, frowned on a national identity, lowered the birthrate, created a welfare state, imported 'guest workers', promoted mindless multiculturalism and relied on 'international' treaties for protection -- all articles of Leftist faith -- are now facing the judgment of history; and worse, the verdict of Islam. It would be supremely ironical if the European Left, the 'vanguard of history', required for its future survival the very things it had set out to destroy.

Belmont Club raises a good point, but it's also an oversimplified point. The idea of France has been in flux and at war with itself since 1789. France's Christian past and secular present have repeatedly conflicted with one another, often violently, in various episodes such as the Terror, the Commune, and the riots of the Soixante Huitards. They have never and can never coexist because the liberal, secular idea of France is explicitly anti-Christian. It permits no official recognition of France's Christian heritage. Nonetheless, as ethnically, linguistically, and culturally similar opponents, the groups did achieve something of a truce in the late 20th Century. The introduction of an alien elemenet with its own self-confident and comprehensive vision of how society should be organized presents a major challenge to France. The question mark stands opposed to the crescent. The real problem exposed by these riots (and related riots in Denmark and elsewhere) is whether Europe can survive as Europe--secular, liberal, rationalistic--or must it once again become Christendom to survive the Islamic challenge.

Posted by at November 3, 2005 2:43 PM