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November 4, 2005
The French Cancer Metastasizes While The Media Diagnoses ADHD

The French riots continued for another night while the Chirac government vacillated on its response. Rather than show signs of petering out, the violence instead spread to nearby towns last night -- and the BBC still can barely bring itself to mention the word "Muslim" in its coverage of the violent uprising:

The violence that has wracked Paris suburbs over the past week has spread to new areas and outside the capital for the first time.

French youths set alight buildings and cars and buses in the eighth consecutive night of rioting.

Cars were torched in the eastern city of Dijon, and sporadic unrest was reported in south and west France.

The violence was triggered by the deaths of two teenagers of African origin.

"Of African origin" means, of course, Muslim, a fact that somehow the BBC thinks remains a secret from its readers. If facts only contained themselves to BBC's limitations as a news service, their readers might remain as benighted as the BBC presumes. The word "Muslim" finally shows up in the final two paragraphs -- when religious leaders speak out on behalf of those committing the violence, rather than condemning it:

Muslim leaders have urged politicians to show respect for immigrant communities.

Dalil Boubakeur, the head of the French Council for the Muslim Religion, said people in the suburbs "must be given the conditions to live with dignity as human beings", not in "disgraceful squats".

We should at least acknowledge that the BBC worked the fact that the violence has some component of religious conflict in it. The New York Times, which after eight days suddenly discovered that Paris had gone up in flames, misses it entirely. They report that "youths" and "gangs" have suddenly erupted in violence in neighborhoods that have "a large immigrant population from North Africa and the sub-Saharan region." In fact, the words "youth" and "youths" appear five times, not counting the caption for the accompanying photograph, while Craig Smith cannot bring himself to type "Muslim" once.

Even the AP manages to get the story right, at MS-NBC, even if it downplays it:

The rioting has grown into a broader challenge for the French state. It has laid bare discontent simmering in suburbs where immigrants many of them African Muslims and their French-born children are trapped by poverty, unemployment, discrimination, crime and poor education and housing.

Frances Muslim population, an estimated 5 million, is Western Europes largest. But rather than being embraced as equal citizens, immigrants and their French-born children often complain of police harassment and job discrimination.

Over the postwar years, France has locked its immigrants into enclaves and discouraged the immersion of one culture into the other. It built ready-made slums for their guest workers and made sure that their own insular Frenchness could not be penetrated by the people who helped to rebuild their country. The initial wave of workers did not mind the apartheid so much; it still gave them a large improvement in their standard of living, and allowed them to continue their own traditions. The second and third generations expect more, however, and the sense of the economic and social trap that the French created feeds their radicalism, and their turn towards Islamism as an answer.

With an immigrant population of 5 million, Chirac will not see this situation improve any time soon. Only free markets and the creation of new jobs will assuage the economics of the problem. Unfortunately, Islamism will take much more of an effort to root out now that it has taken hold, and as long as people keep thinking that "youth" is at the center of the problem, the sickness will continue to spread. France may see a civil war break out, one that it so far hasn't shown the stomach to fight.

UPDATE: The NYT editorial board provides the religious component that its reporter dares not mention -- but only to scold the French for not being sensitive enough in its approach to immigration:

The rioters torching cars and pelting the police are mainly the sons of African and Arab immigrants, most of them Muslims, who have never been integrated into French society, who work for the lowest wages and who live in ghettos rife with crime. ...

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who has ambitions to be president, has not been much help. He called the rioters "scum" and said the answer was zero tolerance of crime. A better answer would involve job opportunities, decent housing and good education for these new citizens.

That would have been the answer a generation ago. It's probably too late for those answers to combat the Islamist momentum that has built itself in the streets of Paris now, and in case the Times hadn't noticed, unemployment has become epidemic throughout France now. With a nationwide jobless rate in the double digits, the problem of "opportunities" doesn't limit itself to the ghettoes.

France has a much wider problem than just the sink estates. It's just that, like any failing economy, the first to feel the effects are those who have the least.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 4, 2005 4:59 AM

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