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October 23, 2006
The French Intifada Continues

The AP continues its reporting on the slow-motion uprising in the Muslim ghettoes in France, where the police insist that violence against them has become organized by Islamist radicals. Calls that draw police and even fire department response wind up as ambushes, with rocks, baseball bats, and even teargas deployed against them:

On a routine call, three unwitting police officers fell into a trap. A car darted out to block their path, and dozens of hooded youths surged out of the darkness to attack them with stones, bats and tear gas before fleeing. One officer was hospitalized, and no arrests made.

The recent ambush was emblematic of what some officers say has become a near-perpetual and increasingly violent conflict between police and gangs in tough, largely immigrant French neighborhoods that were the scene of a three-week paroxysm of rioting last year.

One small police union claims officers are facing a "permanent intifada." Police injuries have risen in the year since the wave of violence.

National police reported 2,458 cases of violence against officers in the first six months of the year, on pace to top the 4,246 cases recorded for all of 2005 and the 3,842 in 2004. Firefighters and rescue workers have also been targeted - and some now receive police escorts in such areas.

On Sunday, a band of about 30 youths, some wearing masks, forced passengers out of a bus in a southern Paris suburb in broad daylight Sunday, set it on fire, then stoned firefighters who came to the rescue, police said. No one was injured. Two people were arrested, one of them a 13-year-old, according to LCI television.

Even the larger police unions have started to rethink their previous denials of organized resistance in the banlieus. One union official talks about the escalation from individual and spontaneous rock-throwing to complicated ambushes, and calls them "an act of war". And with the anniversary of last year's riots about to arrive, the police believe that organizers want to re-enact and expand them.

These actions have had a distinct political effect in France and across Europe. The multiculturalism that Europeans practice has been sorely tested and now has subsided in place of a more practical understanding of the importance of shared culture. Jack Straw in the UK has called for an end to the veil for Muslim women, as France did in its schools earlier. Both nations, with significant and vocal Muslim minorities, have begun to demand assimilation from their transplants rather than understanding and accommodation from the natives. The National Front's slogan of "France, love it or leave it" has gained traction in mainstream French politics, with Nicolas Sarkozy remining unhappy residents that the screen door won't hit them on the way out of France.

This shows the limitations of multiculturalism. No one has a problem when people engage in their own cultural rituals and speak their own language; it becomes a problem when they force native populations to adopt them for themselves. Immigration should exist where people want to assimilate into the culture of the nation they adopt, and not where people arrive to set up enclaves of the Old Country and then demand that their hosts recognize their authority to do so. America's success with immigration came from the impulse of its immigrants to join in the American culture and the American dream, not because we started printing ballots in eighteen different languages to accommodate people who didn't want to learn English.

Separation breeds resentment, from both sides. Separatism creates borders, and borders presage wars when only one side recognizes them. The French banlieus may not have reached the warfare stage yet, but they keep coming closer and closer to it. The French will either have to find a way to break up the Muslim ghettoes, either by working harder for assimilation or by kicking a lot of people out of France.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 23, 2006 6:03 AM

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