Senior European affairs analyst Charles Johnson seems to believe that Islam, and nothing else, is the "root cause" of the gang violence that has been plaguing France for the past ten days. Does the worldwide Pajamas Media empire now include on-the-ground news gatherers in Aulnay-sois-Bois? That would account for his unflinching certainty that the car-burnings are an "intifada" whose ultimate aim is to force Brigitte Bardot into a burqa. Or something.
But as Oscar Wilde once remarked, the truth is rarely pure and never simple. Unlike Charles, I don't claim to know why the rioters are rioting, or how to make them stop. But it's clear that Islam is just one of several possible contributing factors, which include chronic unemployment (would Charles hire a well-qualified Muslim?); racism (the French loathe Muslim Arabs almost as much as the lizards do); inept policy decisions, such as the suspension of community policing last year; political wrangling between two monumental egos at the head of the French government (Messieurs de Villepin and Sarkozy); and the failure of the French model of "uniculturalism."
Yes, "uniculturalism." Contrary to the conventional wisdom among the so-called "politically incorrect" right-wing élite, France and other European countries do not practice "multiculturalism." For decades, France's official policy has been to deny the existence of racial and ethnic differences among its citizens. There are no hyphenated Frenchmen -- at least not officially, but as we all know, Frenchmen whose skin is the wrong color, or whose parents were born in the wrong country, are likely to find themselves warehoused in high-rise ghettoes. Out of sight, out of mind, and out of work -- because as there are officially no ethnic groups in France, there's no such thing as affirmative action either.
And this is the model to which the enemies of "multiculturalism" aspire.
Finally, what about Islam? It's clear that many, if not most, of the rioters are Muslim. But what kind of Muslims are they? If, as Charles implies with his blaring headlines of the "French Shari'a Watch" variety, they're all radical Islamists who seek the establishment of an Islamic theocracy, what were they doing out on the streets during Eid al-Fitr this week?
If anything, the most devout Muslims are the ones who aren't rioting. As an article in today's Le Figaro (a center-right newspaper) discusses:
As a sign of their displeasure [over the explosion of a tear-gas grenade outside a mosque], members of the mosque, which belongs to the Moroccan organization (National French Muslim Organization) have urged its leader to file a complaint. But out in the field, they've also tried to pacify the situation, by appealing for calm in the name of Islam. On Tuesday evening, several dozen worshippers went out onto the streets to calm the rioters, in an unmistakable show of force. As for the radical Islamists, "they would prefer a return to stability, so they can carry on undisturbed," according to an analysis by Alain Bauer, president of the National Crime Observation Center. Incidentally, the housing projects in Seine-Saint-Denis where radical Islam is well-established have not erupted in violence.
Elsewhere, Le Figaro portrays the rioters as a bunch of bored, disaffected youths, led by a hard core of habitual criminals:
"We all know who started the fire," states Omar, 18, of Clichy-sous-Bois. The town's young people, like those of Aulnay-sous-Bois, mention two kinds of rioters. The most common description is oddly reminiscent of the people providing it: "a guy who's fed up," "who wouldn't be listened to otherwise," "who lets himself get caught up in it because he doesn't have much to do." They're young men who feel like they belong to "a wasted, sacrificed generation," says Kamel, 18, who has no degree and no job, "not even temp work." "When they see your Arab name and your address, you're screwed," claims Hamza, 18, who has been watching the riots closely, but "didn't do anything, because it was Ramadan."
So the next time you see a headline that reads "Muslim Rioting," keep in mind that "Unemployed Rioting" or "Youth Rioting" or even "Male Rioting" would all be equally accurate.
Oddly enough, Michelle Malkin -- perhaps inadvertently -- touched on this when she headlined the troubles as "Muslim Immigrant Gang Violence." Gang violence is exactly what it is. And gang violence can be found pretty much everywhere. It's not a uniquely French problem, or a uniquely European problem, and certainly not a uniquely Muslim problem (Belfast, anyone?).
As we wait to see what happens, all we can do is hope that the rioting will subside, that the epidemic of car-burnings will recede to its usual background level, and that the French government can find the political will to solve the problem of the banlieues once and for all. And not just because this would annoy the right-wing élite, which is already breathlessly anticipating the spread of the violence to other countries in Europe.