The difference between journalism that is politically correct, and journalism that is journalism, can be quite striking. I was reading a long article in the current number of the highbrow quarterly, Foreign Affairs, on “France and its Muslims”, by Stéphanie Giry. Here is the magazine’s own summary:
“The recent panic over the rise of Islamic extremism in Europe has overlooked a key fact: the majority of European Muslims are trying hard to fit in, not opt out. This is especially clear in France, where the picture is much brighter than often acknowledged. Unfortunately, cynical politicians and the clumsy elite are now making matters much worse.”
In the writer’s own words: “Some French and foreign observers have interpreted last November's riots in poor, largely Muslim neighbourhoods throughout the country as a skirmish in a broader clash of civilizations. Yet the strife had little to do with yearnings for a worldwide caliphate and much to do with domestic socioeconomic problems.”
It would be hard to put the politically-correct position more succinctly. Ms Giry faithfully echoes all the old quasi-Marxist thought clichés about the oppression of an urban proletariat -- producing a class war having little or nothing to do with religion. The solution thus presents itself: more sensitivity, more public spending, and would all those ham-headed rightwing people please shut up.
Yet reading between her own lines, one is reminded of the extraordinary efforts the French government has made to assist Muslim immigrants with schools, community centres, special public services, positive discrimination, and everything else a munificent welfare state can think of.
One then turns to an unusual item in Thursday’s Daily Telegraph, which mentions that 2,500 French police officers have been injured so far this year in otherwise unreported continuing clashes with Muslim youths in France’s housing estates and “banlieues”.
The matter came up because the head of a police union (Michel Toomis of Action Police) had appealed to the French government to supply his members with armoured cars, to patrol certain Muslim neighbourhoods. Among other things, he mentioned that, “We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists. This is not a question of urban violence any more, it is an intifada, with stones and Molotov cocktails.”
There are two ways to reconcile these two articles. One is to assume that the Telegraph dispatch, confirmed by several sources in France, was made up from whole cloth. The other is to assume that the Foreign Affairs writer, even though she has a law degree from Yale, is writing nonsense.
That the politically-correct account is a lie, is demonstrated by one large fact. When the rioting in France’s Muslim ghettoes increased last year -- to the point where Muslim gangs were leaving their own neighbourhoods and torching cars and other property belonging to nice gliberal people -- the French state finally quelled it. How? By calling in imams from the Muslim Brotherhood to talk the rioters down. What possible use could radical imams be, in a class war? And why hadn’t the incessant promises of “more sensitivity, more public spending” from Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin stopped all the chanting of “Allahu Akhbar!” as the flames went up?
In its final desperate act of appeasement, the French state made itself utterly beholden to the same radicals who had instructed the Muslim youth. Their core demand is Shariah rule in France’s Muslim neighbourhoods now, and over the whole country later.
The reason French police are being injured, at the current rate of 14 per day, is that they are obliged to enter neighbourhoods where they are not welcome. They are trying to enforce French secular law in territory now claimed for the Dar al-Islam.
I don’t want to be misunderstood. An earlier generation of Muslim immigrants in France, and throughout Europe, made no demands, and did try to assimilate. But that was before the radical “Islamists” got to their children, through both the mosques, and the street culture. Moreover, it is probably true that the great majority of Muslims, in France and worldwide, still do not want Shariah imposed, whether violently or peacefully.
Nor can one say that no one in France will talk about this problem. The famous philosophy professor, Robert Redeker, wrote a frank article in Le Figaro on September 19th, in which he said contemporary Islam “exalts violence”.
But he is now in hiding, changing locations every 48 hours, after numerous plausible death threats. And Le Figaro’s chief editor has delivered an obsequious apology for publishing his article, to the whole Muslim world, through Al-Jazeera TV.
"The majority of European Muslims ... trying hard to fit in" are irrelevant to this developing story.
David Warren© Ottawa Citizen