I haven’t written about the Paris (and now perhaps French) intifada, partly because I’ve been too busy and partly because it’s so sad. I’ve been saying since the early days of Power Line that France probably is done-for, but seeing the latest evidence is harrowing just the same. Despite my frequent and harsh criticism of France and the French (too frequent and harsh to suit my French wife), I love the city of Paris and some aspects of French culture. The demise of that city and that culture, for all the faults of both, is tragic.
The riots in themselves signal no such demise. We had our race riots in the late 1960s. But these riots are fundamentally different. Although members of the black power movement had reason to hate America, deep-down most of them didn’t. Our riots came at the tail end of the great and peaceful civil rights revolution. By the time they occurred, Congress had already passed the legislation that would vastly diminish the injustices that sparked them. The movement that Martin Luther King led was profoundly pro-American. It challenged America to live up to its creed. The exponents of violence tended to be impatient kids who, to the extent they claimed to be separatists, were fooling themselves. It was their frustration with the pace of integration and black advancement which caused them to embrace the shock rhetoric of extreme black nationalism.
As far as I can tell, the situation in France today is nothing like that. These riots are not the tail-end of a peaceful, pro-French civil rights movement. They are a manifestation of raw hatred of France. The anti-French rhetoric is not the result of youthful hot-headedness or a desire to shock the French into living up to their creed (if what France stands for can be called that). It is, at least in part, the product of a religion with its own diametrically opposite creed. The rioters and their leaders aren’t demanding that the French embrace them, nor is that what they are after. If they have an objective, it is to transform France into an Islamic state. Certainly, the intention is not to do away with the vestiges of slavery. At best, these thugs and fledgling Islamofascists wish to preserve their ability to act outside of the constraints of law and civilized norms. At worst, they wish to terrorize the French until they convert to Islam, and to enslave those who don’t convert.
France’s situation may not be hopeless, but it’s not easy to see the way out. Their best hope may be that the U.S. succeeds in its efforts to transform the Middle East to the point that Muslims perceive themselves as having a stake in the democratic project (as American blacks did) and in the global economy. Ironically, France has done just about everything it can to undermine this effort by the U.S.