Reflections on the riots in France

Riots have convulsed France over the past five nights. The New York Times reports, for example, in a story published in the past two hours “France Arrests Hundreds More in Fifth Night of Unrest.” President Macron scrapped an official trip to Germany in light of the riots, though not before he made it to the Elton John concert in Paris.

The occasion this time around is the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy of North African descent identified as Nahel M. this past Tuesday. Some 45,000 police officers have been deployed across the country for the past two evenings. Although the news reports are not helpful on this point, I take it that the rioters come largely from France’s large Muslim community.

Christopher Caldwell devoted his 2009 book to the subject: Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West. The current riots appear to constitute a possibly aggravated replay of the October 2005 riots that Caldwell covers at pages 111-114.

The 2005 riots have their own Wikipedia entry. Le Monde has a good summary here. Caldwell concludes the section of the book on the riots with this observation:

There was a desire, verging on desperation, to explain the riots as due to some misconduct of the majority society. Because if the riots could not be explained by the misconduct of the majority society, then they could only be explained as part of the agenda of the rioters. And to raise the agenda of the rioters was to raise, once again, the subject of Islam.

We have our own problems, two or three times over. I think of the cadre of rioters that devastated Minneapolis following George Floyd’s death in May 2020. To raise the agenda of the rioters is to raise, once again, the subject of the radical left.

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