On Thursday night, Oct. 27, two teenagers, Ziad Benna (17) and Banou Traoré (15), fled into an electrical power substation in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. They were hiding from police who had entered the suburb to investigate a robbery. Why the boys fled and climbed over the three-meter fence of the power station is unclear. The result, however, was something every moderately intelligent schoolboy could have foreseen: they got electrocuted.
When the fire brigade arrived to retrieve their bodies, something happened that every moderately intelligent French politician could have foreseen. Neighborhood gangs attacked the firemen and police officers and went on a rampage, setting fire to dozens of cars. The same thing happened during the following nights, when schools, shops, and restaurants were also set ablaze. At first the media did not devote much attention to the rioting. These things happen every day in the predominantly immigrant and largely Muslim neighborhoods surrounding every major French city.
Only one week earlier Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy had declared in Le Monde: “Violence in French suburbs is a daily fact of life. Since the beginning of the year stones were thrown at 9,000 police cars and each night 20 to 40 cars are torched.” For some years, vehicle burning has been a favorite way to celebrate New Year’s Eve. If only 30 cars are set ablaze on an ordinary night and just 300 on New Year’s, the French police consider the situation to be “stable.”
France is not exceptional. Police officers and firemen are used to having stones thrown at them in Western Europe’s immigrant neighborhoods as a normal part of their daily routine. This is what Andrew Osborn of the British Sunday newspaper The Observer wrote after visiting Borgerhout, the largely Moroccan suburb of the Flemish city of Antwerp, in December 2002: “Outsiders aren’t welcome. ‘Go home before we beat your f——g white ass,’ is how one group of young men greet The Observer. Passing police cars are bombarded with a barrage of expletives and spittle.”
Here is what Rolf Landgren, a police officer in the Swedish town of Malmö, told Steve Harrigan of Fox News in November 2004: “If we park our car it will be damaged—so we have to go very often in two vehicles, one just to protect the other vehicle.” Fear of violence has changed the way police, firemen, and emergency workers do their jobs, explained Harrigan. There are some neighborhoods Swedish ambulance drivers will not go to without a police escort.
The following dispatch is from neighboring Denmark, where this October rioters burned down a kindergarten in Århus. The newspaper Jyllands-Posten witnessed how the fire brigade did not dare to enter the area. Private firefighters were sent in under armored police protection: “Falck, a private emergency service, sent a group of fire engines under police escort to the Kjærslund nursery. A window had been shattered at the back of the house, and the fire had been blazing, apparently caused by gasoline poured onto the floor and lit. Falck stopped on Viby Square, a couple of kilometers from the site of the arson attack, waiting for the police to turn up so they could be escorted to the nursery.”
These examples, unknown to Americans but all too familiar to many Europeans, show how for years virtual no-go areas have been forming in Old Europe. The areas were abandoned by left-leaning authorities intent on not “provoking” the immigrants with police presence.
These pockets of Eurabia are scattered across the western part of the continent. Some of the gangs consist of Islamic radicals, some are plain mafia gangs engaging in “secular” criminal activities, some are a mixture of both. Whenever right-wing law-and-order politicians try to reassert the state’s authority over their territories, heavy rioting follows. This is what recently happened in Denmark, where Louise Gade, the mayor of Århus, announced a zero-tolerance policy and ordered a crackdown on troublemakers “so ordinary law-abiding citizens could feel safe in their homes again.”
This is also what happened in France. The rioting that started on Oct. 27 was triggered by the death of two foolish youths. However, it was the inevitable result of Minister Sarkozy’s determination, expressed during the previous months but most forcibly on Oct. 19, to wage “total war” against “urban violence, burning cars, the gangs occupying income halls of apartment blocks, the underground economy in the suburbs.” Sarkozy announced that 17 additional units of CRS (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité) and 7 units of mobile gendarmerie would be deployed in Paris. “I want to see clear results within the next six months.”
It was a declaration of war. If only he had been ready for the war he was taking on.
To understand the events in Europe today, we must return to 1975. In June 1975, 200 parliamentarians from Western European countries convened in Strasbourg, where they unanimously adopted the Resolution of Strasbourg. The politicians represented all shades of the political spectrum, except the far Right, which at that time did not have parliamentary representatives anywhere. The resolution was written by Tijl Declercq, a left-wing Belgian Christian-Democrat who also happened to be a notorious appeaser of the Soviet regime.
The text stated that Arab immigrants settling in Europe were entitled to bring their culture and religion to Europe, to promote it and spread it. The resolution stressed “the contribution that the European countries can still expect from Arab culture, notably in the area of human values” and asked the European governments “to accord the greatest priority to spreading Arab culture in Europe.” The politicians also called upon the press “to create a favourable climate for the immigrants and their families” and on the press and academia “to emphasize the positive contribution of Arab culture to European development.”
Throughout the following three decades, as millions of Muslim immigrants settled in Europe, the various European countries did everything they could to allow them to keep their culture, customs, traditions, and way of life rather than asking them to assimilate or integrate in Western society. On the contrary, European “natives” who requested the latter were decried by the chattering classes as “Islamophobe.” In some countries Islamophobia was even made a criminal offense.
Multiculturalism, however, cannot exist, except as several cultures living side by side in defined territories, where the laws of one culture do not apply in the territories of the others. As a consequence, the lower-class European neighborhoods where the immigrants settled came to resemble Muslim enclaves. The authorities tacitly allowed the immigrants to live by their own rules. The natives who could afford to left, while those who could not became foreigners in their own country. They are forced to obey the prescriptions of another culture and religion. Two years ago a Christian woman was beaten up in Borgerhout for eating in the streets during Ramadan. This year, Philippe Moureaux, the socialist mayor of Molenbeek, a predominantly Muslim suburb of Brussels, forbade police officers to drink coffee or eat sandwiches in the street during Ramadan. Moureaux, who wants to win the Muslim vote in next year’s municipal elections, has also told the police that it is not expedient to patrol in Molenbeek.
As a result, more and more natives, especially lower-class people abandoned by their own governments, have begun to vote for parties of the so-called extreme Right. These parties, some of which are led by people of intelligence and integrity and some of which are led by fools, have attracted the votes of people who are the victims of the policies recommended in the 1975 Strasbourg Resolution. In some nations, as in Belgium, these parties have become the biggest in the country, with the establishment trying to ban them on charges of racism. As they keep growing, however, ambitious politicians of the center-right, such as Nicolas Sarkozy, have begun to speak “tough.” Whether they are doing so because they realize the mistakes of the past or just because they want to keep the “natives” from voting for the “extreme right” is unclear.
Sarkozy became the most popular politician in France with his outspokenness, while at the same time he became a hate figure for the immigrant gangs ruling the no-go areas in the French suburbs and for the left-wing intellectuals who condone these “youths” as if they are a type of “noble savages” untainted by the evilness of Western civilization.
The riots that began on Oct. 27 in Clichy-sous-Bois lasted for days, grew ever more violent, and spread throughout France, until the whole world noticed. It is easy to understand why the “youths” in the suburbs turned so violent when Sarkozy tried to establish law and order there. The “youths” have held sway there, unchallenged, for decades. If they allow the French authorities to reassert their authority, they lose their own power base. Unlike the Western intellectuals, they realize that everything boils down to the question of who wields power over a specific territory. The police and the gangs fight over whose laws will apply in the neighborhood: the laws of the French Republic or the laws of Eurabia.
As Dyab Abou Jahjah, the young and charismatic Brussels-based leader of the European Arab League, has said, “We believe in a multicultural society as a social and political model where different cultures coexist with equal rights under the law. We do not want to assimilate and we do not want to be stuck somewhere in the middle. We want to foster our own identity and culture. Assimilation is cultural rape. It means renouncing your identity, becoming like the others.” For Jahjah, Europe does not belong to the Europeans, it belongs to the Arabs as well: “I don’t believe in a host country. We are at home here and whatever we consider our culture to be also belongs to our chosen country.”
It is likely that Sarkozy did not realize what was really at stake when he declared “total war” in order to recapture the suburbs for the French Republic. However, for the Muslim radicals—invariably described in the media as “youths”—it is quite literally a war. The French government is reneging on the 1975 Strasbourg Resolution. If multiculturalism is impossible except as different cultures “coexisting” on neighboring but different territories, the attempt of the French Republic to reconquer the suburbs is a strike at the heart of the culture of the immigrant “youths,” an attempt to deprive them of their country. It is cultural rape, it is forcing them to become like the others, namely secularized Europeans.
Sarkozy, who deployed only policemen in his war, was unable to prevail because he did not have the weapons to win a territorial conflict. After two days of rioting, police officers warned that they did not have the means to win what they (correctly) described as a “civil war.” The riots spread to the whole of France. Dozens of schools, shops, and factories were set ablaze and thousands of cars and buses. Molotov cocktails were thrown into buses while the passengers were still on them. The police were shot at.
Moreover, Sarkozy’s enemies in the government did not want the interior minister to win the battle for the suburbs, which would make him immensely popular with ordinary Frenchmen. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who is Sarkozy’s main rival for the presidential elections in 2007, blamed the latter for having incited the “disturbances” with his inflammatory rhetoric which was said to have “provoked the youths.”
While the battle for the suburbs went on, political bickering paralyzed the government. Jacques Chirac, the corrupt center-right president of France, who in 2002 won the elections in the second round from the far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen, distrusts Sarkozy. Chirac sees Villepin, an aristocrat appointee who has never held an elected office, as his crown prince. The president and the prime minister refused to crack down on the “youths” in the suburbs. They favor a policy of “dialogue” and “appeasement.” The latter constitutes not only an appeasement of the radical Muslims and the thugs in society but also of one’s own mind. Indeed, it is more convenient to think that the cause of the riots is plain thuggishness resulting from discrimination on the job market.
The poor natives who live in the immigrants’ neighborhoods know better, however. They know that the generals of Eurabia, the leaders of the “youths,” drive BMWs and Mercedes (which no-one dares to set alight), and that they use mobile phones and PCs to instruct their highly mobile troops. The war in France is not about social injustice, but about territory.
Paul Belien is the editor of www.brusselsjournal.com.