Monday, November 07, 2005

burning cars and dodging cops

Interesting that the papers have finally pushed the French riots onto the front pages today; The Independent leads with an aticle entitled 'Libertie? Egalite? Fraternite?'. As a question it barely needs answering but the Indy provides answers anyway:

"LIBERTÉ? French Muslims banned from wearing headscarves in school.
ÉGALITÉ? France's non-whites twice as likely to be unemployed.
FRATERNITÉ? French government admits integration policies have failed.
RÉALITÉ: Riots erupt for eleventh night."

The Guardian travels the half mile from the Cite des 3000 to central Paris, where, in Aulney-sous-Bois, Jon Henley encounters little sympathy for the rioters: "how dare they mock the police?" asks one man. "They should send in the fucking army", says another – conveniently missing the point that the reason all this is still going eleven days on is because of the absurd and provactive reaction of Sarkozy (not the one where he called the inhabitants of the suburbs 'vermin', but the one where he sent in what Naima Bouteldja calls 'a massively disproportionate police presence in the first few days of the riots'). That, after four days – when the riots were calming down – the French authorities took the opportunity to tear-gas a mosque is another indication that sending in the army is, um, unlikely to make the situation any better. In an environment where police brutality is an everyday experience, they mightn't even notice the difference.

Amnesty International reported as recently as April of the "generalised impunity" with which 'the French police operated when it came to violent treatment of young men from African backgrounds during identity checks'. The report states that:

"The French government ministers, judges and senior police officers are allowing members of the police force to use excessive and sometimes lethal force against suspects of Arab and African origin without fear of serious repercussions".

It's naturally very important - and not just because it's tragic watching people tear up their own community - that the French government find a way of stopping these riots as soon as possible. As Hugues Lagrange points out,

"If such attacks are not brought under control, the population of these poor neighbourhoods, initially supportive of the 'kids' in their confrontation with the police, will turn against all rioters. That would again give the upper hand to heavy-handed repression"

John Snow, over on Snowmail, raises some interesting questions. I'm not sure whether they're supposed to be rhetorical or not:

"Watching the ongoing riots in France raises three questions for me: Are the French where Britain was in 1985, when policing and a central government, blind to social reality, lay at the heart of race riots here? And if, as some say post July 7, multi-culturalism in Britain has been deemed a failure, what about French "integration"? Remember it's only a year or so since France pushed through the hijab ban in schools to reinforce the secular foundation of the Republic and the primacy of citizenship over religion. And where are the young women in all of this?"

Melanie Phillips, of course, has something to say on the matter too, although it shouldn't come as any surprise that she's talking absolute shit.

"In line with routine contemporary moral inversion, in which the perpetrators of violence are excused and their victims blamed instead by an alliance of Muslims and western decadents (Britain was blamed for the July bombings of its citizens because of Iraq) the French authorities are being blamed for fanning the flames of discontent by discriminating against the country's Muslims… Is every country to be held responsible for the jihad being waged against it - despite the fact that in every case the alleged provocation is different — rather then responsibility being properly assigned to those who have declared war upon the free world?"

So she gets bonus points for the first ludicrous mention of the word 'jihad' in connection with this protest. Mad woman. To clarify, the Union of Islamic Organisations in France has indicated in the strongest terms that "It is strictly forbidden for any Muslim... to take part in any action that strikes blindly at private or public property or that could threaten the lives of others".

In the meantime, an Interior Ministry statement states that 839 more vehicles were torched overnight. Thirty-four police were injured in clashes and 186 rioters detained. Rioters are now shooting at the police. Chirac, who clearly has no ideas whatsoever when it comes to resolving the situation, is – remarkably - standing by Sarkozy. Christ.


sandrine said...

as a french reader i think you sum up the situation quite well. france is a very racist country and is getting worse. the hijab ban was a disatser.

jonathan said...

Thanks - I feel bad writing about other countries because I know that I simply don't know much about it and don't want to offend others with my ignorance.

For the record, I've never met a racist French person, and don't want to imply that the French are racist. I do think, however, that the French integration policy, particularly in regard to headscarves, is racist. However, my friends are tired of my recycling that argument so I won't do so again!

Annsaphone said...

Jonathan, you know my views on the topic - I think it's a big harsh to assimilate the decision on the scarf to the horrible events happening at the moment in France.

Nothing can excuse setting fire to schools, pharmacies, employment centers, buses and houses (with people inside!!!); additionally, you cannot compare the French and English positions on the scarf as our history of integration is just so different.

What I find truly sad is the fact that no politician is coming up with any practical solution about how to handle the current situation; the socialists say it's Sarkozy's fault and the rigth says it's because of the left.

jonathan said...

You're right, the scarves thing isn't really relevent to this - I didn't actually mention it at all in the blog post (although the Independent did) and only in the comments when sandrine did.

I don't think people are rioting because of the headscarves ban; in fact I'd go so far as to say that it isn't a religious/racial issue at all really. It's just about poverty and social protest - if you deny people jobs and subjugate them they respond in this way. There's nothing French about it - the same thing happened in Brixton in the 80s and L.A in the 90s.

I just really hope the french govt find a way to stop it soon. It's maddening to know that if they got rid of Sarkozy much of it would peter out. And its heartbreaking watching people destroy their own communities. Far more so killing each other!

I can't see an end to it at the moment though - it's appalling :-(

jonathan said...

Oops, actually, looking at it again, I did mention headscarves, but only quoting John Snow. Either way, I didn't intend to make that the focus of my article by any means - it doesn't explain what is happening in the 300+ towns experiencing turmoil in France (nor, for that matter, in Brussels or Berlin, where isolated incidents have also cropped up in the last few days).