Not A French Revolution
By Micah Halpern
Sunday November 6, 2005
The Eiffel Tower. The Louvre. Croissants. Gardens, gargoyles, garrets. It used to be that when you thought of Paris, your thoughts turned to old movies and romance. Until the night of October 27th.
That's when the riots began. That was when two young men, apparently believing that they were being chased by police, ran into an electric substation transformer and were electrocuted.
And the riots have continued. Who are the rioters? They are mostly Muslim/Arab youths, disenfranchised, dejected, feeling themselves rejected by mainstream society. And they have taken over the streets of Paris.
Surprised? You shouldn't be. Not when you put it all in context.
Muslims are the first immigrants to enter France since the famous French Revolution of 1789 with the intention of transforming the country rather than of being transformed themselves into authentic French mesdames and messieurs.
Muslims believed that they could not only retain their own identity, but also turn France into a Muslim stronghold. For two and a half centuries immigrants made their way into France and made France their home by becoming French, not by denying everything that is France. Until the wave of Muslim immigration began, each group of immigrants contributed to a larger France by adding their own unique and specialized subculture to the overall French culture. No one ever believed that they were changing France, no one wanted to change France. They were becoming Frenchmen. Their children would be truly French. Until the Muslim/Arabs arrived.
Muslim immigration is spreading into all parts of Europe. And the problems that Muslims are facing in France are the same problems that Muslims will face in each country they enter. It is the larger problem of Islam in Europe.
Muslims entering France have been taught to distrust the country they are entering and hoping to call home. Muslim clerics speak of the evils of Western culture and of French culture. As they establish their communities Muslims erect barriers preventing a true assimilation into France. Rather than absorbing French culture they seek to convert the French to their own religion cum culture. They strive to turn France into a Muslim state.
And they have met with resistance. And it has had a strong, deleterious effect on Muslim youth living in France today.
France is not rejecting these kids, the kids are rejecting France. That is an important distinction, a distinction that is lost in the power of the riots. This is not the beginning of a revolution, it is youthful expression of frustration. These are not just kids who have lost all hope because they are forced to live in crime-ridden communities and to work dead end jobs, kids left behind by mainstream society. These are kids taught to buck mainstream society. They have been weaned on a mistrust of the French, raised to reject that which could so easily be theirs.
I am no big defender of the French. But I respect their place in history. France is the founder of modern democracy, the home of the revolution that brought freedom and emancipation to the Western world. France will survive this minor insurrection. No doubt the liberal state of France will clamp down. The right wing National Front has already made their opinions known. They will find a way to solve the problem.
France is not in danger of becoming a Muslim state. Actually, France is one of the most aggressively xenophobic societies in Europe. They will not allow themselves to become Muslim because their liberal democracy and their very French character and charm are too important. France will not self-destruct in the name of democracy. They will, however, shoot down their potential encroachers.
To be French is to love liberte, to understand fraternite and to be willing to grant egalite. If or when the Muslim/Arab community is ready, the French will be there for them. Until then, they will be rejected. Not only in France.