The riots that shook some French suburbs are over now; however, the media still echoes them. Rioters are still being confused with French youths of African origin: Muslims and foreigners alike, and free rein is given to the racist oratory both in France and abroad. In an interview granted to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, Alain Finkielkraut – a symbol of this change of tone – puts forward the image of French Muslims at war with the West, emphasizing, however, that it could not be put this way in France. Many analysts think he is wrong while they convey the same image by making allusions.
The riots that shook some French suburbs are over now; however, the media still echoes them.
The acts of violence “only” left some shops and several thousand vehicles destroyed, no one killed, but they shook the world. Media experts or political leaders delighted in talking about it. They gave the facts an importance they had not and dared make the most absurd or nauseating comparisons (i.e., a parallel between the acts of violence and hurricane Katrina particularly caught on despite its inconsistencies, and part of the press often predicted the beginning of a religious war).
The entity Project Syndicate spared no efforts in this regard. This is how we found the article about the acts of violence in France by former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard in the Daily Times (Pakistan), ABC (Spain), Taipei Times (Taiwan) and Jordan Times. On the other hand, analysts Alfred Stepan’s and Ezra Suleiman’s discussion was flattered to be reproduced in the Korea Herald (South Korea), the Daily Times (Pakistan), Taipei Times (Taiwan), L’Orient Le Jour (Lebanon) and La Vanguardia (Spain). As usual, we cannot ensure that such articles have not been spread further; some publications may have gone unnoticed by us. The above articles urge France to revise its social system but hardly contribute to the analysis. They contribute, however, to dramatize the facts and influence international opinion of an event, which if approached worldwide, is only an epiphenomenon.
Bahrain writer and journalist Said Al Shihabi is not indifferent to this influence. Despite his huge efforts to separate those events from the “Western” relationship with the Islam in an article published by Alquds al-Arabi, he can’t help being dragged in by the general dramatization of the facts when comparing, as Bernard Cassen did before him, the acts of violence in the suburbs with the path of hurricane Katrina. However, what is the contrast between the total destruction of a city, which left hundreds of people dead and the destruction of some thousands of vehicles? All this has been spurred on by the questioning of the French social model. So, by making his own the analysis of the international press, Al Shihabi ends up formulating the same answer: the French social system needs to be adjusted – a campaign topic of Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy is an unavoidable element in most discussions on the issue.
For the US extreme right, it is not the French social model that is to blame but the Muslim presence in Europe, more particularly in France. We are therefore witnesses to an explosion of racist comments in the neo-con press. It was our duty to let our readers know of such statements, no matter how abhorrent the statements are to us. The present disclosure intends to highlight, replace in its context and analyze the main arguments set forth by the international press.
In Frontpage Magazine, anti-Muslim best selling author and Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer commented on and praised the words of his colleague Oriana Fallaci. He did not hesitate to state that Muslim “immigrants” could be compared to a new Muslim army wishing to conquer Europe on a numerical superiority basis and impose the sharia on this continent. He said that Islam is a sort of totalitarianism comparable to Nazism (as Bernard Lewis did, whom he referred to) and that the Koran can be compared with Mein Kampf. This way of presenting the riots as though they were an urban battle confronting the “West” with the Islam has largely caught on in North America. At the outset of the acts of violence, neo-con analyst Edward Morrissey named his article about the burning of cars Falluja-Sur-Seine?. Let’s recall that for the Weekly Standard Falluja does not convey the impression of the slaughtering of civilians by an occupation army but of a “jihad” insurrection linked to Al Qaeda, which the US troops were compelled to put down.
We have already explained in our columns how the US-UK press that supported the invasion of Iraq had increased the number of comparisons between 2005 and 1945 France by overexploiting the title “Paris brûle t il ?”. Former Ronald Reagan adviser Jack Wheeler also used it in a section published by To The Point, which was widely commented on and applauded by the neo-con press. Wheeler, who in the past described at length the torture techniques he recommended to make suspects speak during the “war against terror”, showed once again signs of his intense racism. According to him, the rioters are unintegrated illiterate, criminal Muslims who, due to their abundant population, want to turn the French identity (Christian and European) into a Muslim one. He thinks that the only person still capable of doing something to save the situation is Nicolas Sarkozy.
As can be noted, whether this is a matter of wishing to adjust the French socio-economic model to the US-UK economic globalization or asking for a stern control of the “Muslim” populations, the atlantist media (neo-con or not) is calling up the French Minister of the Interior.
The latter laid his points of view out in Le Figaro.
After sowing discord during the riots by exaggerating the provocation, the Minister of the Interior (President of UMP, President of the Hauts de Seine General Council and candidate for the 2007 French presidential elections) is now playing the pacification card, thus copying the strategy that he himself used during the debate about the Islamist veil. Following the important role he played in the triggering of the acts of violence, Sarkozy then presented himself as a moderating element. This is how he asserts his wish to see France become equipped with a “positive discrimination” system based on the place of residence to help the people living in sensitive urban areas, and puts forward some motions especially favouring the integration of the youths from those areas.
These reassuring words are denied today by the rumours shaking the chancelleries and according to which mass returns of African immigrant are being organized all over the Schengen zone for the end of this year.
But this is of little importance; Nicolas Sarkozy can now act moderate and pass from tenderness to threat. He has already managed to institute an openly racist dialogue in France that was only asking to appear and is now expressed without any guilt complex.
The long interview that French “philosopher” Alain Finkielkraut gave to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz has become the symbol of this uninhibited racist oratory. In his opinion, in a disorderly manner, the riots result from the actions of the Muslims who reject the Republic, use children to reach their goals, are at war with “the West”, and wield a message of hatred based on the colonization-exploitation myth when in reality France did much good to Africa. Finkielkraut praises the educational objectives of colonization and lashes out at those organizations and personalities who want France to finally face up to its past crimes. By so doing, he states that humorist Dieudonné – an antiracist militant – is the great organizer of the dissemination of “racism against whites” and the “master of anti-Semitism in France”.
This interview led Dieudonné and antiracist organizations to complain, but Finkielkraut enjoyed the indulgence of the great mass media . His detractors, in turn, relied only on the Internet to air their views. So, the open letter by humorist Dieudonné where he condemned Finkielkraut’s statements was spread only by Les Ogres site and the announcements filing the complaints of the remaining organizations went hardly noticed by the media.
Even when Finkielkraut often said in the interview that he can only express himself as he does in Israel and that he would be censured in France, he seems to have displeased the French media to some extent in relation to himself with this kind of speech when not coming from the registered extreme right.
Although Alain Finkielkraut’s interview did not go down too well, it was essentially due to the length and harshness of the language used. Those used to Finkielkraut’s writings and statements were not taken aback by the words quoted in Ha’aretz but by the style and the rawness that replaced allusion.
Likewise, when Finkielkraut affirmed that ‘this can’t be said in France’, he probably meant that it couldn’t be said the way he did, but that the ideology he conveyed would surely find a space within the French media.
Questioning the criminal nature of colonization is something common among media experts and politicians. On February 23, 2005, an additional step was taken by passing an act that recognized the “positive nature” of the colonization of Africa by France. The parliamentary opposition recently proposed to amend this text but the proposal was turned down again.
Sovereignty-adherent historian Max Gallo commented on the debate raised by the voting in Le Figaro. He expressed his concern over the historical simplifications that might grow complicated in France regarding colonization. In his opinion, there is now a movement trying very hard to diminish the colonial trail in order to support communitarianism [NB: Communitarianism is an approach according to which the only explicative element of the problems or social/political issues is the religious or ethnic community] and attack the Republic. Therefore, if he condemned the February 23, 2005 Act, it is because he does not like a legislator dictating his work to a historian. However, he did not devote much time to the contents of the act, though he did so to weigh up the sufferings of the colonized by comparing them with those of the settlers and with the “progress” contributed to the colonies instead of charging the parliamentary assessment of a historical crime.
Denying colonial crimes is not new in France. The country has not yet taken its consciousness test about the colonial period. An example of this is the next national celebration of the victories of Napoleon I when he re-established slavery, exterminated the French revolutionaries from the West Indies in a concentration camp and resorted to gas chambers to perpetrate mass slaughters as shown by our collaborator Claude Ribbe in his last work. _Even worse, the assessment of colonialism has experienced a new impetus in the last few years since both journalists and politicians who advocate the policy of Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush expressed their wish to see the French support both leaders by putting aside the “white man’s guilt” – French “philosopher” Pascal Buckner’s favourite topic, which at other times was also reserved for the extreme right. Joining the “Clash of Civilizations” theory strengthens a tendency that was already alive in the French political debate.
The old French debate on laicism has also been directly attacked by this ideology and the image of the conquering Islam that it conveys.
Charlie Hebdo journalist and leader of the Prochoix organization Carolina Fourest denounced in Libération the “retouch” project of the Act that separates the church from the state so longed for by Nicolas Sarkozy. Fourest’s text was available over a month ago on the Prochoix site, and we’ll ignore the reasons that led the French leftist daily to publish it so late. Fourest says that Nicolas Sarkozy is getting ready to question Article 2 of the Act that enacts the republican principle of laicism which prohibits public powers from funding cults or granting them a salary. The Voltaire Network, which advocates laicism in international relations and defends that principle prior to the establishment of a true democracy, can’t help but share Fourest’s fears in relation to this attack against the balance of the 1905 Act. However, Caroline Fourest soon falls into her traditional obsessions and readily quits the laicism subject to come back to her major topic: the Islamic threat. So, although questioning Article 2 of the 1905 Act would be advantageous to all those clerical movements that have never accepted the French principle of laicism, Fourest devotes most of her article to the Muslim threat against laicism in France. She quickly changes the direction of her speech to regret the French elected representatives’ satisfaction with regard to the imams to whom they would delegate the task of safeguarding the respect of the law in the difficult neighbourhoods. The nomination of their patsy – scholar Tariq Ramadan – to run an advisory commission on Islam in the UK is also a source of annoyance to Fourest.
In a nutshell, by connecting little related elements with each other, Fourest bases herself on a legitimate preoccupation that demands at the same time the mobilization of the citizens to accept the presentation of a conquering Islam with a fundamentalist strategy in Europe. Without coming to the point of what she had written in the Wall Street Journal on February 2, 2005 (after all, “it can’t be said in France”), the journalist presented, in acceptable terms for the French left, theories which are comparable to those of neo-con editorialists.
In the face of this repeated humiliation of a population through its own religious beliefs, the voices that discuss the Islamization of the social problems or the turn of the political debate in France are few.
Tariq Ramadan regrets at the Oumma.com site that this sort of racism previously reserved for the extreme right should be spread to public opinion. Today, men and women from different political horizons have agreed to denounce the foreign looking figure. He also points out that, like Alain Finkielkraut, those journalists or editorialists disguised as democrats or humanists in France sometimes go abroad to stigmatize the Muslim populations in the media.