How far do the roots of the recent French riots extend?
Here’s a perspective as to possible drivers of the recent violence being demonstrated in the Paris suburbs.
Back in the 1990s, the French sneered at America for the Los Angeles riots. As the Chicago Sun-Times reported in 1992: “the consensus of French pundits is that something on the scale of the Los Angeles riots could not happen here, mainly because France is a more humane, less racist place with a much stronger commitment to social welfare programs.”
President Mitterrand, the Washington Post reported in 1992, blamed the riots on the “conservative society” that Presidents Reagan and Bush had created and said France is different because it “is the country where the level of social protection is the highest in the world.”
How the times have changed. Muslims in Paris’s suburbs are out shooting at police and firefighters, burning cars and buildings, and throwing rocks at commuter trains. Even children are out on the streets – it was reported that a 10-year-old was arrested.
The trigger for the riots was the electrocution of two teenagers last Thursday, which the rioters say came following a police chase, a charge the police deny. But even if the charge by the rioters is true, that the police are culpable in the deaths of the two youths, the fact that such an incident would spark a riot is a sign of something deeper at work – no doubt France’s failure to integrate its immigrant Muslim community.
It turns out that France’s Muslim community lives in areas rampant with crime, poverty, and unemployment, much the fault of France’s prized welfare system.
There are those of us who spent part of the 1980s in Europe, supporting the idea, among others from the Reagan era, that immigration was a virtue for a country and that the racial or religious background of the immigrants did not matter. We maintain that view. But immigration into a country with a dirigiste economy is a recipe for trouble, which is why supporters of immigration into France have long warned of the need for liberalization.
Now, some folks are no doubt saying to themselves, so what? That’s France’s problem.
Well, think again – there are some possible ramifications that dictate the need to take this problem seriously on the international front.
A number of observers of the French scene have looked at population trends and suggested that France is on its way to becoming a Muslim country (one that would, let it be noted, be armed with hydrogen bombs). Some react to this by suggesting a halt to immigration and even expulsion.
The better approach is to impose law and order, more speedily to reform the burdensome welfare state, and start integrating the Muslim community.
A very sensitive situation and one that needs to be handled with care as actions taken because the consequences can certainly be far-reaching.
Integrating the Muslim community, increasing law enforcement efforts to address the rioting conditions, and striving for economic reform are all necessary areas that the French government and leadership need to quickly pursue.