Paris Riots Set US Demagogues Alight

WorldNetDaily gets to grips with the riots in France, with…predictable results:

As rioting that began in a poor, mostly Muslim, neighborhood near Paris a week ago continues to spread to other suburbs and cities across France and parts of Europe, U.S. experts and at least one American lawmaker believe radical Islam is most likely responsible for the chaos.

So has WND‘s intrepid Jon Dougherty actually consulted some “experts” – you know, people who have an actual track record of studying France and its immigrant communities? Someone like, say, the Harvard-based Jocelyne Cesari, who wrote “Islam in France: the Shaping of a religious minority” (in Yvonne Haddad-Yazbek, ed., Muslims in the West, from Sojourners to Citizens, 2002, Oxford University Press, p 36-51)? Or perhaps Jonathan Laurence and Justin Vaisse, authors of the forthcoming Integrating Islam: Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France (2006, Brooking Institution Press)?

Well, of course, I’m being silly. “Expert” in WND-land means wingnut demagogue, and all the usual suspects are wheeled out. Here’s Robert Spencer:

“The rioters are part of a population that has never considered itself French”

To be fair, Spencer does at least go on to consider the role of urban deprivation, which is more than the others do, even though he uses that to jump to conclusions. Next, Lee Kaplan:

France’s quest to be “evenhanded” in its dealings with its massive Muslim immigration has backfired and now reached a point where Paris has little choice but to meet the problem head-on. In an interview with WND, he suggested that “with 5 million Muslims in France – the most in all of Europe,” this week’s chaos was inevitable.

…and, more absurd than ever, the inevitable Daniel Pipes:

“This isn’t comparable to the 1960s race riots in the U.S.,” he said. “This does have, deep down, an Islamic agenda of control, even if the kids doing the rioting aren’t cognizant of that” at the moment.

Some might be tempted to ask if Pipes has any evidence for his conspiracy theory, but I suppose that he long ago gave up actually having to justify himself academically when he discovered that vilification was an easier path.

Oh, and there’s the lawmaker, Tom “Jack D Ripper” Tancredo:

The real issue the French “are now dealing with,” he said, “is [that] you cannot integrate some people into your society.”

Meanwhile, over at another page, Jack Cashill accuses Europe for not fingering Islam as the true source of the riots (again, not based on any actual knowledge about France or its immigrant groups):

…This seemingly unprovoked mayhem by their musulman friends has embarrassed the French media into awkward apologetics and the European media into silence. Observing them, one begins to understand how Hitler was allowed to prosper.

“France herself is being attacked by foreign hordes,” claims the reliably outspoken Jean-Marie Le Pen at the end of the article. Indeed, in a continent of cowards and compromisers, it should not come as a surprise that citizens will turn to the first public figure who dares say anything at all.

OK…so Cashill’s saying that Jean-Marie Le Pen is enjoying a surge of popularity because he’s saying something true that no-one will dare to. Whereas Hitler…? Jack, think that one through for a bit…

(By the way, the same Jack Cashill who now lectures the media about facing the facts wrote a lengthy series in 2002 claiming that James Kopp, who had been charged with the murder of abortion provider Barnett Slepian, had in fact been framed by left-wing activists. That was before Kopp confessed; ConWebWatch has the full story. He’s also an Intelligent Design creationism propagandist, telling us that Darwin caused Hitler and Communism).

But complaining about WND stock pundits for spreading hysteria and hatred is like complaining about a bear for taking a crap in the woods. Even though the religious background of the Paris rioters may (it can still be debated) in reality be pretty well beside the point (as an article at alt-Muslim argues, quoting sociologist Laurent Mucchielli), it always was going to become a bandwagon for the US right, and no doubt there will be much more punditry to come. So, for those fainthearted enough to actually care about actual analysis, historical and social context, and so on, Cesari’s article is available on-line here. Here are some salient extracts (hyperlinked footnotes in original):

…Displays that grow in conspicuousness are blindly interpreted as evidence for renewed religious fervor. When, in the early 1980’s, immigrants built mosques, opened halal butcher shops, and claimed land for Muslim sections in cemeteries, the majority of the French people, scholars included, feared for a ‘return of Islam’. In actuality, the Muslims in question were not becoming more observant. Having resolved upon permanent residence in France, they were simply changing their attitude in favor of greater participation in French society.

…Muslims in France show extreme social and cultural heterogeneity. They identify differently with Islam according to their national origin, age, gender and social background. Nor can change within Muslim groups be understood independent of changes occurring within France itself. Dramatic forces at work upon French society may, in some cases, actually influence Muslim community more than its own internal dynamics.

…Within the academy, an initial total disregard for Islam has given way to a misunderstanding which resonates with the xenophobic distrust that has pervaded French society-at-large. Remarkable as it now seems, sociologists during the 1960’s and 1970’s actually studied North African immigration without even acknowledging the Muslim heritage of the immigrants concerned [4]. Having finally taken notice, these sociologists and their colleagues in political science [5] have misconstrued the increasing visibility of Muslims and their institutions as a sign that Islam is a phenomenon unto itself, impervious to those powerful secularizing [6] forces that have been shaping French life for generations. Few voices have been heard to the contrary, affirming that Muslims are — just like everybody else — subject to the laws that characterize socio-political change [7]. Few voices [8] have stated that the traditional Islamic devotion of parents is giving way to ever more individualized [9] and privatized [10] expressions of religiosity by their children.

And lest some think that Cesari is just some flaky Islamophile, she also noted the following (which also gives a bit of extra context to the cause of the current riots):

After the headscarf affair of 1989, which opened political eyes to Islam’s growing appeal to French-born Muslim youth, came the death of Khaled Kelkal in 1995. This young natural-born citizen of Algerian extraction was pursued and killed by police for his suspected part in a terrorist bombing campaign in Paris. His death raised the specter of alienated Muslim youth in run-down suburbs, turning to violent islamist groups that result in a rebel subculture.

Now, no-one has to agree with Cesari’s interpretation of Islam in France just because it’s come from someone who has actually lived in the country and done some detailed research. But could it at least be part of a sensible discussion about what’s going on, both in relation to the riots and more generally? I found Cesari (as well as Vaisse and Laurence) by just googling for two minutes. I don’t expect an outfit like WND to bother with such people, but could the mainstream media get on the case?

(Alt.Muslim link via The Revealer)

UPDATE: More at the World War 4 Report.

UPDATE 2: Newsweek actually has a quote from a French scholar, the half-Algerian anthropologist Dounia Bouzar.