The Bells of Ys
PARIS (AP) -- For the seventh consecutive night of violences as a Seine-Saint-Denis, of the small mobile groups attacked the public equipment, police force, trade and vehicle Wednesday evening in tens of communes of the department, according to the prefecture. The police officers were the target of stone jets and taken with part in the evening with the White-Mesnil, Courneuve, Clichy-Sous-Bois, in Tremblay-in-France, in Livry-Gargan and Sevran, the service of communication of the prefecture specified. Incidents were also announced to Bondy, in Le Bourget, in Villepinte, and Aulnay-under-Wood where a police station "was invested" without it being known in the immediate future if the police force succeeded in making leave the intruders. In all, forty vehicles whose two buses were set fire to, ten lit fires of dustbin, and some public equipment damaged, including two primary schools.
The map below, from Google Earth, shows part of the area affected, located in the northeastern suburbs of the French capital, near the Charles de Gaulle and Le Bourget airports. [Not all of the towns whose names appear are affected. Google Earth simply shows the towns at a certain level of detail.] The suburb in which the riots first began, Clichy-sous-Bois is in the lower right hand corner of the image. The riots have spread away from the original point of origin and are on their seventh day, despite efforts by French police to quell the disturbances. At least one police station is under siege and several dozen vehicles have been burned in different neighborhoods.
The Voice of America gives a summary of how the riots were touched off.
French President Jacques Chirac appealed for calm ...
The clashes began after two teenage boys were accidentally electrocuted last Thursday, as they tried to scale a wall ... Police denied ... pursuing them. ...the incident has triggered nightly riots between largely ethnic-Muslim youths and police. ...
France's Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has responded with a firmness that has sparked criticism from both the leftist opposition and from members of his own center-right party. In particular, Mr. Sarkozy used the word scum to describe the rioters, and this has been particularly controversial. Francois Hollande, who leads the opposition Socialist Party, told reporters Wednesday that such remarks were inappropriate.
Now the French government is striking a more conciliatory tone. After remaining silent for almost a week, President Chirac called for firmness in dealing with the rioters, but also for dialogue and respect. He also demanded an inquiry into the Thursday deaths for the two youths.
The Guardian is deeply worried about Sarkozy's forceful response to the riots and warned that a police response may be fanning the flames.
It has also raised troubling questions ... especially of Nicolas Sarkozy, chairman of the governing centre-right UMP party and the man most likely to challenge Mr Chirac for the presidency in 2007. ... His language is always forthright ... But it has been intemperate too. Using the word "scum" to describe the rioters was incendiary, especially after an earlier controversial comment about "cleaning up" crime in other urban areas. Overreaction can have grave consequences, and the minister was right to admit that a police tear-gas grenade mistakenly hit a mosque.
At least one nation has been born in the last week, that of immigrants who once colloquially referred to themselves as "Arabs" but who now prefer to call themselves "Muslims". While the riots will start to abate at some point, from exhaustion and the onset of cold weather as much as anything else, the sense of identity forged at the barricades will not so easily fade. A new meme has been born which neither Sarkozy's rubber bullets nor de Villepin's appeasement can bring under control.
The only question is whether another nation has been reborn under the events of the last week; a nation once called France. There is in a sense, something magnificent about the stirrings of identity among the Muslims in the Parisian ghettos; all the grander in comparison to the tentativeness, doubt and reflexive abasement of the officials of the Fifth Republic. The riot police, fire department and public order apparatus may have been present in the rioting banlieus, but the Idea of France was conspicuously absent. The Idea of France, not the hodgepodge of welfare benefits, Marxist obscurantism and world-weariness that that is palmed off as sophistication, is what has to present itself as an alternative to the Green Banner of Islam. Otherwise it will be a contest between something and nothing.
The Muslim uprising of the last week is a challenge to the half century of policy that has brought France to this point. Polices which deprecated European culture, frowned on a national identity, lowered the birthrate, created a welfare state, imported 'guest workers', promoted mindless multiculturalism and relied on 'international' treaties for protection -- all articles of Leftist faith -- are now facing the judgment of history; and worse, the verdict of Islam. It would be supremely ironical if the European Left, the 'vanguard of history', required for its future survival the very things it had set out to destroy.
One thing that has gotten French authorities jumpy is a report that Islamists have smuggled two MANPAD surface to air missiles into Europe. However, another French newspaper says there is nothing to worry about, as one if its sources assure them that the missiles were intended for 'non-European' targets ("Ces missiles étaient destinés à des cibles extraeuropéennes et n'ont jamais pénétré en Europe"). Readers will have noted that some of the areas convulsed by rioting in Paris are near the Charles de Gaulle and Le Bourget airports.
Also Kate at Little Dead Animals asks her readers not to forget Muslim riots Denmark, which are on a much smaller scale and at lower levels of violence, but which have run into their fourth day.
Additional via Glenn Reynolds, the Brussels Journal says that events in France are repeated on a smaller but daily scale all over Europe. It quotes Theodore Dalrymple's prescient City Journal article's vision of the future: "The sweet dream of universal cultural compatibility has been replaced by the nightmare of permanent conflict."