The Red and the Green
First it began with cars. Then it progressed to more and more complex acts of aggression. Michel Gurfinkiel of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute in Paris, writes about the specter haunting France in the Weekly Standard.
Mama Galledou, a 26-year-old student from Senegal .... was nearly burned alive on October 28 as she was traveling by bus through Marseille's 13th district ... Galledou's tragic fate is a microcosm of the crisis now engulfing France. In recent weeks, torching buses has suddenly become prevalent in the Paris suburbs and other urban areas ... Le Monde, the country's authoritative (if left-wing) paper of record, ran a front-page story about this new development and noted that it usually requires a much higher level of organization and discipline than casual car torching. ... There have also been cases of organized large-scale stoning, or caillassage, as it is called in contemporary French slang ...
In order to avoid getting bogged down in immigrant enclaves the police responsibly redeployed away from initially limited centers of trouble in order to contain it from without. Then, by engaging in dialogue with the respected statesmen of the hostile force, the authorities attempted address the root causes of discontent and broker a general peace. But the containment was soon broken and contrary to expectation, the centers of trouble grew and spread. The withdrawn police did not find safety; they were pursued and finally became the hunted. The hostile cells spread within their newly established enclaves and cleared all resistance. They became criminal states within a democratic state, lords of their realm. And with their new found control over territory they acquired a new source of power: vote blocs which could be committed en masse. In a France suddenly split between those who wished to resist and those who wished to surrender, the attackers themselves held the electoral balance between resistance and surrender.
More often than not, the CRS or police were not just attacked but ambushed ... "this is not just a matter of angry unemployed youths who get violent at times," but "something carefully planned. ... Since we avoid going inside, where they are, they attack us outside, where we are." ... They forced the last native French or European inhabitants out, and made it increasingly difficult for the police to enter and monitor the projects. Later, fundamentalist Islamic brotherhoods asserted themselves in the projects, or cités, as they are called .... On the one hand, the fundamentalists intended to protect the immigrant community against everything the gangs stood for: drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, easy money from crime. On the other hand, they derived benefits from the ethnic enclave status the gangs had secured. ... The gangs masterminded unprecedented "youth riots"; the fundamentalists then restored civil peace, and won as a reward de facto pardon for most rioters, a "less provocative" police presence in the suburbs, i.e., no "cleansing," more privileges for Islam as "France's second and most quickly growing religion," and recognition for themselves as national leaders. .... The riots last year clearly ended as a victory for both the gangs and the fundamentalist imams. Why, then, are they being reenacted? ... the new wave of violence is an intervention in the coming national elections: the presidential election in April and May 2007 and then the parliamentary election of June. ...
Yet paradoxically, the more brutal the hostile leaders were, the more eagerly French pacifists, liberals and men of the Left courted their support. The sheer capacity for violence of the Islamic immigrant gangs rekindled revolutionary hope among aging socialists who saw a chance to reverse the verdict of history; to to regain the vision of their youth; to mount a new French Revolution. Not with their spindly limbs but upon the broad backs of those who waved the flag of green. The Reds were certain of what would happen afterward. Did not Marx and Lenin guarantee the triumph of the proletariat, the Flag of Red? What was there to fear in temporarily joining forces with the priests of a backward 8th century cult? With that assurance was born the Green and Red alliance: the Green horse of Islam beneath the Red jockey of socialism.
Indeed, there are intellectuals on the left and right who relish the prospect of a new French Revolution, and welcome the suburban rioters as its spearhead. Nothing is more revealing, in this respect, than the success of a feverish political novel, Supplément au roman national (A Sequel to the National Narrative), by 28-year-old author Jean- ric Boulin. Published two months ago, it forecasts a "social and racial" revolution in France in 2007. First a wave of suicide bombings in Paris. Then martial law. Then, finally, the great rebellion of the French poor: the native underclass, the Arabs, and the blacks, who unite under the green flag of Islam and the tricolor of France and march on Paris--as a sort of Commune in reverse. Boulin gallantly supports such an outcome. ... Still, it would be wise not to write off entirely the possibility of a green-red alliance. ...
But historically Islam always had other ideas than to be used. In the history of Islam's expansion over the world it was always the sophisticated rebels of the settled societies which sought to use them which in the end wound up used. Those who sought to harness Islam for their domestic ambitions were themselves eventually swallowed. Losing everything: their lives; their treasure and finally their symbols. Gurfinkiel writes, "even the green flag of Islam was borrowed from non-Arabs: It was originally the symbol of rebellion in Byzantium, the equivalent in its day of the red flag in ours." The banner of Islam's collaborators was appropriated and the memory of its causes -- as that of Byzantium itself -- faded from reckoning. Only Islam remained.
There is a historical precedent in the spread of Islam itself, in the 7th century ... In fact, the Arabs didn't outright conquer Palestine, Syria, Anatolia, Egypt, North Africa, Iraq, and the Iranian plateau. They struck alliances with the local rebels: the Copts and the Syriacs, the Nestorians and the Donatists, the Jews and the Mardakites, with those who spoke neither Greek nor Persian and shared neither the beliefs of the basileus nor those of the shah. Even the green flag of Islam was borrowed from non-Arabs: It was originally the symbol of rebellion in Byzantium, the equivalent in its day of the red flag in ours. Can history repeat itself, and fundamentalist Islam subdue Europe in the 21st century with the help of European extremists? Will the green flag and the red flag wave side by side? Buses are burning in France and nobody, so far, seems to know how to stop that.
It was not that nobody knew how to banish the specter, just that no one wanted to try.