Friday, November 11, 2005

More on France

From the Tablet (UK).
First of all: Chris thanks for your perspective in the combox below. I have to confess that I was a bit too enamored of the "this is all evil Islamo-facsism" hermeneutic. That I could even think that way is a little scary. The issue, apart from fair treatment, economic opportunity and, of course, is integreation. And, as the Weigel-Benedict angle suggests, the issue of European identity, and its roots in Christianity (not, Christendom -- not a political, state-imposed Christianity. I think the events of 1870 were quite salutary, for both Church and State), and declining birth rates (demographic suicide in Weigel's phrase) do play into this significantly. And, of course, this kind of resentment is fetile breeding ground for a jihadist version of Islam (remember the Imam of Lutton? The murder of Theo Van Gogh?).
But yes, Chris, if this indeed leads to a fairer treatment of immigrants, then good.
Check out the piece by Alain Woodrow in the Tablet, "The French Ideal goes up in flames"
Here's a piece from Time, "France's Muslim Youth want In, not Out" and an interview with a French Muslim, "How much more French can I be?".

Here's the Tablet editorial, comparing the French "monoculturalism" with British "multiculturalism."

“The French Republic,” Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said this week, “is at a moment of truth.” His apocalyptic warning came as the rioting that had happened night after night in the poorer suburbs of Paris began to spread to the provinces. What was being called into question, M de Villepin went on, was the distinctively French approach to racial integration. The principles of French republicanism refuse to acknowledge racial or cultural differences, so that the millions of Muslim immigrants from Algeria and Tunisia who are packed into sub-standard living conditions on the periphery of wealthy French cities must be treated as simply French, regardless of skin colour, religion, language, or national origin. The Government does not even know how many there are.

In contrast with the British policy of multi-culturalism, this is officially imposed mono-culturalism. Both policies are highly moral in intent, and designed to treat immigrants with respect and dignity. But the complaint of the rioters is that they are told they are equal, but they are not treated as equal. Whatever the constitution says, there is a considerable degree of racism in France, and it is reflected in the attitude of the police.

It would be a grave mistake to be complacent about race relations in Britain, where the multi-cultural approach, far from delivering the tranquillity that France lacks, has also been called into question. One man was killed in a race riot in Birmingham recently where the antagonists were from the Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities (showing that racism is not exclusively a white problem). Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, has blamed multi-culturalism for the gradual ghettoisation of some British cities.

In the aftermath of the 7 July bombings in London, the nation agonised about its failure to impose British values on the perpetrators, British-born Muslims. One explanation proposed was that the respect for other cultures and belief systems that multi-cultural theory demands has played down the merits of the indigenous, British culture and belief system. How are minorities to integrate, it was asked, if there is no agreed definition of what they are being asked to integrate into? At least the French rioters want to be French, and to be accepted as such. Some Muslim young people in Britain display little enthusiasm for being British.

There is one aspect of the contrasting French and British situations that they have in common and which may be hopeful for the future. The young Muslim men at the centre of both crises are second- or third-generation French or British, who have outgrown their cultures of origin but have not yet sufficiently absorbed – or been absorbed into – the cultures in which they now live. They are doubly alienated; and part of their alienation is from their own parents and grandparents, who are still rooted in the cultural values of their home countries. In that case, and with a renewal of determination and goodwill, the passage of time and the passing of the generations may by itself dissolve some of the problems that now look so intractable, on both sides of the Channel. The real question is how to speed up the process, and how not to make things worse meanwhile.

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