What About France?

It is nearly always trivial to construct a theory that explains past observations. It is far more difficult to construct one that explains past observations and makes accurate predictions about the future. When a prediction is successful it lends great credibility to the original theory. Tony Blankley’s examination of the threat of the expanding culture of radical Islamofacism in Europe in The West’s Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations? published in September 2005) meets the prediction test. He foresaw much of the present violence before it happened.

There are two competing, though not entirely exclusive, explanations for the recent two-week (and counting) eruption of violence in France, and to a minor extent in other parts of Europe, perpetrated by Islamic youth: social or ideological explanations.

The social explanation is that Muslims predominately from North Africa have been the victims of racial discrimination in France. This second-class status coupled with economic stagnation and high unemployment rates has created alienation, frustration, and resentment. Joel Kotkin in Opinion Journal reports that the unemployment rate among those in their 20’s in France is 20% and among the immigrant population it could be twice that figure. Kotkin favors the social explanation for French violence.

When two youths were electrocuted while purportedly hiding from police in a power station, smoldering dissatisfaction ignited into full-flamed rioting in over 300 cities. The violence destroyed thousands of cars and many buildings including schools and day-care centers. As of this writing, violence is continuing, but ebbing in intensity.

As disheartening and challenging as such social problems facing these youths are, they are not existential in nature. Such problems do not challenge the stability and structure of French society. It is possible to conceive of straightforward French policies to mitigate the outward manifestations of discrimination and alter economic conditions to alleviate unemployment. If this violence is a metaphor for the Muslim minority banging on the door demanding to be allowed into the mainstream of French society, then presumably the rest of the French need merely to find ways to welcome them in.

The second explanation for the recent violence is ideology, rooted competing visions for the future of France and Europe. Blankley’s thesis paints a pernicious picture. According to Blankley, the problems in France and to a lesser extent Europe are not garden variety social troubles. The discrimination and economic challenges are real and difficult enough but they are being exploited by a radical Islamic ideology. Blankley draws a comparison with the rise of Nazism in post World War I Europe. Humiliated Germans, impoverished by excessive reparations and hyperinflation, easily embraced Nazism and the ironic combination of a notion of inherent superiority and a belief in unjust victimhood. As Blankley explains, “Just as the Nazis reached back to German mythology and the supposed Aryan origins of the German people, the radical Islamists reach back to the founding ideas and myths of their religious culture.”

Not all Muslims or even a plurality are radical Islamists, but such a view is endorsed by a large enough minority to intimidate others. These radicals are not knocking on the door asking to be allowed into the French culture. They despise the ethnic French and seek to establish areas under the control of Islamic culture. The parents of some of these ethnically North African Islamists may have come seeking assimilation, but the French-born French-speaking second generation is in danger of being co-oped by Islamofascism.

The conventional explanation of economic and social class conflict in Europe is not sufficient to explain events such as the murder of Dutch film maker Theo van Gough who made a movie exposing physical abuse of Muslim women. They are insufficient to explain the creation of “little Fallujahs” where ethnic French and even the police fear to enter. Blankley predicted the rise of Isalmofacist violence, whereas the previous conventional wisdom held that generous French welfare benefits would have precluded large scale violence.

Buttressing Blankley’s argument that the riots were not just about social economic problems, Newsweek reports that rather than shouts of “Jobs” the rioters in France were shouting “It’s Baghdad here… Now this is war… Jihad.” Of course, it is impossible to determine whether such rhetoric is just calculated to scare authorities or whether it represents the first steps toward a real insurgency.

The rise of this radical ideology is compounded by demographic momentum. Ethnic Europeans are not reproducing themselves and their mean age continues to grow. The birth rate in the Muslim and immigrant communities is very large. Over the last few decades the Muslim population in Europe has grown to 20 million. In coming decades, these new citizens will play a larger and larger role in French and European politics. Unless ways can be found to meaningfully assimilate first and second generation Muslims, economically, culturally, ideologically, and politically, we may just be seeing the beginning of many more decades of violence.

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