Liberté, Égalité, Stupidité
Why can't the French government stop the rioting?
Posted Monday, Nov. 7, 2005, at 6:44 PM
Others in the fourth estate point to Nicholas Sarkozy as the reason for the length and the severity of the riots. A Guardian op-ed, saying his "tough talk" egged on rioters, demanded his dismissal: "He called rioters 'vermin,' blamed 'agents provocateurs' for manipulating 'scum' and said the suburbs needed 'to be cleaned out with Karsher' (a brand of industrial cleaner used to clean the mud off tractors)." A commentary in Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza claimed that "many dream of using the [riots] as an occasion to seek the sacking of the once popular interior minister, since the leftist opposition rarely passes up an opportunity to attack the governing center-right coalition. However, it's hard to imagine any French government coming up with a quick and easy prescription to prevent the current situation."
Could the riots be the handiwork of Islamo-fascist instigators? An op-ed in Britain's Daily Telegraph noted that rioting in France's ghettos is not uncommon but said that many of the young Muslim residents might find the allure of fundamentalism hard to resist. "The gravest fear for French ministers is that the trouble of the past 10 days has been orchestrated by Islamists bent on exploiting the grievances of impressionable youths." A Q&A with an Independent reporter on the ground dismissed such conspiracy theories. All these kids want is "to be left alone by police and … Sarkozy, to continue with their life of low-level violence and drugs trading." However an article in Gazeta Wyborcza suggested that, as young Muslims increasingly fail to believe in the "French Model" of life, many are turning to Islamic fundamentalism, "which further prohibits integration."
In the Telegraph, expat Scottish academic Niall Ferguson weighed in on the riots from his perch at Stanford's Hoover Institute by applauding America's integration of immigrants. He concluded, "I tend to worry much more about Europe. For Mexicans are not Moroccans (think religion). …. Nor are the fires of disintegration already burning—as they are in Sarkozy's France."
Zuzanna Kobrzynski is Slate's executive assistant.
Amanda Watson-Boles, a former Slate copy editor, teaches at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla.
Photograph by Lionel Bonaventure/Agence France-Presse.