Paris rocked by tenth night of violence

The violence of the last week and a half has spread to the French capital:

PARIS (AP) – Ten nights of urban unrest that brought thousands of arson attacks on cars, nursery schools and other targets from the Mediterranean to the German border reached Paris where at least 28 cars were burned overnight in the French capital, government officials said Sunday.

Police found a gasoline bomb-making factory in a southern suburb of the city, with more than 100 bottles, gallons of fuel and hoods for hiding rioters’ faces, a senior Justice Ministry official said Sunday.

Six youths, all aged under 18, were arrested in the raid Saturday night on a building in Evry south of Paris where the gasoline bombs were being put together, Jean-Marie Huet, the ministry’s director of criminal affairs and pardons, told The Associated Press.

The discovery, Huet said, shows that gasoline bombs being used by rioters “are not being improvised by kids in their bathrooms.”

Some 2,300 police poured into the Paris region to bolster security on a restive Saturday night while firefighters moved out around the city to douse blazing vehicles.

At least 918 vehicles – including those in Paris – were burned during the 10th night of violence, said the Interior Ministry’s operational center tracking the violence. There was no word yet on damage in Paris to shops, gymnasiums, nursery schools and other targets which have been attacked around the country.

Police made 186 arrests nationwide overnight.

Overall more than 3,000 cars have been torched and 30 buses burned. Police stations, schools, post offices, and stores have been burned and ransacked. There have been hundreds of minor injuries. One disabled woman has been severely burned when the bus she was attempting to exit was torched.

Although the damage is spreading into non-immigrant areas most of the rioting has taken place in areas that are homes to people of North African descent—mostly Muslims. These are areas in which the proportion of young people is very high and the proportion of the unemployed is very high. There is little evidence of specific religious motivation in the rioting.

Some have speculated that a de facto millet system in which religious minorities are largely self-governing (as prevailed under the late Ottoman Empire) has arisen or is arising in France and Europe, generally. I think equally fair analogies would be to the semi-autonomous condition of Chinatowns all over the United States for many years. Or the absence of “the White Man’s Law” in African American communities.

Although the area of the rioting is spreading, presumably into areas with less active police presence, there is no rising tide of violence against persons. What is being seen is widespread hooliganism by packs of idle, unsupervised, and, frankly, feral youths who are mostly of North African descent. Could these young people become a fertile ground for the spreading of radical Islamism? Possibly. But that’s not what’s going on right now.

The primary challenge now is for the French government. Does the government have the ability and the will to bring order? Or have they abandoned the primary responsibility of government—to keep the peace—to the hooligans? This isn’t a bang—it’s a whimper.

Previous posts on this subject:
November 3
November 4
November 5

UPDATE: A Blog For All correctly notes that media coverage of this story in the United States has been terrible. The rioting had been going on for days before the American news media took any note of it at all.

I think that Ed Morrisey is overstating the Muslim aspect of these riots. Yes, the rioters are predominantly of North African descent. And they may be Muslims. Yes, the coverage of the story in the French media is surreal in ignoring some of these obvious sides of the story. The evidence that they’re rioting to establish a Sharia enclave within the borders of France is very, very slim.

13 comments… add one
  • “The evidence that they’re rioting to establish a Sharia enclave within the borders of France is very, very slim.”

    im glad somebody realises this! The constant reference to islam and muslims is unbelievable and fuel for much evident propaganda and islamaphobia.

  • Thanks, jamal. That’s the reason that I’ve stuck to this story the way that I have over the last few days: I think quite a good bit of the blogosphere (and also the conventional media) have the wrong end of the stick.

  • Ron Link

    The resemblance to the intifada in Palestine is uncanny. The fact that similar riots are occurring in Denmark in reaction to published images of Mohomad is also interesting. The Danish rioters are telling the Danish police that their neighborhoods are no longer part of Denmark.

    It is that schism that is striking to many observers. This is not Europe anymore, it is something different. What is it? No one knows quite yet. Perhaps not Eurabia, not yet, but certainly not Europe.

  • Dave & Jamal:

    They may not all be Muslim, but there are basically two things that tie them together- they are almost entirely non-assimilated immigrants from non-western countries, and the majority (80% according to Reuters) of the population where the riots started are Muslim. The reported shouts of “God is Great” are also hard to attribute to your average stray FRench youth looking to get his kicks.

  • Ron, I agree with you about Denmark. But the riots in Denmark are pretty different from those in France. From what little news I’ve been able to put my hands on about them the instigation was very different, the demographics are different, and they’re a lot more militant than the French riots.

    Dr. Demarche, I agree that the cries of “Allahu akhbar” are disturbing under the circumstances. But we should be careful not to read too much into it, either. I’ve heard plenty of people in these country swearing “Jesus” who are atheists or Jews. I repeat my implicit question: do we have specific information that the French rioters are trying to establish a Sharia enclave in France?

    I’ve read an enormous amount of loose talk in the blogosphere in the last few days. Quite a bit of it can only be described as Islamophobia.

    I’ll stipulate that the rioters are overwhelmingly the children or grandchildren of North African immigrants. But the very poor in France are disproportionately people who are North African immigrants, too, or their children or grandchildren. I still think that there are more factors than just religion involved here.

    None of this is excuses in any way the rioters, the French authorities, or the French media. The French media should be making more prominent mention than they are of the antecedents of the rioters. Like it or not it’s material. The French authorities have aggravated the situation by not clamping down immediately. And the rioters are thugs. I’m just not convinced that they’re radical fundamentalist Islamic thugs.

  • Is there room for Optimism? Maybe Paris is Europe’s Pearl Harbor…

  • Taeyoung Link

    “The evidence that they’re rioting to establish a Sharia enclave within the borders of France is very, very slim.”

    Well, Sharia, no. But the teargas grenade in the mosque seems to be something French commentators have been pointing at as a galvanising element in the ongoing uprising, and that would suggest that a shared identity *as* Muslims is part of what is driving the rioters. On the other hand, there’s no reason to expect most French commentators — including the imams allied to the government — to have a perfect grasp of what is motivating these thugs.

  • First, Dave, you’ve done some decent work here. I presume you can actually read French, unlike most of the people shrieking on about Paris burning.

    Second, a corrective, it is very clear from consuming the French coverage first hand that characterising this as mostly North African, versus “Black [i.e. sub-Saharan] and North AFrican” is incorrect. A large percentage of rioters are sub-Saharan descended youths, who are by no means all (or sometimes even mostly) Muslim. The French media’s aversion to falling into characterising this as Islamic is not mealy-mouthedness, it reflects a better sense of the composition of the rioters.

    Third, with respect to the comments supra, no this is not a “Eurabia” or European Pearl Harbour and any such comment is pure idiocy and gross religious bigotry. A good percentage of the rioting youths have zero Arabness (even via North African Berbero-Arab connexions), are not even necessarily Muslim, and frankly have fuck all to do with ‘jihadism’ – these sorts of riots have sprung up in France over the past decade and are rather intimately linked to the piss poor job the French are going at digesting “visible minorities” who are not coming from quasi French/Romance cultural contexts (i.e. not from the Antilles).

    There is no “ressemblance” to the intefada, there is a ressemblance to urban riots seen in France since 1968.

  • BTW with respect to tear gassing the mosque, one need not read that as being a particularly Islamic versus a “disrespecting us” reaction.

  • Thanks, Lounsbury. English is my mother-tongue. French was my first non-English language. Followed by Latin, Russian, Greek, Chinese, and others. I’ve followed the French media coverage (particularly the editorials) attempting to fill in the lacunae on this story.

    A large percentage of rioters are sub-Saharan descended youths, who are by no means all (or sometimes even mostly) Muslim.

    I don’t have specific knowledge of this but my intuition is that the rioters are Muslims in the same sense that non-immigrant French are Catholics. Meaning not particularly.

    …these sorts of riots have sprung up in France over the past decade and are rather intimately linked to the piss poor job the French are going at digesting “visible minorities” who are not coming from quasi French/Romance cultural contexts (i.e. not from the Antilles).

    I think this is going to be a challenge posed by non-European immigration for all of the ethnic states of Europe. The U. S. is far from perfect in this regard but Europeans don’t realize that the rate of immigration and the percentage of immigrants that they’re experiencing is well below the rate and percentage we’ve had for our country’s entire history. Unrest is part of the territory.

  • Dave:

    Indeed, unrest and the like is indeed part of the territory of digesting immigrants (or minorities).

    With respect to the Muslimness of the rioters, leaving aside the issue of practicing or not, anyone familiar with immigration in France and the patterns knows that (i) lots of the sub-Saharans are not at all from Muslim backgrounds (although emmigration is stronger from Muslim regions for reasons of drought), (ii) that it is quite impossible to discern religion by eyesight with respect to black African populations.

    In any case, very good work, although again you are overemphasising the North African component, it would be good to remind people of the sub-Saharan component (which seems to be dominate in many areas).

    I further draw attention to the peculiar French habit of refering to these 2nd and 3rd generation children as “immigrants” – a usage that speaks volumes about real attitudes to integration.

  • zuckerlilly Link

    You should read about Olin and his report:

    The Islamization of French Schools

    Or from CBS (2004)

    The New French Revolution

    Another question:

    Unemployment of youth in Poland is as high as in the French suburbs. Did you hear about polish youth rioting and burning cars?

    Look, there are of course specific problems: near my hometown in Austria in a small town, there live a lot of muslims from Turkey. The problems are similar: boys quit school without speaking German properly, b´cause they don´t speak German at home. But they can´t speak Turkish too properly. So they don´t get jobs. They become day worker or their parents give them money. If they are old enough, they get money from the “Sozialamt” (social welfare), then they marry a devote woman from Turkey, who is not allowed to learn German and the circle starts again. Their children don´t learn German properly……

    There is another problem: violance in the family. For expample: in Germany the Turkish experience more violance than every other minority. Nearly 30% of the youths say that they ore their mother, sister …are regulary heavy beaten by their fahter (brother, uncle, grandfahter). Vilance in the family is a daily experience. Male youths, who try to integrate themselves and work with the community declare, that they hope their father will never learn about this, b´cause the fear his reaction.

    Your are right insofar, that these youths are more like “hooligans”, but remember: hooligans are the foottroops for the neo-nazis and used by the more “sophisticated” as a medium.

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