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France and Islam - Who or What Is Responsible?

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France and Islam - Who or What Is Responsible?

Who or What is Responsible?

Owen Mundth

European History 435

Section 2

Jennifer Boittin

Rioting has become much more than a thorn in France's side. Since the 1980s, descendents of Algerian immigrants have been crying out for change in the form of rioting, which mainly involved the burning of cars and public buildings: among the most famous of these riots being, Minguettes in 1981 and 1983, Vaux-en-Velin (both suburbs of Lyon) in 1991 and the widespread rioting in the months of October and November 2005. These riots have been dubbed "France's Katrina" due to the insurmountable cost in damages. Despite the devastative results of the riots seen in France, how to cope with the ghettoized Algerian Katrina has escaped them for decades. France must figure out some solution quick or rioting will only be more frequent and more destructive as time goes on at the status quo. These reoccurring malicious upheavals within the predominantly Algerian populated banlieues have continued due to the French government diverting responsibility and failing to properly aid Algerian immigrant descendents stifle indefensible religious discrimination, eliminate politicization and uplift their socio-economic status in French society.

Much of France unjustifiably blamed the religion Islam for the repeated failure of integration policies. The lack of success of policies implemented to eradicate dissention has not been attributed to insufficient funding or ineffective political strategies but rather an incompatibility between French republicanism and Islam. The French Muslims have bore the brunt of blame for inhibiting smooth integration into French society because Muslims are believed to owe allegiance to a religion that fundamentally conflicts with France's revered Republican values. Elaborating on how Islam can harmonize with a Republic political system is not even necessary because there was nothing Islamic about the riots, except that participants may have been professing followers of Islam. News Week journalist, Fareed Zakaria remarks on the absence of religion in the rioters, writing "The columnist Mark Steyn went further, drawing dark parallels to the Muslim conquest of Europe in the eighth century. But the riots had little to do with Islam. There were no green flags, no crescent signs, no slogans about Palestine, no rhetoric about Islam. The young men interviewed were irreligious and talked about respect, jobs and discrimination, not jihad, suicide and virgins in paradise." In this case, the first hand testimonies of rioters completely discredited accusations of religious involvement. Even in the face of such compelling evidence, Alec G. Hargreaves wrote in An Emperor with No Clothes that literary theorist and essayist Tzvetan Todorov's commented "that the riots were caused by the dysfunctional sexuality of Muslim youths obsessed with behaving in a ‘macho' way" at a conference at Columbia University's Maison Française held little validity. This comment was acknowledged as holding little validity. Hardly convinced, members of the audience interjected that Sarkozy and the CRS police acted equally ‘macho' during quarrels; furthermore, Tzvetan Todorov "simply smiled and refused to elaborate further "when asked how his assertion proved there was something specifically Islamic that provoked the riots. France's intolerance of Islam or any of the religion's sacred practices, such as wearing the veil, evidently did not contribute to the resentment amongst the irreligious Algerian youth rioters and therefore renders Islam an unrelated factor in France's reoccurring riots.

Not only was religion not a concern of the rioters but the French Muslim majority did not even identify with the tumultuous Algerian rioters. In fact, many French Muslims, out of fear of being caught up in the violent mayhem moved out from the banlieues into mixed neighborhoods. The French Muslim middle class were anything but pleased or excited to see schools burned down, homes pillaged and cars burned. In The Nature of French Riots, Olivier Roy provides an excellent example of the inconsistency behind blaming Islam for the rioting when he notes, "tens of thousands Muslim students in the universities did not engage with the riots at all, although many of them come from the banlieues and have good reasons to feel frustrated too: their so-called ‘parking-universities' (where students spend years without achieving a master level) do not offer the same opportunities of upward mobility as the very French and select system of ‘grandes écoles' (higher schools), where they are underrepresented. Giving the French tradition of highly politicized universities,

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