Anti-Islamism in France

One of the things I looked for during the recent discussion about anti-semitism in France was some statistics about anti-Islamic and anti-Arab violence for comparison. I was shocked that I couldn’t find any. The French government went out of its way to disagregate data about antisemitic attacks, but could not even be bothered to track attacks on mosques. I knew that there had been attacks on mosques – I remembered seeing them on the news – but no figures seemed to be available. All I could find was Tariq Ramadan, a fairly visible European Muslim intellectual, making the same complaint.

Today’s news from AFP leads me to think Ramadan may be on to something:
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A Francophone President in the White House?

This week’s New Yorker has a rather discouraging item for European anti-Bushites – e.g., most of us:


[W]hen John Kerry became the front-runner for the Democratic Presidential nomination [France 2 Washington bureau chief Alain] de Chalvron and other French journalists in Washington were understandably excited. They knew about Kerry: he went to a Swiss boarding school, he has a cousin who ran for the French Presidency, and he supposedly wooed Teresa Heinz by impressing her with his fluent French.

For a time, Kerry seemed equally enthusiastic about the French reporters covering his campaign. “He was quite accessible in Iowa and New Hampshire,” de Chalvron said the other day, in his office in Washington. “He understands French very well. His words are correct and sometimes even sophisticated. [..]

Everything changed, though, when, in recent months, Republicans started intimating that Kerry was too Continental. Conservatives complained about his touting of endorsements from foreign leaders, and Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans told reporters that Kerry “looks French.” Right-wing talk-show hosts began referring to him as “Monsieur Kerry” and “Jean Cheri.” […]

Suddenly, Kerry appeared to develop linguistic amnesia. “During a press conference, I asked Kerry a question, on Iraq,” de Chalvron recalled. “He didn’t answer. In front of the American journalists, he didn’t want to take a question that was not in English.”

[Via Language Log]
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Guess Who’s Been Here for Dinner?

More than 7.3 million people living in Germany are citizens of another country. Along with roughly 115,000 other Americans, I’m part of an insignificant minority, outnumbered by Greeks (355,000), Serbs & Montenegrins (570,000), Poles (480,000) and Italians (601,000). All of us, of course, are outnumbered by Turks (1.88 million). Spare a thought, though, for the 10,000 Aussies and Kiwis, of whom there are far fewer than stateless persons or people of uncertain citizenship (70,000).

The numbers are all from a report released yesterday by the Federal Statistical Office and discussed in today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine (p. 9).

All told, people who only hold a foreign citizenship make up 8.9 percent of Germany’s population, a share that has held steady since 1998. Average tenure in the country is 16 years. On average, Slovenes have stayed longest, with 26 years. (The Slovenes up and downstairs from my apartment have got that beat by a good bit.) Spaniards come next at 25, which is only fair given Mallorca, followed by Croats and Austrians (23), Italians and Greeks (22) and Turks (19).

The main reason the share of foreigners has held steady, according to the Statistical Office, is that people who are eligible are taking German citizenship, under a law that went into force in 2000. There are still plenty of problems associated with migration, immigration and integration, but these numbers are basically good signs.

And the next time a conservative German politician says something about the country not being a destination for immigration, please, laugh out loud. It’s the only appropriate response.

A French Referendum?

More information is now becoming available about the proposed UK referendum on the EU constitution which Nick drew our attention to yesterday.

The FT has an article today which fleshes out some more details, including the fact that an ‘unnamed’ French minister expressed fears that any decision by U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair to hold a referendum on the European Union constitution may hurt the treaty’s implementation.

We don’t see any malice in Tony Blair’s decision as he is not an adversary of European construction . . . However, it [Mr Blair’s move] does create difficulties as the treaty needs to be ratified by all members.”

You bet it creates difficulties. Seven other EU members have already indicated they will or could hold referendums on the treaty: the Czech Republic, Denmark, Luxembourg, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Now it is clear that France will be under pressure to do likewise. It would be a foolish person who tried to make a short-list at this stage of those which were a certain bet to say yes.

Spain’s Withdrawal From Iraq

This morning is not a happy one for me here in Spain. I had not anticipated that Spain’s new president, Jos? Luis Rodr?guez Zapatero, would take the decision about the troops that he did yesterday, and I regret his having taken it.

In fact I was furious with him, since I feel the approriate place to have announced this decision would have been in the Spanish Parliament last Thursday and Friday – during the debate on his ‘canditature’ – where there would have been the possibility of a full and free debate on the decision itself, its timing, and its implications.

Doing it via a televised ‘address to the nation’ only, I feel, reinforces the drift towards ‘backstaging’ the parliament that was already evident during the Aznar presidency.
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Folowing Prime Minster Zapatero’s surprising announcement to withdraw the Spanish troops from Iraq as quickly as possible, Miguel Moratinos, the new Spanish foreign minister, now declared that the withdrawal would take place within a fortnight (Reuters). The US administration is hoping for an orderly process yet expects other coalition members will also reconsider their engagement in light of the Spanish decision and recent devolpments in Iraq. According to Reuters, Condoleeza Rice stated on ABC television’s “This Week” that “[w]e know that there are others who are going to have to assess how they see the risk. … We have 34 countries with forces on the ground. I think there are going to be some changes.” (Reuters)

Peace in our time

Osama bin Laden’s new taped message has been getting a lot of airplay. I can’t quite see why. The only thing I find interesting about it is that he sent it to Al-Arabiya as well as Al-Jazeera, suggesting that he’s broadening his media channel. The idea that he had any intent or power to offer Europe any kind of truce, or that there there was ever any real prospect of European nations going along with it, is just too silly for words.

The core, essential, fundamental truth about terrorism is that it is a media strategy above all else. If terrorists could actually strike strategic targets, they wouldn’t have to be terrorists in order to further their aims. Von Clausewitz said that “war is nothing more than the continuation of politics by other means.” Well, terrorism is also the continuation of politics by other means. Both are about the application of violence to gain political goals, but while ordinary war is about the direct effects of organised violence on the military, economic and political structures of the state, terrorism is about the psychological effects of violence, particularly through mass fear.

A lot of people do get that, but they don’t seem to understand that this same logic applies to anti-terrorism. It is no less a matter of media strategy than terrorism is.
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