Thanks to Juan Cole I do not have to spend a great amount of time writing and explaining some key elements needed to understand multiculturalism, or the absence of it, in France. I’l give you a few quotes to digest and discuss.
The young people from North African societies such as Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia are mostly only nominal Muslims. They frequently do not speak much Arabic, and don’t have “proper” French, either. They frequently do not know much about Islam and most of them certainly don’t practice it– much less being more virulent about it than Middle Easterners. Aware of their in-between-ness, young persons of North African heritage in France developed a distinctive identity. They took the word Arabe and scrambled it to produce Beur (which sounds in French like the word for “butter”). Beur culture can be compared a bit to hip-hop as a form of urban expression of marginality and self-assertion in a racist society. It is mostly secular.
This confirms my own experiences with, for instance, Moroccans in Belgium. They form their own subculture. Hip-hop, R&B, traditional music, track suits, hooded sweat shirts (mainly in France) are some of the more visible aspects.
The French have determinedly avoided multiculturalism or affirmative action. They have insisted that everyone is French together and on a “color-blind” set of policies. “Color-blind” policies based on “merit” always seem to benefit some groups more than others, despite a rhetoric of equality and achievement.
As a bonus, I give you another, unrelated yet thought-provoking, quote from this article on the BBC news site by John Simpson, emphasis mine:
Years of reporting on riots and revolutions have shown me that crowds display a mysterious collective sense which somehow overrides the perceptions and fears of the individuals who make up the mass. And crowds have a remarkable feeling for the weakness of government. There is of course a huge well of fury and resentment among the children of North African and African immigrants in the suburbs of French cities. The suburbs have been woefully ignored for 30 years. Violence there is regular and unexceptionable. Even on a normal weekend, between 20 and 30 vehicles are regularly attacked and burned by rioters.
Go read the linked articles and share your insights and comments with us.