Islamism in France?

Daniel Pipes, a Middle East scholar prone to lambasting Edward Said, says that the French media is ignoring the obvious: that radical Islamism is behind the riots in France.

I don’t read French so I can’t check all his links. The theory fits in nicely with many people’s worldview (including, I suppose, Pipes’s), but is there any hard evidence this it’s actually true?

22 thoughts on “Islamism in France?

  1. Well, it was your fellow Scott on this blog who posted this fine demolition of some of Pipes’ previous work. I’d definitely want to go over his links with a fine-tooth comb before giving anything he says a moment’s consideration.

  2. Look, this bears all the hallmarks of spontaneity, and, if you examine the history of protests in France, this is in some ways incredibly French.

    De Gualle blamed 68 on the intervention of ‘foreign jews’ (ask Cohn Bendit), now Pipes says its ‘foreign muslims’, this seems to be the only change in the message.

    A quite separate issue is what might happen *after* the rioting is over. If we look at what happened among the Pakistani community in Northern England in 2003, and then what happened on July 7 2005, it’s hard to not feel that there might have been some backdraft.

    What the French government does when all this is back under control is going to be incredibly important.

  3. That’s the best Pipes could find?

    Cette semaine, on a vu des prêcheurs islamistes, barbus et vêtus de gandouras, demander aux “jeunes” de « ne pas répondre aux provocations, au nom de l’islam et du Coran » ! Sous couvert d’appel au calme, ces propos ponctués de vibrants « Allah Akbar ! » entretiennent l’idée, chez ces adolescents, qu’ils sont victimes de discriminations, donc fondés à se rebeller !

    I guess that explains his popularity. There’s one Pipes reader born every minute.

  4. thanks Scott.
    I think what makes the riots so difficult to control is that there is a generational split within the immigrants comunity. The kids (and its mainly kids) will not listen to parents, clerics, police, elders.
    The carworkers generation has seen social and material progress but the second and third generation has nowhere to go while drug trade flourishes.
    Mr. Pipes is a sharpy, a “factory” where 100 molotov bottles where found is a sign of planning ? ;-))))

  5. This strikes me as somewhat different to “rioting to calls of Allahu Akbar.”

    But not mutually exclusive. What the leaders say and the street fighters do is incompatible. In fact, they might not even mean it, even if they are yelling it. “Allahu akbar” is in a way the modern form of “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh”

  6. Of course there are elements of Islamism in these riots. The rioters are overwhelmingly Muslim. To dismiss it offhand is foolish.

    Pipes has been chronicling the rise of Islamism in France for decades, not the last 12 days. I would put forth that his expertise is far greater than any of the regular AFOE blowhards.

    Personally, I prefer the Belmont Club for analysis, as Wretchard has been hesitant to label the riots as simply Islamist or driven by discrimination etc. It takes time to draw a conclusion based on available evidence. But what is clear, is the chronicling of anti French attitudes amongs immigrants and the rise of Islamism amongst said communities, not mention Britain and elsewhere.

    Bets on how long that headscarf law stays in place?

  7. “Islamism” for Pipes increasingly has little to do with ideology or doctrine but ever more whatever in the world and activities of dark skinned people that Pipes doesn’t like. If asked whether say Egyptian Trotskyism is really Islamist, I bet Pipes would say “yes”.

  8. By the way Scott, you say this “Pipes says that the French media is ignoring the obvious: that radical Islamism is behind the riots in France.” but in the article Pipes says many things.
    s in other European countries (notably Denmark and Spain), a bundle of related issues, all touching on the Muslim presence, has now moved to the top of the policy agenda in France, where it will likely remain for decades.These issues include a decline of Christian faith and the attendant demographic collapse; a cradle-to-grave welfare system that lures immigrants even as it saps long-term economic viability; an alienation from historic customs in favor of lifestyle experimentation and vapid multiculturalism; an inability to control borders or assimilate immigrants; a pattern of criminality that finds European cities far more violent than American ones; and a surge in Islam and radical Islam.

    What of the above is incorrect? Painting Pipes as a one issue idealog, which most leftist types do( See Robin above ) ignores what he actually says. The media point in his article is one of many.

  9. I think that Rupert’s first comment is pretty much on the money. Lots of American Right Blogosphere bloggers these days don’t distinguish between “Muslim” and “Islamist” Pipes, who IIRC coined the term “Islamist”, seems to be moving in that direction as well.

    Sure, there’s radical Islamist influence in France (and in Britain, Canada, the United States, etc.). If the riots in France have been instigated by and are under the control of radical Islamists, I certainly haven’t seen dispositive evidence to that effect.

  10. “What of the above is incorrect?”

    Well I personally would say this bit Rupert:

    “that lures immigrants even as it saps long-term economic viability”

    I don’t think the French economy is among the least vital in the EU (or the eurozone). To me it looks more like Germany and Italy who have had their long term vitality sapped. So I guess we need to start from the facts.

    “and vapid multiculturalism”

    This sounds more like the UK model to me. The French republican ideal has been much more monocultural assimilationist. Hence the headscarf rule which, I think, would be impossible on a live and let live model.

    I agree with you about one thing though: these riots might produce a serious rethink about the advisability of laws like the headscarfe one.

  11. Wooaahh there…

    Yes, the media point was one of many. And…? Doesn’t change the fact that he made it. I grabbed one assertion that seemed very important — that Islamicism is fueling the riots. He could be right about everything else and wrong about that — that still would make him wrong about on a very important point.

    I thought your first response was fairly reasonable, minus the part about the “the regular AFOE blowhards” (do I make the list?)…. Also, the length of time that Pipes has spent chronicling the rise of Islamism in France doesn’t have much bearing on whether he’s right about this particular point. In fact, it might even suggest he has an axe to grind. I’m pretty unconviced.

    (You asked what of the above is incorrect? I think some things are spot on, and others are way off. The point about “vapid multiculturalism” strikes me as plainly wrong, but that’s the subject of another post.)

  12. I don’t think the French economy is among the least vital in the EU (or the eurozone).

    I suppose that statement is correct, but it’s relative to the other scoleric EU economies. His general statement was that the welfare state saps long term economic viability, which I thought was a given. There’s a nice link in today’s WSJ about just such a thing( free I think ).

  13. Scott, pretty much. Here’s my translation.

    This week one has seen islamist preachers, with beards and dressed in gandouras, ask the “youths” “not to respond to provocations, in the name of Islam and the Quran”! Under the cover of appeal for calm, these remarks, punctuated by resonant “Allah-Akbar”s, foster among these adolescents the idea that they are victims of discrimination, and thus are entitled to rebel!

    I remember Pipes making questionable use of his magical French-reading powers back in the days of the Tariq Ramadan affair, but this combination of statement and supporting link must deserve a special place even in his oeuvre.

  14. From Pipes: “The rioting by Muslim youth that began Oct. 27 in France to calls of “Allahu Akbar” may be a turning point in European history.”

    The words “Allahu Akbar” link to a story about how Muslim clergymen call for calmness in the name of Allah and the Koran. Nowhere in the linked article is it mentioned that the rioting started “to the calls of Allahu Akbar”.

    The linked article has a good point, though, which was confirmed by what I have heard and seen on television: “La gauche concède aux “grands-frères” musulmans la mission d’apaiser les tensions en jouant les médiateurs”

    The Left leaves their big muslim brothers with the mission to calm tensions by playing the mediators.

    The banlieues have become no-go zones where social cohesion, as in social organisation, is virtually non-existent. The people living there are represented mainly, it seems, by Muslim clergymen.

    The story behind these riots is more than twenty years old dating back to the 1980s. Keywords are: exclusion, unemployment, low self-esteem, low education and discrimination in the labour market of those who are educated, despair, boredom, crime, frustration, concentrations of disadvantaged youth with a no future attitude.

    We have seen similar situations, on a lesser scale, in Amsterdam (Bijlmer), Brixton and… LA.

    If you replace the word ‘banlieue’ by ‘the hood’, you are getting close to grasping what is going on in France at the moment.

    A few more comments. As to the organised nature of the riots. In the press I have seen reports of rioters communicating by portable phone and through blogs/internet forums. These communication tactics are also being used by soccer hooligans in, for instance, The Netherlands.

    I do think it is possible that some criminal elements, or even muslim extremists, would try to take advantage of the momentum of the riots. Muslim extremism may “start” to play a role. However, it was not at the origin of the riots (as far as I can tell from the media).

    Today French television showed vigilante groups consisting of muslims and non-muslims alike, which patrol their neighbourhoods armed with a cellphone, a fire extinguisher and a digital camera. Whenever they spot trouble, they call the police and, if possible, take pictures of the perpetrators. Several of those vigilantes were concerned muslim parents.

    One of the biggest risks right now may be that French citizens, whatever their background, start taking the law in their own hands in order to protect their property. If that happens, shit will truly hit the fan. But there is now a curfew (couvre feu) in several of the affected areas, so hopefully things will cool down a bit.

  15. Nowhere in the linked article is it mentioned that the rioting started “to the calls of Allahu Akbar”.

    The impression I got from 10 minutes with Google news is that last Sunday a TV crew shot footage of religious activists who were mingling with a crowd confonting riot police and calling for calm. Which makes Pipes’ remark technically correct and breathtakingly disingenuous.

    As a separate issue, is it really the Left that’s been encouraging religious leaders to take on mediation roles? I got the feeling that the author just made it up for polemical purposes. Valeurs actuelles struck me at a glance as a far right publication by French standards.

    The Times has one of the many stories about this that have appeared in English.

  16. Valeurs actuelles is definitely right wing as the French hebdos go, though it’s been too long since I’ve been in France for me to say how far right. You want the French left, start with the Nouvel observateur.

  17. I think it is apparent that current events have nothing to do with radical Islam. However, my concern is that given the demographics involved, things could quickly change in that direction if a leader were to emerge.

  18. “a pattern of criminality that finds European cities far more violent than American ones”

    There’s violence, and there’s violence. Strongarm robberies and gang hooliganism might be more common in Europe than in America. On the other hand, if riots on this scale had been breaking out in major American cities for the past two weeks, the death toll probably would be well into the hundreds.

  19. “As a separate issue, is it really the Left that’s been encouraging religious leaders to take on mediation roles?”

    The Left is seen as being too soft on those issues, that is one thing. Secondly, they are in favour of dialogue. But the whole blame game is ridiculous as far as I am concerned. All parties (and society on the whole) are to blame, one way or another.

    And, yes, Valeurs Actuelles is rightwing, so…

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