November 08, 2005
France, Riots and Online Commentary: Islamophobia Demasked
This will be a brief post, as unfortunately (or fortunately) I have mountains of work that must be addressed.
However, in the guise of a comment I thought I would, after reading Andrew Sullivan's ludicrously ignorant banging on about France and the riots as an Islamic intefada (and via Fist Full of Euros, Pipes' equally ludicrous assertion of the same, whanking bigotted fool that he is) as well as other comments, make an assertion.
The Anglophone commentary, essentially American on this subject I think is demasking a deep reservoir of fear and loathing directed at Muslims and Islam in general. Polite bigotry, if you will, dressed up in terms like "extremist Muslims" and Islamists versus "moderate Muslims" when the real meaning is "niggers/scum we fear and despise for their difference" versus "good niggers who know their place."
On my personal blog, the Lounsbury at 'Aqoul, I refered readers in the interim to Dave Schuler's blog, who has been doing a fine job of keeping up with all this, and continues to do so.
It remains in my mind extraordinary the degree to which online comments have skewed into easy assumptions about Arabs, Muslims and the like.
Of course, as anyone actually consuming French media directly can tell from images alone, a large percentage of the rioters are simply “black” - I for one am unable to discern religion (or for that matter in many respects nationality) by sight, so the over the top shrieking on about Islam and Muslims is quite simply unfactual. What is factual is that the marginalised (both self and by system) immigrant descended non-”white” youth that the French system has not dealt with effectively have exploded. Lumping this into the Islam pot merely exposes axe grinding. As most of the rioters are born and bred in France - the entire immigrant usage ongoing is disturbing as it merely reflects French prejudice - one thing one remarks in France is the amazing habit of French ‘native French’ of calling 2nd, 3rd and even 4th generation descendants of immigrants, “immigrants” as if they arrived “off the boat.”
Second, as a French colleague noted, there’s a good number of non-darkies out burning (as quite simply for teenagers, setting things on fire is, indeed, fun - see post sport game riots), they’re presumably not “Muslims” either being of French stock (as a percentage of the arrested appear to be).
What is clear is that there is a poorly disguised strain of fearful bigotry running through many commentator’s minds with respect to Islam, and given the slightest excuse, it comes out rather strongly.
American commentators need to buy not just a clue, but a whole bloody fucking education in this area.
I do intend to come back to comment on these events when I have some time.
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Old dialogue from the 1950s (paraphrased I think from Sir Evelyn Shuckburgh if memory serves):
British diplomat: The Israelis say that if the Arabs won't cooperate they will argue that the Arabs are going communist.
Other British diplomat: It'll be a hard job to convince people that Arabs are communists.
US Secy of State John Foster Dulles: Not in the United States it won't.
Posted by: matthew hogan at November 8, 2005 06:42 PM
Indeed. Remarkably apt.
Posted by: lounsbury at November 8, 2005 06:53 PM
I haven't exactly bathed myself in glory on this topic ... I do think this is an important observation and I'm embarrassed to say that I've used language casually:
CL: "As most of the rioters are born and bred in France - the entire immigrant usage ongoing is disturbing as it merely reflects French prejudice - one thing one remarks in France is the amazing habit of French ‘native French’ of calling 2nd, 3rd and even 4th generation descendants of immigrants, 'immigrants' as if they arrived 'off the boat.'"
Posted by: praktike at November 9, 2005 09:32 AM
As have many.
You also keep falling for the "Muslims rioting" line when it is very clear to those of us who know the 'sub-urbs' that a good percentage are not Muslim at all - merely sub-Saharan African oft of non-Muslim origin.
These are, in effect, 'race riots' a la US 1960s.
Posted by: lounsbury at November 9, 2005 10:02 AM
"These are, in effect, 'race riots' a la US 1960s."
I think that's clear, but I stand by my view that the situation is rife with opportunity for exploitation by extremist groups.
Posted by: praktike at November 9, 2005 11:39 AM
The problem is homemade in France.
With police shouting and calling muslim women hores, sluts ... and the person in charge not saying anything for four days, and then he is even putting gas in the fire by what he said. Politics sure tried to put it on islam, but it has nothing to do with a religion, it has to do with poverty and unemployment and no future.
Posted by: Mone at November 11, 2005 03:35 AM