- The Washington Times - Friday, November 11, 2005

Riots that began on the outskirts of Paris have spread to the center of the French capital and to other communities in other parts of the country. Thousands of cars have been set on fire and the police and even medical personnel have been shot at.

Like many other riots, in France or elsewhere, this started over an incident that just happened and was seized upon to rally resentments and unleash violence. Two boys in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood tried to escape the police by hiding in a facility that transmitted electricity — and were accidentally electrocuted. This spark ignited volatile emotions. But the emotions existed, ready to be ignited, for a long time.

A substantial Muslim population lives in France but is not really of France. Much of that population lives in social isolation in housing projects away from the center of Paris, as unknown to many Parisians as to tourists.

Like housing projects in America, many of these are centers of social degeneration, lawlessness and violence. Three years ago, profound British social critic Theodore Dalrymple wrote of “burned-out and eviscerated carcasses of cars everywhere” in these projects, among other signs of social degeneration. This was in an essay titled “The Barbarians at the Gates of Paris” reprinted in his insightful book, “Our Culture, What’s Left of it.”

Mr. Dalrymple called this Muslim underclass “barbarians.” A French Cabinet minister who called the rioters “scum” provoked instant outrage against himself, including criticism from at least one member of his own government. This squeamishness in word and deed, and the accompanying refusal to face blatant realities is also a major part of the breakdown of law and order and the ensuing social degeneration.

None of this is peculiar to France. It is a symptom of a common retreat from reality, and from the hard decisions that reality requires, not only in Europe but also in European offshoot societies like Canada, Australia, New Zealand — and the U.S.

European countries especially have thrown their doors open to a large influx of Muslim immigrants who do not intend to become part of the cultures of countries to which they immigrate but to recreate their own cultures.

In the name of tolerance, these countries have imported intolerance, of which growing anti-Semitism in Europe is just one example. In the name of respecting all cultures, Western nations have welcomed people who respect neither the cultures nor the rights of the population among whom they settled.

During the last election, some campus Republicans who held a rally for President Bush at San Francisco State University were harassed by Middle Eastern students, including a woman who walked up to one of these Americans and slapped his face. They knew they could do this with impunity.

In Michigan, a Muslim community loudly sounds its calls to prayer several times daily, without regard to whether that sound bothers the original inhabitants of the community.

The Dutch were shocked when one of their film-makers was assassinated by a Muslim extremist for daring to have views at variance with what the extremists would tolerate.

No one should have been shocked. Some people will not stop until they get stopped. And much of the media, political classes and cultural elites of the West cannot bring themselves to criticize, much less stop, the dangers or degeneracy among groups viewed sympathetically as underdogs.

Not all Muslims, nor necessarily a majority, are either a cultural or a physical danger. But even “moderate” Muslim organizations in the West who deplore violence and try to discourage it nevertheless encourage followers to remain foreigners rather than become part of the countries they live in.

So do our own intelligentsia and political and cultural elites. Balkanization has been glorified as a “diversity” too sacred to defile with anything so gross as hard facts.

But reality is not optional. Our survival may in the long run be as menaced by degeneration within — from many sources and in many ways — as was that of the Roman Empire.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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