Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Since 1995, no one in France has had access to more secret intelligence about a coming racial earthquake and the tsunami it would trigger than Dominique de Villepin.

After serving as chief of staff to President Chirac for seven years, Mr. de Villepin became foreign minister in 2002, interior minister in 2004 and prime minister in 2005. He is in line to succeed Mr. Chirac in the presidency itself in 2007.

In all his high-ranking posts, Mr. de Villepin read warnings from the DST, the French FBI, and Renseignements Generaux (RG), an intelligence service that monitors public opinion, about deteriorating conditions and rising anger in Muslim slums of major cities.

Former French intelligence chiefs, like their opposite numbers in other European Union countries, complain, albeit off the record, their political masters adopted the ungainly posture of the proverbial ostrich — and then expressed surprise when they got kicked in the most obvious place.

France’s internal intelligence agencies reported in the last two years that 40 percent of the imams in France’s 1,000 principal mosques had no religious training and downloaded material from pro-al Qaeda Web sites for their Friday sermons. The fiery harangues were designed to attract young jobless Muslims to the mosques — and extremist causes many imams espoused.

The tinder had long been in place. All it required was the match that was struck Oct. 27 when two Muslim gang teenagers, running from what they believed was a police chase, stumbled into a power substation and triggered their own electrocution.

Satellite dishes protrude from almost all apartments in the cankerous Muslim housing projects. The Qatar-based Al Jazeera reaches ‘hoods in Europe’s Muslim and sub-Saharan African suburbs. For the last two years youngsters have been proselytized via the Internet to become jihadis for the Iraqi insurgency. They use the Internet to locate mosques in Syria and Jordan where they can find shelter on the way to Iraq, as well as places to report for training and combat assignments.

There are more than 4,000 pro-al Qaeda Web sites, most of them online since September 11, 2001. Some European Muslim jihadis, bearing European passports, have returned from Iraq with new guerrilla and bomb-making skills.

The French government has deliberately downplayed, even denied, any connection between nationwide riots and torching of automobiles, schools, and even churches and the jihadi phenomenon. Jean-Louis Debre, speaker of the National Assembly and mayor of Evreux, called the unrest “a true episode of urban guerrilla” warfare.

A curfew and a state of emergency restored a semblance of calm after some 9,000 vehicles were torched from the Channel to the Mediterranean, but few believed it was more than a momentary truce. French philosopher Jean Baudrillard told a U.S. interviewer, “It will get worse and worse and worse.”

Much as the authorities try to avoid lending credibility to Islamist influences, the cops on the beat say Islamist beliefs coupled with desperation over a hopeless future are a major motivating factor. The young Muslims scoff at their parents for accepting menial jobs and belong to criminal gangs with a religious identity to feed their drug habits and steal mobile phones. And since Oct. 27, they tell each other their ‘hoods are Baghdad in France.

Gang leaders can also see that the left in France — socialists, communists, Greens and intellectual elites — sympathizes with them and blames tough Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy who called them “racaille” (or riff-raff, not the widely quoted “scum”). Le Monde, France’s leading liberal publication, said “the stupidity of teenagers” was “an answer to the provocations of Sarkozy.”

The left ignores riots to emphasize “police harassment” and refers to drug trafficking as a “parallel economy.” Lawless zones, says philosopher Jean-Francois Mattei, become “sensitive neighborhoods.”

L’Humanite, the communist newspaper, wrote, “Sarkozy’s arrogance evidently knows no limits,” explaining, “after having deliberately lit the fuse, he happily surveys the damage.”

Michael Radu, co-chairman of the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Center on Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, says, “For many years, in the Paris region, Islamist ideology has tried to take advantage of unemployment and unrest. … Now, youths crying ‘God is great’ rampage and demand that areas where Muslims form a majority be reorganized on the basis of the millet [religious community] system of the Ottoman Empire, with each millet enjoying the right to organize its life in accordance with its religious beliefs.

“In parts of France,” says Mr. Radu, “a de facto millet system is already in place, with women compelled to wear the hijab and men to grow beards; alcohol and pork products forbidden; ‘places of sin’ such as movie theaters closed down; and local administration seized.”

Suddenly “big brothers” — devout bearded men from the mosques in long, traditional robes — place themselves between the authorities and the rioters in Clichy-sous-Bois, calling for order in the name of Allah. This is not coming through in print or electronic reporting from France. Muslims are 10 percent of France’s 60 million, but they are between 60 percent and 80 percent of major cities’ prison populations.

Similar developments in other European Union countries are not a matter of if but when, say their security service chiefs. Tragically for the Continent, EU’s Eurocrats, in a fit of political correctness, are in deep denial about “Islamist terrorism.”

Already forgotten is a European Commission report on a “crisis of identity” among young European Muslims whose radicalization is “a modern kind of dictatorship,” where the Internet, universities and mosques are recruitment tools.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

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