- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2006

One year after riots besieged several suburbs of Paris with three weeks of nightly violence, French authorities are still plagued by their inability to ensure law and order. Moreover, the French government seems unable to put together a cogent plan of dealing with this escalating problem. In the course of one night last week, four buses were hijacked and burned by gangs of Arab or Muslim descent.

Other assaults by similar gangs specifically targeted police and firefighters. The recent attacks, one police union official said, show a progression from isolated violence to coordinated attacks “of an almost military sort.” During the rioting last year, the police officials warned that the unrest had exceeded their tactical capability and required military intervention to subdue.

The subsequent analysis of the riots diverges as to the cause of the uprising. One explanation, prevalent in the French government, is that the destitute circumstances of the Parisian suburbs, with a population that is both disproportionately young and unemployed, created an environment that produced disenfranchisement and violent behavior. The other explanation, which is supported by at least one French police union, points to the larger conflict between an unassimilated generation of Muslims and complacent French authorities. One police official aptly called the situation a “permanent intifada.” Parsing the troubles in economic terms is a bow to political correctness. But it may also offer a more comfortable explanation that allows French politicians to disregard the appalling prospect that this is an early hint of an emerging civilizational clash in Europe. Socio-economic disadvantages are, without question, pervasive in suburbs like Clichy-sous-Bois, where rioting first broke out last year. Unemployment, for instance, is staggering — and as high as 60 percent for young workers in some areas — and results both from a lack of jobs as well as discrimination.

But to cite economics as the only reasons — or even as the overwhelming reason — overlooks the reality of the peril that France faces. “Many youths, many arsonists, many vandals behind the violence do it to cries of ‘Allah Akbar’ [God is Great] when our police cars are stoned,” Michel Thooris, head of the Action Police union, told AP.

The willingness of the French authorities and the American media to ignore the Islamist threat does nothing to allay it. This violence will continue to simmer until the French government is shaken from its complacency and confronts the real danger in the Parisian suburbs.

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