Turf-conscious bloggers in Paris’ rundown, mostly Muslim, suburban immigrant housing estates rival in violent messages threatening to beat senseless and even kill any intruder caught in “our ghetto.” Almost every word is misspelled, in both argot slang and pidgin French. These are not empty threats. An average of 14 policemen a day are injured in bloody clashes with jobless youths.
France’s Interior Ministry said 2,500 police officers had been “wounded” this year. The head of the hard-line trade union “Action Police” Michel Thooris wrote to Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy to describe conditions in housing developments turned slums as “intifada.” Police cruisers are pelted daily with stones and “Molotov cocktails” (gasoline-filled bottles with burning wicks that explode on impact) and Mr. Thooris said cops assigned to what was rapidly degenerating into “free fire zones” should be protected in armored vehicles. Entire tall buildings empty into the streets to chase police and free an arrested comrade.
“We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists,” Mr. Thooris told journalists. Mr. Sarkozy, the leading center-right candidate for next year’s presidential election, responded by dispatching cops in body armor, equipped with automatic weapons and rubber bullets, stun and teargas grenades into several Paris suburbs with orders to “restore control” from “organized crime.” In one recent clash 250 cops dispersed a 100-strong Muslim gang armed with baseball bats.
The chaotic conditions in suburbs like Clichy-sous-Bois, Montfermeil and St. Denis have progressively worsened since the nationwide Muslim riots last November that torched 10,000 vehicles.
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin recently criticized as “overdrawn” President Bush’s frequent reference to the “global war on terror.” But the Iraq war did not appear to be part of the combustible mix in Muslim “ghettos” outside Paris. Despair, organized crime, and hatred of authority are its principal ingredients.
For the United States, Islamist extremism is seen as an external problem. For the Europeans, it’s internal and far more complex than a war on terrorism. Muslim minorities are spawning right-wing extremism. In the Belgian port city of Antwerp, a week ago, the Vlaams Belang (VB, or Flemish Interest), Europe’s most extreme right-wing political formation, almost captured city hall with 33 percent of the vote. A Socialist coalition kept VB at bay with 35 percent. Nationwide, VB, which advocates secession of the Flanders and severe restrictions on Muslim immigration, scored 20 percent.
In France, Jean-Marie Le Pen’s far right National Front (FN) appears to have opted for a can’t-lick-‘em-join-‘em strategy, a rapprochement with France’s large immigrant Muslim community — with undertones of anti-Semitism. Mr. Le Pen’s reasoning appears to be the recognition that Islamicization is in France to stay with 25 percent of France’s under-20 population Muslim (40 percent in some cities), second- and third-generation North Africans.
FN’s tough stance on immigration is tempered by support for Arab and Islamist causes in the Middle East (Hamas and Hezbollah are two favorites). There are an estimated 6 to 8 million Muslims among France’s 62 million and Islam is now France’s second religion. Mosques are well attended on Fridays; churches aren’t on Sundays. More than 50 percent of France’s prison inmates are Muslims.
Mr. Le Pen’s strategic advisers argue the FN must drop its founding mythology and forget about the once-popular image of a modern Joan of Arc resisting the invasion of Muslim hordes. Americans and Jews are the new targets. But the party’s Christian right-wingers do not agree and are defecting in large numbers. The Islamist threat is their main concern and they are finding a new political home in MPF, Mouvement Pour la France, which is anti-European Union and anti-Muslim and given only 7 percent of registered voters in a recent poll. Mr. Le Pen’s followers have dropped back from 11 percent to 9 percent.
Anti-Semitic incidents have proliferated in France in recent times, but the news seldom makes it across the Atlantic and when it does, it must still fight to be heard above the constant melodrama of constant trivia. A Jewish sports club in Toulouse attacked with Molotov cocktails; in Bondy, 15 men beat up members of a Jewish soccer team with metal bars and sticks; a bus that takes Jewish children to school in Aubervilliers attacked three times in the last 14 months; synagogues in Strasbourg and Marseilles and a Jewish school in Creteil firebombed in recent weeks; in Toulouse, a gunman opened fire — all ignored in mainstream U.S. media.
The metropolitan Paris police tabulated 10 to 12 anti-Jewish incidents per day in the last 30 days throughout the country.
The No. 1 best-selling book in France is “September 11: The Frightening Fraud,” which posits no plane ever crashed into the Pentagon. A similar book in Germany sold more than 1 million copies. One prominent Belgian businessman conceded privately, “No one knows what to believe anymore.” Neither multiculturalism nor integration of Muslim communities seems to be working anywhere in Europe. Moderate Muslim voices cannot rise above radical hubbub.
The French far left has also gone fishing in these troubled Islamic waters. One new leftist political star is Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, a hugely popular black comedian who appears to be a Gallic Louis Farrakhan. He dismisses civic educational programs about the Holocaust as “memory pornography.” He was recently fined 5,000 Euros for comparing Jews to slave-traders. In a television sketch, he gave a Nazi salute while dressed as an orthodox Jew to denounce what he saw as “fascist Israeli policies.”
The 40-year-old Dieudonne (he doesn’t use his last name) was born in Paris to a French mother and Cameroonian father, and owns and runs a Paris theater that showcases young comedians. Sixty years ago, another French comedian decided to run for the presidency.
“Maisons Closes” had just been banned and Ferdinand Lop campaigned on reopening a brothel every five kilometers between Paris and Deauville. He got a handful of votes. Dieudonne’s humor is black — and dangerous.
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.