Sunday, November 06, 2005

On the French Riots

The best short reading of these riots is that they are like the 1960's race riots in the U.S., as Atrios suggested. The main cause for the riots is in unemployment, poverty and marginalization of the French immigrants and their descendants. The religious angle complicates things, naturally, and makes the chasms in the French society (as well as in the societies of quite a few other European countries) more dangerous to navigate. And as usual, the actual violence also has other elements, from accusations that the police are egging it on to hints that some of the arson is manufactured by drug overlords.

For these reasons I wouldn't read the events as a clash of religions or civilizations as so many right-wing bloggers do. I think that they are plugging into their own fears and add to that a lot of ignorance about the French political system. For example, it's the conservatives who are in power in France right now, not some socialists as I have read on the wingnut net.

But the civilizations of many of the recent immigrants to Europe do differ from the average European customs, and this is so especially when it comes to the treatment of women and to the cultural definition of prostitution and what is considered as sexually permitted in women. It is not unsurprising that people migrating to a new country would take with them all their cultural baggage, of course. But it does create problems, especially when immigration happens in large numbers and the incoming groups are not properly absorbed by the receiving country.

France clearly has a lot of work ahead.