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Ring of Fire: The Paris Riots

What do these riots say about the state of integration in France and more widely in Europe?

November 11, 2005

What do these riots say about the state of integration in France and more widely in Europe?

Sparked by the accidental death of two young French Muslims, unrest that originated in the suburbs of Paris has spread to cities across France. Who is at fault — and what can be done? Our Read My Lips feature looks at the global reaction to the French riots and their wider implications.

What does this unrest mean for France going forward?

“The republic is at a moment of truth. What is being questioned is the effectiveness of our integration model.”
(French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin)

Put more plainly, what does this mean?

“European tolerance to intolerance is coming back to bite them.”
(Claude Salhani, UPI International Editor)

Has the French government misinterpreted its integration policies?

“We just want to be recognized as human beings, instead of being seen as Arabs or blacks. We don’t all want new mosques — that’s only important for a few people, yet that’s what the state does.”
(Maratt Sabek, resident of the Paris suburb Clichy-sous-Bois)

How do Muslims outside of France view this unrest?

“A visa or I’ll torch your car.”
(A cartoon in the Algerian newspaper Liberté depicting a young man at the French consulate)

Are these riots due to Islamist tendencies?

“It's not the European version of an intifada. Islamic ideology and leaders play no role in the disturbances — and many of those participating are not Muslim.”
(Editorial in the Washington Post)

What wider group is responsible then?

“The new proletariat of the 21st century are the young and frustrated children of immigrant descent.”
(Dominique Moisi, senior advisor at France’s Institute for International Relations)

How has life for immigrants changed in France?

“Their grandfathers came to France, mostly from North Africa, to do the hard labor in industrial reconstruction after World War II. Their fathers saw their manhood undermined by unemployment.”
(William Pfaff, Paris-based columnist)

How does the situation in France compare with recent U.S. management of crises?

“Caught by surprise, slow to react, plagued by political posturing and finger-pointing, the French leadership is demonstrating that poor crisis response is not unique to U.S. administrations.”
(Editorial in the Washington Post)

And how does the unrest in France compare historically to unrest in the United States?

“It’s similar to the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1960s. The integration policies of this country clearly do not work.”
(Michelle Rosso, French music teacher)

What implications should the United States be wary of?

“The insoluble violence in urban France should inspire more than just schadenfreude in the United States. It’s pretty clear that large, unintegrated, ungovernable and unemployed Islamic communities in Western Europe will continue to incubate radical Islam.”
(Anne Applebaum, Washington Post columnist)

How do the riots in Paris play into the wider question of Muslim integration?

“We are all French right now. It is not just Paris that is burning. It is Africa, the Middle East, parts of Asia and Latin America that are burning and showering flames on the Paris ghettos — and on London, Madrid, New York, Bali and Casablanca.”
(Jim Hoagland, Washington Post columnist)

How can France address the underlying causes of this unrest?

“What would help France most now would be to stimulate economic growth and lessen onerous regulation.”
(Joel Kotkin, Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation)

What is the most striking aspect of the riots?

“President Jacques Chirac and his ministers appear to have no idea what to do — and to whom to talk.”
(Editorial in the New York Times)

How will this affect the upcoming presidential election in France?

“The talk today is of Sarkozy’s wilting presidential hopes. Yet France must look beyond the ambitions of a single man and dwell on a wider, more painful problem — the integration of some six million people.”
(Catherine Field, Paris-based freelance journalist)

Does this unrest have wider implications in Europe?

"Home to Europe’s largest Muslim community — nearly one-tenth of its 60 million people — France is the main testing ground of the continent’s ability to bring this rapidly growing minority into the fold.”
(Editorial in the Wall Street Journal)

And finally, is too much being made of these riots?

“We would have to change our plans if it was a terrorist attack, an earthquake or even a hurricane. It’s just riots in the suburbs. It is not Iraq. So what? I don’t feel insecure.”
(Vicky Vamiedaky, tourist from Athens)