The endemic disorder in France's North African and sub-Saharan African suburbs (unlike Americans in the 1960s, the French refused to flee their beloved cities) is peaking once again, with rioters now using shotguns to blast away at the police.
It's hard to get a straight story out of France about the riots. It was widely assumed in 2005 during the car-burnings that the rioters were motivated by Islamic fundamentalism, but little evidence of that emerged. It seemed more like an American black riot (but without the looting), with a Gallic twist. Fighting in the streets for ostensible political causes is an honored French tradition, and it's common for immigrants to assimilate toward the more destructive of host country traditions.
It's hard to even find out who is doing the rioting. In 2005, the pictures I saw tended to make it look like black Africans were taking the lead rather than olive North Africans, but there wasn't much direct reporting on the demographics. One exception: Martin Walker wrote for UPI:
AUBERVILLIERS, France (UPI) -- It still smells of smoke along the Rue Henri-Barbusse in the French suburb of Aubervilliers, but the skeletons of burned-out cars are cold now and look oddly like randomly parked pieces of modern sculpture in the shadow of the giant Quatre-Chemins housing estate that saw some of the worst riots in the two-week spasm of riots that swept France.
The sullen faces that gaze on the handiwork of the local rioters and sneer at the vans of the riot police are black rather than brown: Africans from Mali and Martinique rather than Arabs from Algeria and Morocco. ...
One of the striking features of the two weeks of rage that swept France is that so many of the rioters are black rather than Arab, though North Africans from Algeria and Morocco and Tunisia make up more than two-thirds of the estimated 6 million immigrants, their families included, in France.
Another important element is that in places where the rioters were 'beurs,' as the French Arabs call themselves, Islam and religion seemed to play only a minor role. A tear gas bomb fired into the mosque of Clichy-sous-Bois on the first day of the riots infuriated local Muslims, but there have been no Islamic slogans and no taunts against the French as Christians. They are identified instead, by young blacks and beurs alike, as the Gaulois, the Gauls, a taunting reference to the way French primary schools traditionally begin their history lessons with the phrase 'Our ancestors, the Gauls...'
Local Islamic leaders who tried to calm the young mobs have been routinely ignored, as have the fatwas issued by the leading Imams saying rioting and attacks on innocent people are against Islam...
Experts who work with France`s black community point to a different kind of family breakdown. Sonia Imloul of Respect 93, a non-governmental organization, says one of the biggest problems is polygamy, and cites the example of one family she knows with one father, four wives and thirty children, all living in the same standard 4-room apartment of French public housing.
In 2005, I wrote about American pundits' misconceptions about rioting for The American Conservative in "French Lessons."
On the other hand, I'm still confused by the apparent lack of looting in the 2005 riots. Were the rioters in France sober? The 1992 LA riots were essentially one long drunken brawl. It started with looting Korean-owned liquor stores and most of the rioters were drunk the whole time. If the French rioters are sober, perhaps that means they really are faithful Islamic tea-totalers and not the hip-hop inner city American wanna-bes, as I picture them.