November 10, 2005

Are the French rioters Islamists? A way to test

My vague impression is that the rioters in France are more hip-hop hoodlums than religiously fanatical Islamists. No doubt the global inflammation of Islam plays a sizable role, but one way to test this would be to see if non-Muslim black Africans are refraining from getting in on the fun of burning vehicles.

The methodological problem is that most of the black African countries that had been colonized by France were farther north than the British conquests and thus more heavily Muslim. But a few of the Francophone African countries are not very Muslim, such as Gabon, Central African Republic, Benin, and Togo. So, if men with roots in those countries are heavily represented among the rioters, then that would weigh against the Islamist theory. But if the non-Muslim blacks are sitting this one out, that would support the Islamist idea.

Of course, a middling position could easily be true: that for the rioters, Islam is more of an ethnic badge than a motivating force. In Northern Ireland, the IRA were Catholics and the "paras" were Protestants, but their differing opinions on the necessity for salvation of faith and good works versus faith alone didn't have a whole lot to do with why they were fighting. No, religious differences served, not as motivations, but to make the Catholics and Protestants into two in-breeding extended families.

Likewise, my impression of France is that the Muslims don't intermarry with non-Muslims, so they lack family feeling toward the other people in France.

Another approach would be to study why these riots have such a different flavor than American riots, like LA in 1992. American riots are typically bacchanalias. The first shops looted in LA were liquor stores, and as the crowd got drunker, it turned to murderous building arson and gunfire. (Of course, the heavy usage of crack, the devil's own drug, no doubt contributed to the wave of riots in the early 1990s. Today, inner city African-Americans smoke more marijuana and less crack, and are thus fatter and less on edge.)

In contrast, the French riots have a tone of calculated political street theatre. The rioters have done a good job of figuring out how far they can go without provoking the PC-whipped French government into getting serious about stopping the rioting: e.g., they've burned an incredible number of cars, but relatively few buildings, and deaths have been few. In LA, the riots ended on the fourth day when 4,000 federal troops arrived. About 10,000 people were arrested in a few days, far more than have been arrested in two weeks in France.

I haven't seen any reports of looting liquor stores, which might suggest these guys are better Muslims than we're being told.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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