French Conservative Defends Himself

Those French liberals, soft on Iraq and soft on their Muslims, are getting their comeuppance from Islamic terrorists as the "clash of civilizations"  arrives at chez Chirac.

So say some readers of this blog in written comments on the spread of rioting in France. In fact, the reality is quite different.

The explosion of violence in France has taken place after four years of "zero-tolerance" law enforcement policies of France's two leading conservatives, Prime Minister Dominique Villepin and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. Their strategy has included measures that U.S. conservatives would probably look on with favor, including tighter visa controls, curfews, and police checkpoints in crime-ridden neighborhoods.

In the French media, the right-wing politicians are not criticizing the out-of-power left but calling on the country to "stay the course" with its get-tough policies, as French news survey in The Guardian shows.

"I defend [this strategy] not because it is 'rightwing', but because it is the only one that is proven to work," writes Sarkozy in today's issue of Le Monde. "Those who deny this on purely ideological grounds have short memories... We have reduced crime by almost 8% since 2002 and we recorded 17% fewer crimes in October 2005 than in October 2001."

"The police presence in the suburbs is vital. The police are the republic's police. They keep order in the republic. If they don't do it, who will replace them? Mafias or fundamentalists... I am not confusing these vandals and the law-abiding majority of people who live in these suburbs and who only want to make a success out of their lives, and the French can count on the total determination of the government," Sarkozy wrote.

The problem is that some Americans assume all French politicians must be social liberals because a solid majority of the country opposed the Iraq war. But Sarkozy is among the most pro-American of French politicians. (As an ambitious immigrant from Eastern Europe, he spoke approvingly of the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger.) Villepin, Sarkozy's boss and rival for leadership of the French right, is remembered by Americans as the voice of French opposition to the invasion of Iraq. But in domestic politics, he is on the right. Villepin implemented many of the "zero tolerance" policies when he served as Interior Minister in 2004.

L'Humanite, newspaper of the French communist party says "Sarkozy's arrogance evidently has no limits."

"Questioned on television about his attitude to the crisis, the interior minister declared calmly: 'I don't have the right to overreact. Nothing can be achieved by agitation and tension. The most difficult thing for me is to stay lucid, to get out of the cauldron and to find the time to reflect on what should be done.' Get out of the cauldron? If only he could! After having deliberately lit the fuse, he happily surveys the damage, and wants time to think about it," says the left-wing daily.

Figaro blames both left and right for 40 years of "political failure." The government has failed to follow through on spending for run-down suburbs while offering soothing speeches treating immigrants "as victims rather than responsible citizens," says the center-right daily.

In a survey of German commentary, Spiegel Online notes that most online media in that country "steer well clear of 'clash of civilizations' style coverage." German pundits say France aflame shows Europe must find better way to integrate immigrants into its society.

By Jefferson Morley |  November 8, 2005; 7:07 AM ET  | Category:  Europe
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If France's laws are already tough then why was it that a curfew was imposed TWELVES DAYS after this rioting began? Maybe they are tough by France's standards, but I don't know of any country that waits that long before imposing emergency powers to subdue unrest and destruction of property. My jaw dropped when I heard on the radio a French official saying thatthings were getting better since only 1200 vehicles were torched last night compared with 1400 the night before!

The immigration issue is the same everywhere. Businesses want cheap labor and no one including the government thinks about integrating their children, born in country. Its happening here in America where a false economy is created by ignoring illegal laborers willing to work for pennies on the dollar while businesses say they are needed because "Americans don't want those types of jobs". Well at the low pay caused by the illegal immigration they are correct. This is a false economy and it is perpetuated by businesses who benefit from the low labor costs.

I remember when college kids were hired in the summer to harvest vegetables on farms. They were paid well. Now its the job of illegals who get paid less. This is not right. America must stop illegal immigration and call those who tout the benefits of the false economy liars when they say no one will work on the harvest. Luckily, American integration is better than France's, but a false economy cannot continue forever, and France is the latest example of why immigration laws and labor laws need to be enforced.

When was the last time you heard of a business shut down for hiring illegals? When did you read of employers going to trial for breaking current immigration laws. There is no enforcement because business and their sponsored government leaders don't want it to end. Its time for America to look at its own situation and enforce immigration laws.

Posted by: Sully | November 8, 2005 09:25 AM

What is very sad about french events is that as usual in France, it is political and mediatical exploitation that have made the situation getting worst. Media have victimised rioters, have called them 'youth s' and criticised the words of security minister 'scum'. Political rivalry, even inside the government, seem to be as always stronger than national interest. Nothing can justify burning schools, and attacking bus passengers. Before any debate over suburbs condition be hold, riots must be stopped, and all the political class should be united for that purpose.
In France education is free. What makes the suburb schools bad places are ... the same rioters that are terrorizing everyone from schoolmates to teachers. Riots are having the opposite effect of the one that those who victimize rioters claim is beeing seeked.
France political class, and most french media have once again shown their lack of responsability.

Posted by: Bruno | November 8, 2005 10:10 AM

What should the French do? Make efforts to integrate the Muslims into French life? Would it be possible? Expel all Muslims? That would be consistent with the history of Catholic Europe. Is it possible?

There is indeed a danger that in fifty years Europe will be non-white, non-Christian, non-modern. Is that a justification for action now, however unpleasant for all concerned? I am just asking. I suspect radical solutions will take place.

Posted by: candide | November 8, 2005 10:59 AM

When the Nazis and many European nationalists in Eastern Europe decided that Jews must be expelled or killed to preserve their ethnic nations we all know how exaggerated the claim was. Germany had less than a 1% Jewish population. The only large Jewish populations were in Poland and Romania where possibly an argument for expelling Jews could be made. But in present-day Europe it is clearly true that non-white and Muslim populations are excessive and could destroy Europe. Can something be done despite the charge of racism which will be hurled at any attempt to do something effective?

Posted by: candide | November 8, 2005 11:02 AM

In other words: when is self-defense justified?

Posted by: candide | November 8, 2005 11:03 AM

It is funny to hear right-wing talk show hosts like O'Reilly and Limbaugh gloating that the French are getting what they deserve, despite the fact that almost all French, left and right, opposed the war in Iraq.

Posted by: candide | November 8, 2005 11:04 AM

To be fair: Islam is historically a less fanatical religion than Christianity, less intolerant, less irrational, less anti-intellectual, less mystical -- in a word, despite its flavor of the Evil East, probably better than Christianity.

Perhaps we should worry less.

Posted by: candide | November 8, 2005 11:06 AM

Come on folks, you can't expell them! What are you talking about. They are french citizen...most of them.

12 days! and the curfews are not really curfews, I just read that the curfews will be for kids under 16!!! what about the others...I mean this is crazy, what's happening is creazy...I am mad...

They waited 12 days to "act" because:
1- they were unprepared,
1- they didn't believe this could France,
2- 2007 is the presidential election, so they are walking on eggs,
3- they wanted to put all the burden of the riots on Sarkosy's back, but his poll ratings are still very strong (60% or more approved of him) despite his strong "wording". now it went to far...sarko is still there... and they have to act! NOW!

Posted by: adp | November 8, 2005 11:24 AM

Illegal immigration, which lead to France having a large immigrant population, must be controlled, not only in France, but here in the USA. Here is an interesting article in today's Post describing the Minuteman Project, which is a grass roots effort to stop illegal immigration, because the governments will not.

The article describes volunteers of the Project photographing day-laborers and those who hire them in Virginia. What they found is that most are illegal and the employers are regular employers, not once-in-a-while employers. Illegal immigration must be controlled both at the level of the illegal immigrant and the employers who hire them. In a post-9/11 world, as Bush keeps emphasising, we need to control who comes into our country, but Bush does nothing about illegal immigration and either do our govenors or local politicians. Its time to stop the cheap illegal labor not only to save jobs and wage levels for citizens and legal immigrants, but to prevent the problems France is now having to confront.

Posted by: Sully | November 8, 2005 11:42 AM

Christianity is no more or less (historically speaking) fanatical than any other religion. And, even if it were, that is of little consolation when dealing with muslim terrorists in the present.

The September 11 hijackers were practicing Muslims that believed that the Koran supported their actions.

Timothy McVeigh (for example) was not a practicing Christian and nothing in the New Testament could possibly be construed by anyone to support his actions.

The problems in France are political. We have large numbers of Muslims in this country that are well integrated into our society. France, and Europe, should look to us for a model of how to assimilate diverse cultures.

Posted by: agilb884 | November 8, 2005 11:52 AM

American coverage of the French riots is incredibly uninformed, and much of the punditry is unbelievably ignorant.

The crux of the situation has everything to do with the French model of dealing with racial, ethnic and religious minorities as opposed to the US or the UK model. What US rightwing anti-Muslim anti-French bigots don't understand (because they're so blinded by their willful ignorance) is that the French model is exactly the kind of model that the rightwing here in the US would APPROVE OF: in France, policies like affirmative action are illegal. The French have an absolutist and deliberate color-blind national policy. For example, the French gov't collects no statistics and does no research on the number of, say, African or Arab immigrants in their country; there are no French gov't statistics on the conditions of minority neighborhoods. French policy does not recognize differences, there are no programs of outreach toward minority groups that encourage recruitment in the police force or the military, etc. There are no gov't anti-discrimination programs because it is just blindly assumed that everyone is equal and is treated equally. This artificial "color-blindness" means that serious economic, political and cultural differences and discrimination go ignored and are allowed to fester.

The young people doing the rioting (and they include about 25% of white poor/working class kids) deal with racist, brutal police officers harrassing them every day in addition to being completely ignored by an out of touch gov't. They have no jobs, no hope, & substandard education.

What the French are going thru is what the US went thru in the 60s and what the UK went thru in the 80s. The UK improved its situation by looking at the US experience. This is what the French have not done. Just like the US and UK governments had no clue how to handle the situation at the time, neither does the French gov't.

The US has had more experience in facing its racial conflicts -- that experience came with a great deal of violence as well. It's unfortunate the French have taken so long to learn from the US and UK examples, choosing instead to cling to an outmoded model of "color-blindness" that masks serious racial differences within the French population. Until the French face reality about their outmoded model, these riots will continue to flare up.

Posted by: Sandra | November 8, 2005 12:26 PM

"As an ambitious immigrant from Eastern Europe, he spoke approvingly of the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger."

Sarkozy isn't an immigrant. His father was, from Hungary. His mother's mother was French-Catholic, and her father (Sarkozy's maternal grandfather) was a Sephardic Jew who converted to Catholicism when he moved to France from the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s.

Posted by: diana | November 8, 2005 12:34 PM

Limbaugh and O'reilly may be gloating, and they would be half-right. France's pro-arab policies as per the tilted coverage of the israeli-palestinian conflict has apparently exploded in her face. In my view, this (France) is a country where antisemitism acts as a "safety valve" to effectively control the muslim population and avoid the kind of flare-up we are currently witnessing. Perhaps the current absence of real violence over there in Palestine/Israel is really responsible for the masses of young ghetto kids now directing their anger at the authorities. France remains a country in conflict with its past, present and future...

Posted by: Tomboy | November 8, 2005 01:30 PM

Limbaugh and O'reilly may be gloating, and they would be half-right. France's pro-arab policies as per the tilted coverage of the israeli-palestinian conflict has apparently exploded in her face. In my view, this (France) is a country where antisemitism acts as a "safety valve" to effectively control the muslim population and avoid the kind of flare-up we are currently witnessing. Perhaps the current absence of real violence over there in Palestine/Israel is really responsible for the masses of young ghetto kids now directing their anger at the authorities. Think about it...

Posted by: Ponyboy | November 8, 2005 01:34 PM

Thank you Ponyboy for stating the obvious that France and frankly all of the European countries use the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a way to appease their deeply unhappy arab-muslim populations.

Posted by: Jerry | November 8, 2005 02:45 PM

The comparison made here with illegal immigration in the United States is absurd, but the rightwing in the U.S. is no more bound by logic, truth, or facts than that of France. The French have such large Arab populations because of their policies allowing immigration (i.e., legal) of people from former French colonies in North Africa.

Posted by: Rob | November 8, 2005 05:30 PM

For Sandra: On the other hand what the US bleeding-liberals pro-Muslin pro-French bigot (bigot = a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own...I guess that goes both ways) doesn't understand that the french don't have an affirmative action because of racism not because of their political views on one hand, and on the other they could have an affirmative action even if they would believe in it because they take two hours lunch break, they work 4 days a week and their unemployment is still at 10%. France doesn't have gov't anti-discrimination programs or programs of outreach toward minority groups for the exact reason: racism. Very prevalent everywhere in the country. In other words, under the same non-prejudicial, all-loving LIBERAL gov't that's been in power since their revolution, the policies have been do as I say not as I do...I almost can't believe that. Hillary would blend right in.

Posted by: Fidel C. | November 8, 2005 06:07 PM

>>To be fair: Islam is historically a less fanatical religion than Christianity, less intolerant, less irrational, less anti-intellectual, less mystical -- in a word, despite its flavor of the Evil East, probably better than Christianity.

>>Perhaps we should worry less.

Perhaps you need to read a little more history.

Posted by: Mark | November 8, 2005 06:47 PM

TO Sandra:
Your view of the french society is unusually clear for someone on this side of the Atlantic (no offence :p). However, I have to disagree with you on a few points. First about the substandard education of people in the suburbs: the education is first of parents' responsability and one of the main plagues in those suburbs is that with a lot of burst out families, a lot of parents have given up on their kids: why are there some 13 years old out in the night those days?

Second the education is free in France.
What is making schools in those suburbs less good ones, is the attitude of some of those kids who are spreading violence. The first educators are the parents and you cannot ask the state to replace them.

About the impossibility of affirmative action policies:
first, Nicolas Sarkozy is in favor of it.
second, it is sad that we have to reach that point: affirmative action is not a good solution. I am afraid it is the only one.

A lot is said about racism in France, I don 't think it is that widespread. Actually I even think the most violent racism is against white people, but that 's still a forbidden subject in France. When we read the comments here, it seems like france is a racist country. If you want to remember about 2002 election you will maybe see that 80% voted against far right leader, and I am convinced that a majority of those who voted for Le Pen were not racists either.

If unemployment is higher in those suburbs it is first because, they have less education, and if they have less education it is mostly because they skipped school.
A lot of money is spent on social welfare, unfortunately a lot of it is wasted.

I think it is good that people in France realize that a lot of the suburbans suffer. But it is also important to stop making of those rioters victim and to responabilize everyone.

Posted by: Bruno | November 8, 2005 06:55 PM

To Rob: You're right. The Mexican illegals in the US are for the most part not afraid of hard work and are law abiding, unlike that sorry lot in France.

Posted by: Mark | November 8, 2005 08:08 PM

As an aside, from the American Perspective, the left and right in France are still LEFT. Mainstream America (neither Democrat nor Republican, but somewhere between) is still to the right of most conservatives in French Politics.

Posted by: Bill | November 9, 2005 04:07 PM

You're simply insane.

France has had very close to a "total tolerance" policy for three decades. The numbers who enjoy this tolerance have now hit critical mass and are only too delighted to take advantage of it, en masse.

Villepin is a conservative? Insane. He would make John Kerry look like John Birch. Name one conservative position he's espoused. One. You can't (and I see you haven't in support of your assertion).

The "youths" want nothing to do with France, as they've been stating to anyone who will listen. Europe always goes as far left as possible until they find themselves f____d; then they go hard right and the hemoglobin spills, en masse.

Posted by: Darwin Finch | November 9, 2005 05:38 PM

By the way, here's what I meant by "total tolerance." You won't be visiting France anytime soon after reading this.

Posted by: Darwin Finch | November 9, 2005 05:48 PM

´╗┐The ghetto like condition in France points to a sharp segregation between immigrants and the native French population. Integration has clearly failed and may fail in the future regardless what the French government and other European governments decide to do. While the living standards of the immigrants, in France and elsewhere
in Europe, may be much higher than in their countries of origin, they are clearly aiming for greater equality of opportunity, on their own terms.

However,the cultural and racial differences cannot be overlooked, neither can they be easily overcome.To successfully integrate millions of people, throughout western Europe in a relatively short period of time, would require government policies that are contrary to the vast majority of
the voters. The sacrifices and the reverse discrimination would be even more destabilizing politically than the current unrest and possibly result in extremist governments elected by the European majorities. These governments may not be as tolerant as the current governments in power.

The riots in France are mere evidence of the existing disparities in a variety of areas. The question really becomes whether the ghetto dwellers have the right to achieve their aims through violence and
destruction? In my opinion, they do not.

The French government has thus far acted with restraint, for which it deserves great credit. Many governments around the world, would have fought violence with more violence, to the detriment of the rioters. However, once calm is restored the governments throughout western Europe must move on a variety fronts, including the mass deportation of illegal and unwanted elements of the immigrant populations. They must be shown that law and order still rule, otherwise there will be many repeat performances like those we have seen in the last 13 days. At the same time, governments should provide assistance to those who wish to become productive citizens of French und ultimately European societies.

Posted by: James Bearhill | November 9, 2005 06:11 PM


Thank you for your post.

Jeffery should have explained to his readers the difference between the French Right and the American Right.

In much of Europe everything has to be shifted to the left. That is, the mainstream French Right is actually the mainstream US left. There is no such thing as mainstream French Right as understood in America. That would be a radical French rightist party.

Posted by: Karim | November 11, 2005 09:53 AM

The posters (like Candide) who are talking about EXPELLING French citizens of Muslim heritage should be ashamed of themselves.

This Neo-Nazi mentality is disgusting, uncivilized and shameful.

Candide, would you like to see some Muslim death camps too?

After all, the people you talk about are mostly Middle Eastern (North Africans), why not finish up with the other Middle Easternes (non-Jews) eh?

Posted by: Karim | November 11, 2005 10:05 AM


As an Arab who lived in France for few years, I can tell you that unfortunately you don't understand what the "North Africans" have endured in France.

You would have to look "North African" and to have a "North African" name to know the degree of prejudice and discrimination that is rampant in some parts of France.

While some people in this blog talk about "French vs Muslim", the problem has nothing to do with religion. Many African immigrants in France are not Muslim.

As usual few mainstream US media outlets (including the Post) are using the wrong terminology in the wrong context (calling rioters Muslims). Why blame US readers, they have no clue what really goes in France except through what their (sometimes ignorant) media tells them.

To go back to my original comment, yesterday "Le Monde" published an interesting article about "ethnic diversity" (le monde Nov 10: "A quand l'entreprise black-blance-beur?"). The article contained few shocking statistics:

According to a recent gov report (given to Minister Jean-Luis Borloo): "discrimination against North-Africans and black Africans, French or non-French citizens, is rampant and practiced with impunity in the work environment".

The report said that there are 2 types of common discrimination in the work environment:

1- When applying for a job
2- promotion in the current job

According to a 2004 study report in Paris, an individual with a French sounding Name and an European appearance has 5 times more chance getting an interview for a new job.

Another study showed that among thousands of resumes of highly-qualified workers, the unemployment rate among whites was 2% vs 7% for blacks.

It is quite simple to understand this Bruno. You could try it yourself. Apply for the same job with the SAME resume with different Names: one French and one North-African.

All this said, one must recognize that there is NO inherent racist or discriminatory laws or policies in France.

The French ideal of equality AND social justice is quite good. During my stay in France, I had free medical coverage and I attended university for free even though I was a foreigner.

As a foreigner, the state (with no questions asked) provided me with pretty much the SAME social advantages as French citizens.

The problem lies in the absence of "protective laws" and in the unfortunate tolerance of minor every day discrimination against the "Other French".

I could accept some form of discrimination against foreigners like myself (even though it would be unfortunate) but for people who were born there it would not be acceptable.

It was only recently that major French companies paid attention to discrimination. Few of them have finally put in place mechanisms in order for instance to monitor the hiring process and so on.

I do condemn the rioters acts. I was also highly IMPRESSED by the way the French police (who is known to be rough with the other French) handled the situation (no deaths).

You just need to listen to your other French citizens. There is no magic solution but I think it is going in the right direction.

Posted by: Karim | November 11, 2005 10:46 AM

you're all talking about discrimination and racism but I did not see one of the rioters complaining about that. The majority of them are young and have not experienced unemployment. All they want is burn everything because they think it's a game and everybody will see them on TV. I am not saying that discrimination does NOT exist, I am just saying that I agree that those people are "voyous" and that we should stop being lenient with them. I am fed up to hear medias trying to understand their motivations and hard life where in fact there is not much to understand.

Plus wanting to integrate in a society demands some sacrifice and some of them (not all) wants everything from social security benefits to free education and do not want to integrate. For example, I am chocked to see that some of them have no interest whatsoever in learning our culture because they don't feel like they belong to our society. But the thing is they don't want to go back either because their country do not have France's social advantages.

This is absurd

Posted by: melody | November 11, 2005 03:31 PM


It is true that people who are burning cars and property are breaking the law, no doubt about that. I don't think anyone is defending their acts.

I think the French government is arresting them. Besides imposing curfews, what else do you suggest that they do? shoot people?

I am not sure what you mean by "integration", is it too much if French North Africans (Maghrebins) ask to be treated the same way as white French?

A few "voyoux" will not be able to cause so much damage. This is more like a violent protest against the system not about social advantages.

Posted by: Karim | November 11, 2005 05:27 PM

You are certainly in a better position than me to assess of such discriminations. Anyway, I do not deny that those are real. What I deny is that the discriminations are the real causes for those riots.

80% of the people arrested during the riots were previously known by police services.

I don't think the victims of discriminations are currently happy of what's happening. I think the riots have a radicalisation effect, and may reinforce prejudices against people from suburbs.

You say "I don't think anyone is defending their acts." Well I am afraid you are wrong. Especially in french medias, or in parts of the political class (greens, far left), rioters have become the victims.

Apart from that I think I agree with you. I will just add one last thing, one of the reasons those suburbs are more and more left by white people is racism. Racism against white people. And probably, I could tell you the same thing that you told me about discriminations: this is maybe not something you can feel not beeing white, but today it is much safer walking in certain streets if you have an african or North African face. And it is not just a feeling. I have personally experienced that several times.

As a conclusion, I would just like to say how surprised I am to read american comments on those events. All this has nothing to do with Islam (it is even a fact that muslims have helped calming down people) and in my opinion nothing to do with immigration. According to some of your journalists, all this is like a punishment for not taking part in war on Iraq... When I see a map of France with Paris misplaced in a CNN news report... I wonder how can american people have a non biased view of this world.

Posted by: Bruno | November 15, 2005 10:26 AM

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