If you listen to Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, the rioters who have set Paris suburbs ablaze for a week are "thugs," but the ever-poetic PM Dominique de Villepin cautions against "stigmatizing" vast areas. Last night was the seventh in a row in which disaffected North African immigrant youth -- Muslims -- protested violently, throwing molotov cocktails, besieging a police station and shooting at police. The proximate cause of the riots was the accidental electrocution of two boys (possibly chased by police) in an electrical substation.
The French riots, which have been almost ignored here, are very significant because they illustrate a problem Spectator has been writing about for years. In America, we work hard to help immigrants of all kinds assimilate, and in large part we are successful at it. For those immigrants who don't want to assimilate, we should be much more wary of allowing them to become citizens under any circumstances. In France, and other parts of Old Europe, Muslims are isolated. Their usual reluctance to assimilate is encouraged, and the result is huge sections of the suburbs of many French cities that are jammed with unemployed, uneducated, and disaffected people who resent their government. When the French pass laws such as the one that prevents Muslim girls from wearing head scarves to school, they create religious hostility. This is a recipe for violence.
The French have been the most persistent friend of the Arab states in the UN and elsewhere, and they have been rewarded -- by Saddam and others -- with considerable wealth. But this wealth is not nearly as beneficial as the disaffected and violent immigrant population is dangerous. They have been feeding the crocodile, hoping it eats them last. In truth, they can probably get away with it for another decade or two. After that, France may no longer be French. And, surprisingly, that may not be good news.
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