French Muslim Riots Growing More Violent
The rioting by French Muslims continues to spread and grow more violent.
Widespread riots across impoverished [Muslim -ed.] areas of France took a malevolent turn in a ninth night of violence, as [Muslim -ed.] youths torched an ambulance and stoned medical workers coming to the aid of a sick person. Authorities arrested more than 200 people, an unprecedented sweep since the beginning of the unrest. Bands of [Muslim -ed.] youths also burned a nursery school, warehouses and more than 750 cars overnight as the violence that spread from the restive Paris suburbs to towns around France. The U.S. warned Americans against taking trains to the airport through the affected areas.
At the nursery school in Acheres, west of Paris, part of the roof was caved in, childrens’ photos stuck to blackened walls, and melted plastic toys littered the floor. The town had been previously untouched by the violence. Some residents demanded that the army be deployed, or that citizens rise up and form militias. At the school gate, the mayor tried to calm tempers. “We are not going to start militias,” Mayor Alain Outreman said. “You would have to be everywhere.”
Fires and other incidents were reported in the northern city of Lille, in Toulouse, in the southwest, Rouen, in the west and elsewhere on the second night of unrest in areas beyond metropolitan Paris. An incendiary device was tossed at the wall of a synagogue in Pierrefitte, northwest of Paris, where electricity went out after a burning car damaged an electrical pole.
“This is dreadful, unfortunate. Who did this? [Muslims. -ed.] Against whom?” [You. -ed.] Naima Mouis, a hospital worker in Suresnes, asked while looking at the hulk of her burned-out car.
On Saturday morning, more than 1,000 people took part in a silent march in one of the worst-hit suburbs, Aulnay-sous-Bois, filing past burned-out cars to demand calm. One banner read: “No to violence.” Car torchings have become a daily fact in France’s tough suburbs, with about 100 each night.
The persistence of the violence prompted the American and Russian governments to advise citizens visiting Paris to avoid the suburbs, where authorities were struggling to gain control of the worst rioting in at least a decade.
An attack this week on a woman bus passenger highlighted the savage nature of some of the violence. The woman, in her 50s and on crutches, was doused with an inflammable liquid and set afire after passengers were forced to leave the bus, blocked by burning objects on the road, judicial officials said.
Late Friday in Meaux, east of Paris, [Muslim -ed.] youths prevented firefighters from evacuating a sick person from an apartment in a housing project, pelting them with stones and torching the awaiting ambulance, an Interior Ministry officer said. The officer, not authorized to speak publicly, asked not to be named.
“I’m not able to sleep at night because you never know when a fire might break out,” said Mammed Chukri, 36, a Kurdish immigrant from northern Iraq living near a burned carpet warehouse. “I have three children and I live in a five-story building. If a fire hit, what would I do?”
A national police spokesman, Patrick Hamon, said there appeared to be no coordination between gangs in the various riot-hit suburbs. He said, however, that neighborhood youths were communicating between themselves using mobile phone text messaging or e-mails to arrange meeting points and alert each other to police.
France’s worst urban violence in a decade exploded for a ninth night on Friday as bands of youths roamed the immigrant-heavy, working-class suburbs of Paris, setting fire to dozens of cars and buildings while the government struggled over the violence and the underlying frustrations fueling it.
The unrest, which has also spread to other parts of France with large North African and Arab populations, prompted the American and Russian governments to warn citizens visiting Paris to avoid its poor, outlying neighborhoods. France reduced train service to Charles de Gaulle Airport after two trains became targets of rioters earlier in the week. A handicapped woman riding a bus in the Sevran suburb suffered burns over 20 percent of her body Thursday night after two youths doused the inside of the bus with a flammable liquid and set it on fire. Youths have also burned cars in Dijon, in the east, and in Marseille, in the south.
The violence has isolated the country’s tough-talking, anticrime interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, whom some people blame for having worsened the situation with his blunt statements about “cleaning out” the “thugs” from those neighborhoods.
France has been grappling for years with growing unrest among its second- and third-generation immigrants, mostly North African Arabs, who have faced decades of high unemployment and marginalization. Critics say Mr. Sarkozy’s confrontational approach has polarized the communities and the government. “It’s a game that has been started between the youth and Sarkozy,” said a French-Algerian man wearing Chanel sunglasses outside Aulnay’s mosque, in a converted warehouse. He would give his name only as Nabil. “Until he quits,” he said, “it’s not going to get better.”
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin met Friday afternoon with more than a dozen youths from troubled neighborhoods at his palatial offices in central Paris, hoping to find a solution to the unrest. He has promised to put in place an “action plan” before the end of the month to improve conditions in the country’s poor neighborhoods.
France’s foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, warned Thursday that France risked losing the integration battle in immigrant neighborhoods to radicalization of religious-based movements (diplomatic code for Islamic extremism).
French police have arrested more than 250 people following fresh riots in and around Paris and other parts of France. Nearly 900 cars were burnt on the ninth consecutive night of unrest in immigrant-dominated areas near Paris, despite a heavy police presence. Nurseries and a school were burnt overnight and unrest spread to Nice, Lille, Marseille and Toulouse.
Religious leaders hope to calm tensions with a march in one of the worst-hit Paris suburbs, Aulnay-sous-Bois. French CRS riot police were highly visible on its streets overnight, the BBC’s James Shaw reports. Muslim and Christian leaders are expected to join the march along with the families of the two youths whose deaths triggered the unrest.
During Friday night’s unrest rioters tended to avoid direct clashes with police, but arson attacks were widespread:
* Two nurseries, one in Yvelines and another in Bretigny-sur-Orgeand, were set on fire along with a school in Seine-et-Marne, the French news agency AFP reports
* A blaze in an underground car park in Suresnes, Hauts-de-Seine, left at least 36 vehicles destroyed
* An emergency services vehicle was attacked and burnt out in Meaux, Seine-et-Marne
* Several car torchings were reported in the cities of Dijon, Marseille and Rouen, as were violent attacks in Nice, Lille and Rennes.
Clearly, the French experiment with democracy is not working. While there are isolated incidents, like the anti-violence march described above, the government is unable to provide basic safety. The fact of the matter is that the insurgents are winning and fighting back is just futile.