Is Islam to Blame for French Muslim Riots?

Stephen Schwartz has an interesting piece at TCS arguing that, while those rioting and killing people in France are Muslims, the root cause of the problem is not Islam but European racism:

Notwithstanding the hue and cry that will be raised against Muslims in France, in the aftermath of this nightmare, the truth about French bigotry remains. A French politician declared that Turkey should not enter Europe because the latter is a “Christian” continent. Yet France hates the infamous “Polish plumbers,” who supposedly are enabled to “steal jobs” from French workers, as much as it dislikes Arabs and other Muslims — even though the Polish immigrant’s family doubtless attends Catholic mass more than the average French family, which has been indoctrinated in compulsory secularism over several generations. France glorifies “its” anti-Nazi resistance, which until D-Day in 1944 was made up almost entirely of stateless Jews, Spanish Republican refugees, Armenians, and even some North African Arab revolutionaries — all typically considered “un-French.” That was another dirty little secret I learned about the French, so long ago in Paris. I already knew that the majority of French citizens had cooperated in handing over their Jewish and other “undesirable” neighbors to the Nazis.

More recently, France denounced the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq, let us not forget, so that the pretext for the Madrid 3/11 and London 7/7 terrorist atrocities was absent when the “red belt” began to blaze. Demagogic voices seeking to lay blame for the French rioting on the religion of Muhammad will have to ignore that only two weeks before, bloody disorders erupted in the British city of Birmingham. There, in another European ghetto community, called Lozells, Caribbean Blacks fought with Pakistanis. But some will, of course, find a reason to blame that on Islam, as well. The Caribbeans claimed one of their young women had been gang-raped by Muslims, and similar charges are common currency among French Islamophobes. Rumormongers and pundits opine, and anonymous, poor people die.


European Muslim relations with non-Muslim authorities and neighbors are made more difficult by the penetration of Islamic communities by extremist ideology from North Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and the Arab Gulf states. Numerous studies and commentaries on these problems are based on the presumption that the “immigrant Islam” of the first and second generations will become the dominant form of European Islam, and remain so for a considerable time, until a process of assimilation has succeeded. Because Islam cannot become European without a Europe-based Muslim leadership, a second presumption holds that Western European governments must directly intervene in the collective lives of the believer s to enable, foster, and support a moderate leadership stratum. Controversy over civil liberties, cultural values, and the gap in Western knowledge about Islam will profoundly complicate this process.


The French and British have deliberately ignored many opportunities to rationally deal with the issues posed by Euro-Islam. If they had perceived, as some of us did, that a prosperous Bosnia could be a center for moderate Islam in Europe, and would help defuse the social appeal of radical Islam, they might have built up Bosnia. They did not. They contributed to the destruction of Bosnia and then forced the handover of Bosnia and Kosovo to the UN, which has allowed the Balkan Muslim lands to degenerate into economic slums on international welfare. Luckily for “Christian Europe” (a term grossly insulting to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, as well as the Balkan wars), the Bosnians in particular have proven more stoic than the new generation of Arab and Black African youths of the Parisian suburbs.

To the extent that Schwartz is arguing that 1) most Islamic people in Europe are peaceful, 2) some European violence is committed by non-Muslims, and 3) there are legitimate social concerns among European Muslims that are not being dealt with as effectively as they could, he’s right. I would argue, though, that the large contingent of Wahhabist Islamists in Europe and, to a lesser extent the United States, is a huge problem that should not be swept under the rug in the name of “tolerance” and political correctness.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    But they don’t dare call this problem what it is, at the root; Socialism, and it’s consequences.

  2. Herb says:

    The French have looked down their noses at most everyone since WW2 and continue to do so to this day. Thet will tell they have “Culture”. For the past 20 years the Euros have followed the same path as the French. Their “Culture” has now caught up with them and they now have problems they accuse the US as having sitting on their doorstep. The Euros have condemed the US time and time again for nor dealing with the social issues here is the US while ignoring their own social problems.

    Now their bigotry and high and mighty culture has raised itself on their streets causing total uncertainty in their midst.

    I don’t feel one damed bit of sorrow for them and feel a little pleased that their “Culture” is blowing up right in their faces.

    I would not be supprised to see most all of Europe to start mass deportations of those they let immigrate into their countries with their arms wide open.

    But, somehow, the Euros will find a way to put the blame for their misdeeds on America. And there will be those here in the US that will agree with them.

  3. Elmo says:

    Another piece of the puzzle. While I had been reticent to join the “it’s going down now” brigade. My sense is that there is a growing connected, underlying consciousness.

    It tells me of overshadowing all of the other individual collected elements. As proudly rude as the French are. However much a contributor.

    I don’t see this as an anomaly.

  4. ken says:

    I would argue, though, that the large contingent of Wahhabist Islamists in Europe and, to a lesser extent the United States, is a huge problem that should not be swept under the rug in the name of “tolerance” and political correctness.

    No, it is far better to exploit the problem for political gain. Isn’t that your point James? why not just come out and say it?

    And what do you have against “tolerance” anyway? It is one of America’s foundational values.

  5. James Joyner says:

    No, it is far better to exploit the problem for political gain. Isn’t that your point James? why not just come out and say it?

    Huh? Whose political gain? It’s largely a foreign policy issue, which tends not to matter much in the polls. To the extent it’s an issue that would gain traction with the voters, one would presume it would be one that would garner bipartisan support. There’s no reason the Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on this.

    And what do you have against “tolerance” anyway? It is one of America’s foundational values.

    But so is accountability and frank discussion. We can’t be afraid to call our enemy by its name.

  6. bithead says:

    I don’t feel one damed bit of sorrow for them and feel a little pleased that their “Culture” is blowing up right in their faces.

    I would argue rather the opppsite;
    That their LACK of culture has blown up in their faces. Consider that the first effort of any socialist is to eliminate the influence of the culture and that the belief of any socialist is tha culture doesn’t matter. It’s as I said the other day;

    The French, you see, in their devout socialism, putting into action, and into law, the socialist non-thought that “culture doesn’t matter”, have allowed their culture to deteriorate, by insisting on people who decide to live among then, didn’t have to become French. They have legal citzenship, but in terms of culture, they do not call France their home nation, and their home culture.

    This lack creates an instant second class citizenry, whom, as Theodore Dalrymple in the article I linked yesterday suggests, the government will contemptuously feed and clothe, but will do no more. A permanent welfare state. And, one which Steyn points out, is not expected to live up to the cultural standards, or even the laws, which if you’ll recall previous cultural discussions in these spaces, were supposed to reflect that culture and it’s values.

    The implications for Americans, and their leftist driven ideas surrounding immigration and ‘respect for other cultures’ are fairly clear, it seems to me.

  7. odograph says:

    I’m not an expert on French politics (are you?), but I worry that you were too quick on the draw in painting this as an “islamic” issue:

    The Action Police CFTC union urged the French government to impose a curfew on riot-hit areas and call in the army to control the youths — poor whites as well as French-born citizens of Arab or African origin complaining of racism.


    If this turns out to be an “undrclass” thing, with only a portion of the participants being “islamic” how will you react?

  8. James Joyner says:

    Odo: There were white people rioting during the Rodney King mess, too; that didn’t change the fact that racial tensions were at the root. Mobs have a way of taking on a life of their own.

    The French have a huge problem with their Islamic minority. I don’t think there’s much doubt about that.

  9. odograph says:

    Do you have any breakdown of the demographics, European, vs. African, vs. Arab youths?

    The fact that it is widely reported as “African and Arab” would give me pause at calling it “Moslim,” as in your title.

    It is never good after all, to fan the flames of religious prejudice, and certainly not without good evidence.

  10. anjin-san says:

    Of course we have good reson to trash the French as their country suffers a tragedy (really, really classy). After all, we have NEVER had rioting in this country.

  11. bobsays says:

    Islam is not blameless. As a faith, its contemporary interpretation is violent and intolerant. That is the problem. There is wacky stuff in the bibles, but nobody apart from nutcases takes that stuff seriously. We allow our societies to be governed by peaceful legal philosophy (the rights of the individual, ie: not controlling women and making them wear the veil). Islamic leaders openly encourage this violence and egg it on. Name it and blame it. Here in the UK, they have started to attack blacks as they search around for enemies.
    Read ‘the trouble with islam’ by Irshad Manji. She is a muslim and doesn’t waste words singling out the intolerant and violent elements. Actually, the truth is that there are lots of muslims fighting for a tolerant future but who are shouted down and attacked by the violent elements, anoverlooked by PC liberals who breathlessly try to cut deals with the violent ones to buy a false peace. It’s all sad.

  12. Herb says:


    I think you may have not seen through my ststement carefully.
    When I refered to their “culture”, I meant that their culture was phoney and it is only in their eyes.

    And Ken:
    Tollerance is for Liberals only, remember how many times the Dems, especially Clintons, tollerance was used and America got screwed in the end, re: N. Korea.


    The muslims do not want any part of any society or state unless it is Islamic.

    The solution is to give every one of them a camel and a towel and send them back where they came from where they can hav all the Islam they want and fight amoung each other without killing innocent law abiding citizens of their former “Host: country.

  13. odograph says:

    So were the south-central riots in LA “Christian Riots?”

  14. Elmo says:

    Reaching Odo …. reaching.

  15. odograph says:

    It would be overselling the argument to call those Christian riots, but I think James is in danger of overselling the Islamic angle as well.

    For that to honestly be the case, to merit the repeated headlines he has used (“French Muslim Riots …”) the religion would have to be the driving factor, and not the boader social position and unemployment angles.

    To pump up the religious angle for mere political gain is … sick.

  16. James Joyner says:

    What is this “political gain” meme that keeps popping up? Whose gain?

    If you read the posts, you’ll note that I repeatedly make the points that this 1) is not exactly a European intifada, contrary to the claims of some and 2) there are other factors involved.

    I emphasize the Islamic angle because 1) the mainstream press is totally deemphasizing it, to an embarrassing degree and 2) Islamist propaganda is indeed a major driving force behind the violence, especially its rapid spread.

  17. odograph says:

    You just put up a post with this paragraph:

    President Jacques Chirac, in private comments more conciliatory than his warnings Sunday that rioters would be caught and punished, acknowledged that France has failed to integrate the French-born children of Arab and black African immigrants in poor suburbs who have been participating in the violence, according to Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who met with the French leader on Monday. She said Chirac “deplored the fact that in these neighborhoods there is a ghettoization of youths of African or North African origin” and recognized “the incapacity of French society to fully accept them.”

    Do you have any information on how many of these “ghettoized” “Africans” are in fact Moslem?

    Or did you run ahead with all of your “Moslem Riot” titles without that data?

  18. bithead says:

    Well, Odo, you may have a point, by the same token as we used to call the cultural based rioting of the 60’s, race riots. To attribute those to race was off the mark… it was more of a cultural issue… and contains most of the markers the French situation has today.

    Odo, meet corner.

  19. DL says:

    So were the south-central riots in LA “Christian Riots?”

    Not by the hair of your chinny-chin-chin!

    Christians of any color, by definition, are forbidden such nonsense. Muslims have yet to prove that their religion forbids terror!

  20. Elmo says:

    Parsing percentages …. of underlying, root, embedded or main cause(s). Is just dancing on the head of the proverbial pin.

    The fact that the riot(s) spread to other, physically separate communties across Europe. Would lend one to consider the common mind of the perpetrators. Rather than the common exrternal factors.

    The riot here in Los Angeles, was a local event. It did not spread to other locales, in other counties, or states.

  21. odograph says:

    I’m sure the stories will come out, and we’ll learn more about what this really is. It is just a bad idea to jump to conclusions based on X thousand mile away preconceptions.

    Any of us lived in France recently? Had interaction with these dangerous precincts?

  22. Elmo says:

    I’ll tell you what Odo, I’ll give you some additional demography.

    Here in L.A., the lack of Police response, in the beginning minutes and hours. Where the police clearly stood down. And in the following couple of days, with a weak inconclusive response. Was one significant factor in the event metastasizing. From one central city intersection. Where it baked. And pyred.

    Only to engulf a larger swath of the city in the following days. From the opening a la carte, to the full service buffet. Largely unmolested were the participants for the initial hours and days.

    A fair number of participants, sitting home, watching television. Were thus inspired to join. Well organized entrepenurial gangs, also used the cover of the riot’s fires and lawlessness. To engage in major, wanton, serial crime.

  23. odograph says:

    Do Muslim radicals wear San Antonio Spurs t-shirts?

    They complained that police manhandle them during identity card checks, even claiming that some officers plant hashish on them as a pretext for arrests, and that they regularly fire off rubber pellets during sweeps. “You wear these clothes, with this color skin and you’re automatically a target for police,” said Ahmed, 18, pointing to his mates in Izod polo shirts, Nike sneakers and San Antonio Spurs T-shirts.

  24. Elmo says:

    Odo …. I usta be a lib. Repetitious arthroscopic spring resetting, doesn’t exactly inspire crowds of discussive participants.

    I’m sure not every single participant in France, Germany, Belgium was an Islamist.

    Myself though, I wouldn’t much care for defending them whichever side I was on.

    And why I am …. left no more.

  25. odograph says:

    Funny, I’m a lifelong conservative and Republican who feels the need to rise when other “rightists” sink to low levels and smear.

  26. Herb says:

    Odo, If you really are a “lifelong conservative and Republican” Just when in the hell are you going to act like one instead of the liberal democrat you talk like here on OTB?

  27. odograph says:

    Do you see the question at the top of this thread?

    Is Islam to Blame for French Muslim Riots?

    Is it a conservative position that riots in France are “Muslim” or that “Islam is to Blame?”

    I’m an old-fashioned, fact-based, conservative and would like to see analysis flow from data, and not from prejudice.

    … I’ve just been watching the evening news, and the facts, the data, continue to point toward economic and social causes.

  28. Elmo says:

    Odo, either you’re a clown or just tired?

    But, if you inadvertently smear people by association?

    when other “rightists” sink to low levels and smear

    They really aren’t going to want to engage in conversation. If you do it intentionally?

  29. Jim Desser says:

    “There is wacky stuff in the bibles, but nobody apart from nutcases takes that stuff seriously.”

    Exactly. Zionists use the Bible as their philosophical base.

  30. Jean-pierre says:

    Muslims Riot? Where?
    This time it was not a religious problem! So i didn’t understand why you talk about muslim riots. It’s about :
    unemployement in ghettos,
    racial discrimination,
    suburban young people not necessarily muslims!!!!,
    AND : PROVOCATION from policemen.
    2 young people are dead october 27, after having been followed by policemen in an electric installation.
    Their friends wanted to avenge them. This is the first reason there was riots.
    And a third guy who were electrified to, says from his hospital bed :”stop avenge us”. but it was too late.
    And now, you can just say that for this young guys(from 12 to 24 years old for mostly) it’s a game between them and policemen.
    And the real reasons of policemen provocations :
    “THE NEXT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN 2007″. They want to to build their preseidential campagn around insecurity.
    But this time like you can see it was uncontrollable.
    So “muslim riot” is a very stupid analyze of the situation.

  31. Sabrina says:

    Jean-Pierre is right. You better listen to franch people to understand the riots than watching Fox News …

    You can blame the french policy as long as you want. The fact is that even if France was the exact copy of USA the riots would have take place. Because econimical situation of people in USA’s ghettos are worse than in France. Maybe there are not much unemployment, but there are many people living under the poverty line.