Ten Officers Shot in French Muslim Riots
The riots by French Muslims continue to intensify, with ten police officers shot overnight.
Rioters fired shotguns at the police in a working-class suburb of Paris on Sunday, wounding 10 officers as the country’s fast-spreading urban unrest escalated dangerously. Just hours earlier, President Jacques Chirac called an emergency meeting of top security officials and promised increased police pressure to confront the violence. “The republic is completely determined to be stronger than those who want to sow violence or fear,” Mr. Chirac said at a news conference in the courtyard of Ãƒ‰lysÃƒ©e Palace after meeting with his internal security council. “The last word must be from the law.”
But the violence, which has become one of the most serious challenges to governmental authority here in nearly 40 years, showed no sign of abating. The Associated Press reported on Monday that French police said that a man beaten during riots has died, becoming the first fatality since unrest started. and Sunday was the first day that police officers had been wounded by gunfire in the unrest. More than 3,300 vehicles have been destroyed, along with dozens of public buildings and private businesses, since the violence began.
“This is just the beginning,” said Moussa Diallo, 22, a tall, unemployed French-African man in Clichy-sous-Bois, the working-class Parisian suburb where the violence started Oct. 27. “It’s not going to end until there are two policemen dead.” He was referring to the two teenage boys, one of Mauritanian origin and the other of Tunisian origin, whose accidental deaths while hiding from the police touched off the unrest, reflecting longstanding anger among many immigrant families here over joblessness and discrimination. Mr. Diallo did not say whether he had taken part in the vandalism.
On Saturday night alone, the tally in the rioting reached a peak of 1,300 vehicles burned, stretching into the heart of Paris, where 35 vehicles were destroyed, and touching a dozen other cities across the country. Fires were burning in several places on Sunday night and hundreds of youths were reported to have clashed with the police in Grigny, a southern suburb of Paris where the shooting took place. On Saturday night, a car was rammed into the front of a McDonald’s restaurant in the town. “We have 10 policemen that were hit by gunfire in Grigny, and two of them are in the hospital,” Patrick Hamon, a national police spokesman, said Monday morning. He said one of the officers hospitalized had been hit in the neck, the other in the leg, but added that neither wound was considered life-threatening.
Meanwhile, some moderate Muslim leaders are pleaing for an end to the violence.
One of France’s largest Islamic groups issued a fatwa against rioting on Sunday after officials suggested Muslim militants could be partly to blame for violent protests scarring poor neighbourhoods around the country. The Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF) quoted the Koran and the Prophet Mohammad to back up the religious edict condemning the disorder and destruction the unrest caused.
Many rioters are of North African Arab and black African descent and assumed to be Muslims. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and other officials have hinted Islamist militants may be manipulating angry teenagers to defy the French state.
Muslim residents in the rundown suburbs say rioters’ anger is more about unemployment and discrimination than religion. France’s 5 million Muslims make up 8 percent of the population and many consider themselves second-class citizens here.
“It is formally forbidden to any Muslim seeking divine grace and satisfaction to participate in any action that blindly hits private or public property or could constitute an attack on someone’s life,” the fatwa said. “Contributing to such exactions is an illicit act,” declared the edict, which said it was applicable to “any Muslim living in France, whether a citizen or a guest of France.”
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin received Dalil Boubakeur, head of France’s Muslim Council and rector of the moderate Grand Mosque of Paris, on Saturday but has not publicly met other Muslim leaders.
I agree with Gregory Djerejian here:
Now, I am not one who believes that some pan-Eurabian intifada is in the offing, or that the implications of these riots rival 9/11, or that Shamil Basayev’s guerilla tactics are being adopted off la Place de la Republique–as breathless, under-informed ‘commentary’ has it in some quarters of the blogosphere. But we certainly have a pivot point here, one where the ruling elite’s inefficacy and ineptness is being laid crudely bare for all the world to see. They have been tone-deaf and caught off guard by the depth of the alienation in their midst, and it has now caught them very much unawares and seemingly clueless on how next to respond.
Goodness knows the United States is no stranger to racially charged rioting. But the scope and intensity of what’s going on in France is beyond anything we’ve seen here in my lifetime.
France’s national police chief warned Monday that a “shock wave is spreading across the country” as rioting intensified in cities throughout France during an eleventh night of violence. Officials from neighboring countries expressed concern that the unrest could leap across international borders.
“We are witnessing a sort of shock wave that is spreading across the country,” police chief Gaudin said, adding that the violence seemed to be subsiding slightly in the Paris suburbs as it worsening elsewhere in France. He said police made 395 arrests in connection with the unrest Sunday night.
French government officials said they would announce a plan Monday for combating the violence and its root causes of high unemployment, poverty and discrimination in the poor communities where the violence is concentrated. French President Jacques Chirac addressed the public Sunday for the first time since the violence began, saying his government’s “absolute priority” was “reestablishing security and public order.” His brief appearance came hours after the arson rampages struck the heart of Paris and accelerated their spread to other major French cities.
It’s rather late in the game to be formulating a strategy.