French riots - Blame Socialism or Islam?


In examining the recent riots across France, it is tempting to level blame on the supposedly irreconcilable differences between the secular West and Islam. The rioters, after all, were largely the children of Muslim migrants from North and West Africa; and the target of their rage was, after all, an archetypal secular polity. If much of the commentary is to be believed, these riots represent the opening battle in some sort of European intifada or an al-Qaeda inspired push to re-establish the Caliphate in the Parisian suburbs. 

However, it is a simplistic reading of the situation that impugns Islam for the riots. Rather, the violence had little to do with some Muslim hostility towards democracy, but everything to do with economic problems that are largely unique to the socialist economies of 'old Europe'. 

Unlike Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, France does not recognize multiculturalism. Migrants must assimilate and the state has undertaken a series of aggressive measures - such as banning Islamic hijab in public schools - to push the process along. 

Integration is, however, more than merely forcing migrants to adopt some vacuous notion of 'Frenchness'. It is not enough that new entrants merely embrace some cultural affectations and give their children French names. Perhaps more importantly, migrants must be integrated economically. It is only by working, earning money and being financially independent that a person develops the self-respect and dignity needed to be a productive member of the social and cultural fabric of the society. This is where France has failed: whilst it has demanded its migrants assimilate culturally, the economy has offered little opportunity for economic assimilation. 

The French economy is growing at just 1.2% and has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in Europe. For those under 25, the unemployment rate is 22% (approximately twice the rate of the United States and Britain). In the banlieues, the poor suburbs where the riots erupted, youth unemployment is estimated to run at over 50%. 

These alarmingly high levels of youth unemployment are caused by a rigid French labor market. France has one of the highest minimum wages in Europe and its workers enjoy the protection of strong unions and a variety of regulations that force short 35-hour work weeks, generous state pensions, and long holidays. It is very difficult for companies to rationalize staff numbers or hire temporarily. Meanwhile, with government spending accounting for roughly half the GDP and an escalating pension and social security burden, individuals and businesses endure stiflingly heavy taxation. 

As a result, the French economy produces a miniscule number of new jobs each year as compared to the United Kingdom or United States. The high minimum wage exacerbates the problem by making it expensive to hire new staff. The result is obvious: businesses will discriminate in favor of job applicants with closer cultural ties to the dominant culture, more experience or already employed. 

Therefore, migrants and the children of migrants are pushed to the margins. They are told that they are French by a system that refuses to recognize the multicultural face of French society, yet when they attempt to find employment soon realize that they are not competing on an equal footing. With laws preventing the collection of any statistical data based on ethnicity or religion, the French government remains blissfully unaware of these problems. This, in turn, builds resentment and a feeling of alienation amongst the young who find themselves excluded with no hope of economic or social ascent. 

Instead of addressing the true cause of unemployment, the French government has plied these poor neighborhoods with public funds: government housing, hospitals, and generous social security payments. An emasculating dependence on handouts, aggressive demands of cultural assimilation, and yet little reciprocal hope of economic integration has created the cultural milieu that begot these riots. 

In competitive, relatively liberalized labor markets, the ongoing demand for labor ensures employers cannot readily afford to discriminate on the irrelevant basis of race or religion. It is for this reason that ethnic groups in more liberal economies do not face the same social problems as those in countries such as France and its neighbors. It is also for this reason that it is unlikely that similar riots would ever occur in Australia or the United States. Regardless of what some opportunists now warn. 

 

Amir Butler is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia.


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  11 Comments   Comment

  1. H.A. from Yathrib

    Here is the definition of "integration" from H.A.'s "Dictionary for Infidels" :

    Inegration (adj):

    1. Being a nudist (adj.)

    2. Being a fornicator (v.)

    3. Being an alcoholic (n.)

    4. Being a voyeur (n.)

    5. Being an INFIDEL

    6. Leading an animalistic life-style in the name of high spirit, modenrity, and self-expression.

    7. Being a Bar Boy and a cowboy and losing all your intelligence @ the age of 21 and then becoming a president under Daddy's Spotlight

  2. Dr Edriss from US

    very good point Jeremiah, but the world bow down to the power. free societies is just ballon of dreams to make people busy with words not with facts.

  3. Doin Phine from Canada

    I would like to say two things. First I said there is nobody immigrating to the middle who is not ALREADY living somewhere in the middle east.

    If you are referring to the military operations in Iraq, I don't think they will be immigrating!

    Please read what I say properly. Secondly the more people on this site insult me more they hurt their efforts to discredit me.

    My references to Islam calling non-Muslim land, Land of Warfare comes from Muslim sites i've visited. If this information is incorrect please guide to the correct site.

    What does 'DARU 'L-HARB' mean if it doesn't mean Land of Warfare.

    Thank-you.

  4. abed from usa

    This is another example of anti-Islamic oppression. Muslims do not assimilate, there is nothing worthy of our assimilation considering there is only one deen, the one that has been defined by Allah in the Quran and the Sunnah. This deen has been completed in the Quran for all mankind to follow it if they wish to succeed in this life and the next. When they make the slightest movement against it they become reduced as human beings and abeed. Therefore, unwillingness to assimilate is definitely a commendable reason for these protests in France. The structure of the economy designed by the same government that employed the dead-scarf ban clearly has another agenda most likely supporting the worldwide stealth crusade discussed in the other article.

    salamz

  5. Jeremiah Ross from USA

    I do agree with the construct of the argument in which government sponsored social stratas alienate and disenfranchise the youth of France. This cultuaral unrest is also demonstrated in the French occupied or post occupied regions such as haiti.

    I am not so sure however that the author has a firm grip of what the situation is in the USA. While I would not be considered a socialist or communist, I think that it is important to note that (at least in the case of the US) many immigrant jobs exploit cheap labor - with many immigrant poor (primarily mexican or central american) sharing common housing or living homeless with little to no medical attention, workers rights, or guarantee that they will even get paid for their manual labor - luring an influx of workers with the proposition of sending money back to starving families until they are either deported or die of lack of decent living conditions. (As someone who interacts with this community with on a daily basis let me assure you that this is not an exagerration)

    Simultaneously - there is a large percentage of working homeless in the country. Almost 40% of full time employees have no health care (without which you more or less die) and the average american adult is $10,000.00 us dollars in debt (with new bankruptcy laws allowing no way out) These conditions are exasperated further by an expanding sense of american consumer culture, materialism, and lax coorporate policy coupled with government allowal of privatization price gouging for electricity, water, medical, and pharmaceutical.

    When coupled with ever increasing environmental issues, lack of efficiency in recourse allocation, and ever expanding international policy to maintain a status quo - I fail to see how American (I know nothing of Australia) Brand Capitalism is a panacea for all of our problems - Perhaps it is not the form of government, but how the government is held accountable for the best interests of it's citizens.

    Inshalla

  6. Dr Edriss from US

    that's nice article from someone who knows alot about France. you did a mistake saying France doesn't recognize multiculturalism. we do not define the multiculturalism by what happened about hijab.

    Doin, .... you need see a doctor for your Islamophobie... you are getting just worst...

  7. Ahmed from UK

    Doine Phine, reading your drivel, I have to conclude that not only are you ignorant, but rather stupid also. From what I see there are 165000 illegal immigrants in Iraq, terrorists to be precise. Muslims dont see the West as a place to make war...rather it is the west and your criminal mindset which thinks that you are entitled to do whatever you want and we should put up with it.

    The reason immigrants dont integrate, muslim or otherwise is because they are treated like 2nd and 3rd class citizens, ask any hispanic person in the US.If you want to treat people like cattle, dont expect them to put up with your BS.

    We would still have people riding in the back of the bus if your version of "integration" is an indication. Its all too common for the criminal European mindset to demand that others become a part of their own enslavement and dehumanization.

    Those days are past, and your days as the nazis of the 21st century are numbered.

  8. Doin phine from Canada

    I dont see anybody immigrating to the Middle East who is not already in the Middle East. While there is nothing perfect in this world. The West, is where everybody is immigrating to. Most are integrating and becoming part of the society. Why Don't the Muslims integrate. It is because the teachings of Islam don't permit it. To a Muslim, the west is the land of warfare, so how can a Muslim integrate, it would be against their religion. It is the teachings of Islam that are wrong, small minded, and hostile to anything not Muslim.

  9. shahed from india

    dear readars i want to discuss about islam and cummunism. so first socialism is nearly same to cummunism. so what is communism. it is a philosophy of the life.which ideaology of the karl marks.he said man live only for money to buy every fundamental needs which require.like foods,clothing, and property.and after this man will die.he said captalism is the main causes of poor people increases in the country, he said the whole surplus money(which in islam called sadqat)are given to the state govt.and the govt will be give to the needy people,also he against property system,he said whole land is give to govt. and the govt will be land distribute to the all people.like (islamic caliph omer rule no lord but the allah is our land lord.so no property system in islam)also no rent. here one thing is to remember if surplus money is givin to the govt. what is left. no thing, so need of investment,no need of saving,and not taken any interest, and totally closed share market.like(islamic state not take interst the arabic word (riba))also man take money are only by service. not take money to money.like interst or in investment.so this rule of cummunism of economic are similar to the islamic economic system.........but the contradiction.only in philosophy of the life. so islamic phisophy is against from cummunism.so karl marks said no god, no religion, no judgementday. the religion is the great opium of the people. but the philosophy of the islam god is creater of whole universe. he give the law of life for the people which is called islam.................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

  10. kaleema from USA

    Islam's social system is based upon, "want for your brother, what you want for yourself". This is a hard one for human beings. Socialism for the rich is never an issue, but as usual, housing, health care, and education provided by the state "corrupts" poor people. However the protections of the State provided to secure, protect and increase the money, power and influence of the wealthy classes is never questioned, as though this is an Islamic principle of some sort (?). The issue in France I think is the same as the issue in America, race and class. France is beginning to face the questions of racism and oppression with its "non-French" or non-white population. As a member of an oppressed minority in the USA and a Muslim, I find it interesting that one could characterized the USA as being anything other than a racist and exploitive society. America is still brutal in its oppression and denial of rights for the majority of blacks and native Americans. The turn to the right politically in the US is designed to undo the few gains made by America's oppressed minorities. Immigrants to the USA may not riot because 1. Muslims immigrating here, largely, came from more affluent, educated backgrounds, as opposed to those who immigrated to Europe. 2. Poor immigrants to America found jobs in the automobile industry, along with blacks and other poor Americans; 3. Most were admitted to the USA as "White", with white skin privileges. Until 9-11, there had been NO participation (noticeably) of immigrant Muslims in the civil rights and human rights struggles of the USA. Unlike the "Jews" they did not join the struggle with their lives, their wealth and their futures. 9-11 has created a new day for them, but it's only the tip of the iceberg compared to what other minorities traditionally and continue to go through. If the economy continues to nose-dive and if racial hatred, anti-immigration hysteria and hate crimes continue to rise, there may be riots in the USA. Peace

  11. Sirius from Finland

    Here we go again. "...but everything to do with economic problems that are largely unique to the socialist economies of 'old Europe'."

    There are jobs even in these "socialist" economies. Problem in France is, as it may be somewhere else too, that these jobs are not so easily given to people who have "wrong" names etc. It has nothing to do with French legistration or socialism. People in France should seriously reconsider their attitudes, revolutionise their inner realms, cause these people are there to stay. It's sad and dangerous not to take their potentialities into use.

    Author obviously is some sort of neoconservative,at least a symphatizer, who wants to use these riots as a mean to spread the "happy message of (totally?) free market economy".

    Yes, unemployment percentage is lower in US than generally speaking in Europe. But at what cost? For example there are lots of people in US doing two or three jobs daily, working their assess off and still not getting income enough to support themselves, not to speak about their families. That, I think, is form of humiliating modern day slavery. But sure, those people living in their garrisoned disdricts don't have to bother. Their huge incomes have been increasing steadily, so no problem, eh? "The French economy is growing at just 1.2% " Down with this myth of ever and ever increasing economies. They can't. Quite contrary, there will be time when the level of consuming comes down, quite a lot I quess. This will happen good way, of bad way, but it will happen. Totally free market economy is a beast that destroys everything around, and after that begins to eat itself up. No way I can see it as a christian way to run affairs, and as far I've understood not a muslim way too.