Monday, October 31, 2005

France: Creating 1000's of New Bin Ladens

One of the common refrains we hear from our friends in Europe is that by taking the fight on terrorism to Iraq, we are "creating thousands of new Bin Ladens." Of course, the banning of Muslim headscarves in French schools and get-tough policies with already-alienated Muslim populations in Europe win hearts and minds, right?

Well, I suppose that's what the French would tell us in light of recent unrest in a Paris suburb which a police union spokeman described as "civil war."

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy defended his tough crime policies on Monday after a fourth night of riots in a Paris suburb in which tear gas was fired into a mosque. Sarkozy, addressing police officers, vowed to find how tear gas had been fired into the Muslim place of worship, an incident which had helped fuel the disturbances. Youths hurled rocks and set fire to cars in the northeastern Clichy-sous-Bois suburb of the French capital, where many immigrants and poor families live in high-rise housing estates notorious for youth violence.

Apparently, the French government, like many others in Europe still has not come to terms with the challenges posed by large, poor, disaffected Muslim minorities in their countries. And that is an unfortunate reality because it is those populations which have spawned more violent Islamic terrorism than perhaps the entire Middle East itself. Disaffected locals were responsible for the 3/11 attacks in Madrid and the 7/7 bombings in London. And the masterminds of our own 9/11 attacks? They became radicalized not in Saudi Arabia, but in the Turkenviertel of Hamburg, Germany.

While our friends in Europe are right to raise questions about the impacts of American policies in the Middle East, would it not behoove them to get a better handle on their own policies vis-a-vis Muslim immigrants living in their own midst? Should they not understand and address reasons why Muslims who come to Europe seeking opportunity and freedom instead become poor and disaffected; often turning to crime or in some cases far worse? And surely these societies can find a better way to address outrage than by engaging in inflammatory tactics like firing tear gas into mosques.

While it is convenient (and possibly even fair) to criticize American policy, some self-examination is in order. Prime Minister Blair has taken the initiative on this following 7/7 and many of the other governments have outreach efforts in place. But the riots in Clichy-sous-Bois demonstrate that there is still a long way to go.

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