The Paris Riots (and in Denmark too): Europe is Burning – Part I

The following is more of a commentary/opinion rather than StrategyUnit usual goal of analyses on issues and policies related to security issues.
Update 10.03.05 – A Retraction and Correction:
1) After reading, researching and looking into the issue, I would like to retract my position of countering The Wretched at the Belmont Club
2) After reviewing the comment by Carsten Agger below, I have to put in question the reports of the riot in Denmark. Carsten has mentioned that this could really be a simple situation of alienated and jobless youth. Until, I can verify from additional sources – I’ll hold on the Denmark Riot issue. Thanks Carsten for your input.
3) Check out the follow-up posting “Paris Riots – Raise of the Europe’s Muslim Street, not Middle East’s Arab Street

A Restive Population in Europe
It is now day five of the riots in Clichy-sous-Bois, a suburb outside of Paris, which has now spread to other suburbs, Sevran, Neuilly-sur-Marne and Bondy [1]. The riots was sparked when allegedly two immigrant youths were electrocuted after coming into contact with a transformer while under fleeing from the police. During the riot on Sunday, a tear-gas that launched at a mosque serving only to exacerbate the riots.

At the same time, sectarian riots have sparked in Denmark:

“Rosenhøj Mall has several nights in a row been the scene of the worst riots in Århus for years. “This area belongs to us”, the youths proclaim. Sunday evening saw a new arson attack.

We are tired of what we see happening with our prophet. We are tired of Jyllands-Posten. I know it isnt you, but we wont accept what Jyllands-Posten has done to the prophet”, he says aggressively, and the others nod approvingly. [2]”

The last bit is a reference to the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which recently has been sent death threats over a drawing of the Prophet Muhammad by a cartoonist.

While those that support Huntington’s “Clash of Civilization” would not be surprised, those on the other wide would disagree. They would point to social issues being the root cause: from the plight of the immigrant community in the slum housing in French suburbs to the general alienation and seemingly self-segregation of Muslim immigrant community throughout Europe. What I’ve learned from my own study of this- both views cannot be discounted nor are they mutually exclusive.

From Discontent to Jihad
Taking from the “Other Side” Robert Leiken (Foreign Affairs Aug 05) recently wrote: As the French academic Gilles Kepel acknowledges, “neither the blood spilled by Muslims from North Africa fighting in French uniforms during both world wars nor the sweat of migrant laborers, living under deplorable living conditions, who rebuilt France (and Europe) for a pittance after 1945, has made their children … full fellow citizens.” [3]

With no support network and a sense of alienation among the youth, radical Islamic foundations would only welcome them with open arms. It is no surprise that France has been repeatedly targeted for bombings, including more recently a plot to shoot down aircrafts in France.

Alienation of Muslim immigrants goes on to link up with the Global Islamofacist Movement and Insurgency, a self reinforcing network linking all oppression of Muslims (real and imagined) as part of a global struggle:

(More on the explanation behind this graph in part 2)

Robert Leiken goes on to divide the jihadist into two types of immigrant: outsiders and insiders. Outsiders were the newly arrived immigrants who served as the grunts and cannon-fodder (sometimes literally) of the jihadist organization; some of them may be radical imams seeking asylum but with funding from Saudi Arabia and seeking to start a jihadist network. The insiders are second generation immigrants, who are westernized in education yet anti-western and generally the leaders (think Zacarias Moussaoui).

Yet unfortunately the story doesn’t stop there…

Islamofacism in Greater Context
How do we explain the Theo Van Gogh Murder in liberal Netherlands and the July 7 bombings in multicultural London? As mentioned by Oliver Roy, noted French scholar on Islam, “the guy who killed Van Gogh was Dutch”. [4]

Many of these first-generation outsiders have migrated to Europe expressly to carry out jihad. In Islamist mythology, migration is archetypically linked to conquest. Facing persecution in idolatrous Mecca, in AD 622 the Prophet Muhammad pronounced an anathema on the city’s leaders and took his followers to Medina. From there, he built an army that conquered Mecca in AD 630, establishing Muslim rule. Today, in the minds of mujahideen in Europe, it is the Middle East at large that figures as an idolatrous Mecca because several governments in the region suppressed Islamist takeovers in the 1990s. Europe could even be viewed as a kind of Medina, where troops are recruited for the reconquest of the holy land, starting with Iraq.

Conservatives would make the assumption that all Muslim immigrants in Europe are in a clandestine mission to takeover of Europe. Even the U.S. experienced similar sentiments with the 19th century Know-Nothings movement, which proclaimed that German and Irish Catholic immigrants were bent on taking over the U.S. and were busy creating a tunnel to sneak in the Pope to take over the US.

Unfortunately, unlike the times of the Know-Nothings, we are experiencing a global Islamofacist insurgency with enough people involved to actually take the “Europe as Medina” belief to heart. Alienation, Islamofacist Ideology feed on each other giving raise to Islamofactist Terrorism. It is a self-reinforcing cycle:

The Wretched at Belmont Club makes the bold claim that this global conflict is also about world that “maybe reverting to the pre-European era, and Gingrich’s Long War may really be the Long War for the survival of the West. Not its return to dominance, but simply its right to continued existence; to the chance of rediscovering its identity”. He goes on to claim that Islam is on the offensive with the West “only recently supine”. Though he cites that its not really Islam’s fault, but that the “West embraced self-disgust” while Islam has done otherwise.

I would not go so far to fall into a “Clash of Civilization” meme about a clash between the Islamic World and the West, which I think the Wretched has done. This is too easy and what the adversary (Islamofacists) wants. Such a conflict can only end in either total and mutual segregation with a “Fortress Europe” (or really, “Fortress Western Civilization”) and Islam on the other or the return to the days when ethnic cleansing was the norm in warfare.

Wretched is correct to sense an upheaval in the West over its identity and that there is a conflict against the West. But, its not only Paris that is burning or Europe, or the West…the World is too.

Part II of this post will try to counter the Wretchard’s view with something closer to John Robb’s Global Guerilla idea.

Stay tuned!





7 responses to “The Paris Riots (and in Denmark too): Europe is Burning – Part I”

  1. pbswatcher

    Reading the Belmont Club post I was struck by the parallel mindset of those who can’t or won’t think about the Islamist threat and those who refuse to immunize their children. See Vectors

  2. Carsten Agger

    A few comments about the riots in Denmark – I am a resident of Rosenhøj.

    First of all, a linguistic observation: The “center” (as we call it here) in Rosenhøj is hardly a “mall” by any definition, but a longish, low building containing a small off. license, a pizza bar, a vegetable/fruit shop, a baker and a bingo hall. Nearby is a bar and a gas station.

    Secondly, the riots here (I speak as a resident of the very area you mention and I know well which youths are behind this) are hardly a question of “Muslims wanting to be in charge”. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam, Islamism or “jihadism”, but a lot with social discontent.

    The perpetrators were actually a mix of youths from various backgrounds, most from immigrant (mainly Muslim) families, but also many Danes. None would, I guess, be considered “good Muslims” by any standards whatsoever. This is really a story more about exclusion, unemployment and poverty than anything else.

    And no, it wasn’t motivated by cartoons either; even though some of the young ones may have mentioned the infamous cartoons as a lame excuse for arson, violence and wanton desctruction, it is more about general disenchantment.

  3. Henrik

    Id like to caution you against taking everything Carsten Agger says at face value. He is a supporter of the fringe Minority Party, that has a notorious blind spot for any problem involving islam. This is part fundamentalist humanism (see no evil, hear no evil etc), part pandering to moslems for votes (thus the name of the party). His latest post is an advert for the party´s candidates in the upcoming local elections.

    That said, he IS right in pointing out that not all the rioters were moslems – the viking blog entry doesnt say so, either. It cites a story as saying that the majority of rioters was immigrants, and itself says that the riot was moslem-LED. Given that the spokesman for the rioters is moslem, and that the rioters´ view he expresses is that “We are tired of what we see happening with our prophet”, this judgement would be borne out.


  4. Carsten Agger

    Fringe or not fringe, I live in the area and may still have some idea of what is going on.

    I promise you that these people (the rioters) are not religious. The “core guys” are criminals, thugs.

    The riots have no general support in the area and none from the more peaceful immigrants here. Thinking the motivation might be “jihadist” is pure conspiracy theory. Many of us residents have seen these things coming for years with the rise of burglary, theft, intimidation and general insecurity in the area.

  5. Carsten Agger

    One more thing: While it is true I’m a member of a political party with a lot of controversial views (such as slashing all poverty with a basic income reform) and my views on immigration and immigrants do not correspond to those of our country’s right wing, my views on these topics would certainly not be considered “fringe” in, e.g, Britain or France. My view of the riots in Rosenhøj corresponds more or less to that of everybody here.

  6. theslovak

    Samual Huntington is dumb and possibly evil too. But mostly extremely dumb. As much as my graduate school confidence is low, he makes me believe I could too become a Harvard professor one day. Dumb dumb dumb. A better argued follow-up shall be forthcoming once digitized…

  7. Carsten Agger

    If you want to see the place in Aarhus, Denmark where the riots/unrest were, I’ve got a Flickr set with photos of my neighbourhood here:

    If you just want to see the “mall” where shops had their windows broken, it’s here:

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