Friday, November 04, 2005

More on Paris

An interesting summary of the situation in France by a the Iranian-born editor of a French political quarterly.

This passage gets to the heart of the tension that France is experiencing:

In some areas, it is possible for an immigrant or his descendants to spend a whole life without ever encountering the need to speak French, let alone familiarize himself with any aspect of the famous French culture.

The result is often alienation. And that, in turn, gives radical Islamists an opportunity to propagate their message of religious and cultural apartheid.

Some are even calling for the areas where Muslims form a majority of the population to be reorganized on the basis of the "millet" system of the Ottoman Empire: Each religious community (millet) would enjoy the right to organize its social, cultural and educational life in accordance with its religious beliefs.

In parts of France, a de facto millet system is already in place. In these areas, all women are obliged to wear the standardized Islamist "hijab" while most men grow their beards to the length prescribed by the sheiks.

The radicals have managed to chase away French shopkeepers selling alcohol and pork products, forced "places of sin," such as dancing halls, cinemas and theaters, to close down, and seized control of much of the local administration.

France has long pursued a foreign policy designed to promote good will in the Muslim world. Unfortunately, that good will can't solve the inherent tensions in trying to integrate two vastly different cultures.


Jackson said...

I'm astounded that the problem has gotten this far out of control - France no less. A quick train ride to Amsterdam could show people how multiculturalism can work. The onus is, and has to be, on the immigrant to assimilate. This does not mean anybody has to lose their own culture, it means they have to learn to work inside their adopted one.

Chrispy said...

Anytime there is a split like this, anytime "us and them" morphs into "us vs. them," the door opens for radicals.

The issue of forcing out shopkeepers or "sinful" businesses doesn't bother me so much, as communities have always defined there own sense of right and wrong. It's an important part of some legal definitions in this country ("community standards" as a way to define pornography, etc.).
Of course integration almost always seems like the right thing to do (even if it sometimes isn't).

The problem is when it leads to violence. It's happened here (race riots anyone?). It'll happen again.

How do we keep it from reaching this point? Is it too late?

Dave Cavalier said...

I wouldn't be so quick to point to Holland as a bastion of assimilation. There have been some serious violent incidents with the Muslim community there as well. In fact, Holland is dealing right now with many of these same issues.

Ted, your second statement is the root of my argument. It's very easy to SAY that they should learn to work within their own culture without losing their culture. But elements of Muslim culture are directly opposed to elements of French secular culture. Who is supposed to give way on their belief and culture?

Chris, I am surprised that forcing "sinful" shopkeepers out of business doesn't bother you. Would you be okay if a large Muslim community in Williamsburg drove any bodega selling alcohol out of business? If fundamentalist Christians were doing the same in New York, I suspect you would be absolutely infuriated.

Also, direct action on these issues through threats of violence is not how community standards work. That's what legislatures and local government are for. What is being described in France is an affront to democratic government.

You reference community standards as an "important" part of some legal definitions. I would argue that case law over the last 25 years has diminished that standard, particularly in the case you cite ("pornography").

Chrispy said...

Hey, there are plenty of groups that have forced their definitions of community standards on me. Non smokers in bars, capitalists, rich white guys driving up the rents, sucking up the gas, and polluting the air with their SUV's, a government concerned more with war than peace. Utility companies poisoning the ground, the air, and the water. The list goes on...

Jackson said...

I haven't been to Holland in about five years, but I do remember the clerk at the Hotel I satyed in spoke five languages, including his mother tongue - Arabic. He seemed to have assimilated well, but it didn't stop him from being proud of his culture, or practising his religion. There are many like him here, they drive our cabs, and sell us cigarettes, then they go home to their wives and childern and get all muslimed out.

I'm saying that most immigrants from the arab world are looking to get away from radical fundamentalist extremeism, and any nation should be able to help them assimilate - the French seem to have botched the job.

Tony Alva said...

There is a very real example of this same culture clash right in your backyard. Take a ride out to Monsey NY in Rockland County and do some research on the assimilation challenges the Kiryas Joel community has presented. I've not lived in NY for 15 years but I remember all the issues re: schooling, busing, (Hasidim wanted no females for teachers or drivers in public schools), property tax collections, etc...

The Atlanta suburbs are experiencing the same non-assimilation issues France is dealing with amongst the burgeoning Hispanic population here. There is a real resistance to assimilation that starts with learning the language. The French know what we've known for along time, but are afraid to talk about in the open for fear of sounding like Ted Nugent: When you cannot communicate, alienation is inevitable.

Evan as a punkass art student in 1985 did I go to France and give them shit about making me speak their language. I may not have liked their attitude, but I accepted the fact that French is what they spoke. I knew that in order to get anywhere over there I’d either need to learn to speak French or take someone along that did (I chose the latter).

I don’t know what the answers are, but the consequences that are surfacing like this business in France tells me that some smart people need to be put on it to seek solutions.

Dave Cavalier said...

How do you say "Cat Scratch Bow Hunting" in Arabic?

Dave Cavalier said...

Ted -

Here's a good survey of the similar tension and problem in Amsterdam.

Dave Cavalier said...

Hmmmm. Link didn't copy.

You need to add ".php" at the end to make it work.

The article is worth reading.