Babying the Butchers

April 18, 2015

France wants to cajole its radical muslim youth, offer them special high school and technical education in free housing centers with case workers constantly at their sides as Denmark is trying to do.  In a country with over five million unemployed, a growing poverty rate and an income tax burden which weighs very heavily on the middle class, this is fodder for the National Front canons.

Under French law, those youth who plan to go to Syria are accomplices to Crimes against Humanity and the more than 200 estimated to have returned are guilty of Crimes against Humanity.  Getting special perks for supporting or participating in ISIS horrors will raise eyebrows.  French law also says apology for terrorism, that is vocally supporting violent groups and/or their actions, can get you up to seven years in prison.

Of the estimated 6000 European Muslims who have gone to join the “Holy War” in Syria, according to European Justice Minister Vera Jourova, nearly 1,500 are French.  Over the past year more than 3,000 Muslims in France have been reported to the police for their Jihadist views and frighteningly, 40% of them are female. Farhad Khosrokhavar, of the School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS) says women make up “about 20% of the people who left Europe for Syria.”

France long disregarded its Muslim population under the pretext the state is secular.  Because France does not recognize minorities, their is no ethnic census and Paris cannot even say how many Muslims there are in the country.  The official number has been over five million for 25 years.  Given the demographics of the immigrant and French Muslim population, it is quite possible the figure is twice as high.

Stoking the flames of anti-Muslim sentiment after the January terrorist attacks in Paris, the far right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen claimed there are between 15 and 20 million Muslims in France. A figure the pro-government Nouvel Observateur called “fantasiste” based on a study where people volunteered to name their religious affiliation.  The National Front can make these claims because the truth is, the authorities just don’t know.

The only place where the French have been able to truly monitor the number of extremist Muslims is in the prisons which are considered a primary breeding ground for Jihadist recruitment.  While officially six percent of the French people is Muslim, they make up from 60 to 70% of the prison population.  This figure has further stigmatized Muslims as a criminal class which the extreme right wing has been feeding on for years for its propaganda.

After an experiment in the Fresnes prison outside Paris, the Minister of Justice, Christiane Tubira, decided she would create five prison centers dedicated to hold radical Jihadists.  The official reason can be interpreted to mean cajole them:  they will be in groups of ten to fifteen “to allow an individual and adequate caring for them,” said the socialist Jean-Pierre Sueur, a member of a special Senate Committee on Radical Islam.

But they may be too late. The sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar told the French daily Le Monde that the Jihadists in prison have adopted to French surveillance by “dissimulating their faith…They have shaved their beards, not because they have renounced their Islamist credo, but to become invisible to the penitentiary authorities.”

The French government plans on hiring 60 Muslim chaplains to preach “moderate Islam.”  Ouisa Kies, a sociolgist in charge of detecting radical Islamic prisoners told Le Monde that this is a good idea because although Islam is “the number one religion in prison, there are only 182 Muslim chaplains as compared to 700 Catholics.”

One pilot program (1) set up to re-educate radical muslims even uses what they call “quietist” (non-violent) Salafists as mediators which sounds to me much like when Jordan released Al Qaeda prisoners in January, hoping they would drain recruits from ISIS.  After all, a Salafist believes in Sharia law and the strict application of the Koran which stipulates the death penalty for such crimes as apostasy, certainly contrary to not only the “values” of the French Republic, but to its laws above all.

To complicate matters, according to Le Monde (2), Jihadist support is no longer limited to what can be called ‘the brainless losers from the Banlieus who flunked out of school before they could read and write properly,’ or what policitally correct social workers refer to as ‘clients.’ “ It is now reaching the middle and even superior classes.  It affects younger and younger adolescents (15-16 years-old), students, graduates, sometimes whole families.”

This makes it harder for the bien-pensants to explain the Islamic terror appeal to Muslim youth as merely a reaction against their social and economic marginalization.  It underlines that in France there is a problem with how many Muslims relate to the country and its democracy.  In different ways, they will be at the center of the 2017 election debate and especially with the old argument that they come to France to profit from its generous entitlement system.

It is clear who is being pointed at when former president Nicolas Sarkozy denounces “the assisted.”  He has changed his tune from “national identity” to “the Republic” but the message is the same.  “Importing the assisted (read immigrant welfare recipients) is frankly a provocation…by the civil service and by those supported by the French welfare (l’assistanat) system.” (3)  This is not new.  In the 2007 election campaign Sarkozy complained “today those who work earn less than those on welfare (les assistés).”

Sarkozy’s words might be carefully chosen but everybody can read his lips: les assistés importés are of course Muslims, Arabs, Africans, Immigrants.  And there is no way to know for sure how heavily they weigh on the welfare system because there is no ethnic census.

While the lines are being drawn in the sand for what will be the election debate in 2017, the Muslim community is busy … doing nothing.  Yet, they are best placed to fight the radicalization taking hold of their youth.  If they continue to be passive, then they will only reinforce the opinion that Islam has no place in La République and the political debate will be about who can stigmatize them most to get the most votes.

1.Maison de la prévention et de la familles, set up in the Fall of 2014 by jurist and psychologist Sonia Imloul.

2. Culture & Idées, 8 April 2015.

3. Interview with Le Journal du Dimanche, 12 April 2015.

France’s war on terrorism and collateral damage

January 15, 2015

The man who got on a Parisian bus with me Wednesday was an Arab who had not shaven in four days. He had dark olive skin and kinky black hair and was visibly unbalanced: drugs? He sang to a popular tune “I’m going on Jihad. Won’t you come on Jihad with me too?” He risks five years in prison and a 75 thousand euro fine.

In the first six days after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, 54 people were charged with “apology for terrorism” under a tough law voted in the French parliament last November which can jail someone, if they express their “support for terrorism” on the electronic media: FaceBook, Twitter etc., to up to seven years and fine them 100 thousand euros .

France’s “war on terrorism” has begun. The new law allows the “apologists” to be brought before a judge as soon as they are arrested in a process called “comparution immediate”; that is without time to prepare a defense.  It is a law for a time of war. Read the rest of this entry »

Charlie and the Banlieues

January 12, 2015

They came in their hundreds of thousands. Jews, Muslims (although fewer than hoped for), Christians and atheists: Students, workers, the unemployed and the bourgeoisie. They said “I am Charlie.” “I am Ahmed.” (the policeman executed at Charlie Hebdo). “I am a Jew.” Or, they just said nothing.

They were anarchists, communists and ultra nationalists, social democrats and conservatives. There were also islamophobes and anti-Semites. The one thing that united them all was their refusal to yield to fear and their desire to keep the freedom to think what they want and to be able to say it in public without facing obscurantist violence. This coming together of those who want the right to disagree with each is extraordinary. France, which gave us the enlightenment, 1789 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is still Une Grande Nation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Je suis charlie

January 8, 2015

Last night I was at Place de la République with many hundreds of others to express our anger at what THEY did to Charlie Hebdo. It was the only place to be.

Unfortunately, there were no Muslims at the protest. Sure, there were Muslim journalists there, but they were there as reporters, not Muslims. I saw only two older women with head-scarves obviously there to say they disagree with the Jihadist murderers. And as they were the only two, the cameras were all over them, which could give the impression Muslims were present.

When the US and Britain invaded Iraq, millions of people took to the streets and chanted “Not in my name!” Muslims in France have to do this now or the anger of ethnic French will be justified. Silence, under the present circumstances, is complicity.

However, there was a group there with banner and flags in a totally unacceptable attempt to take advantage of the hideous killings.  The Union of Jewish Students in France, a pro-Israeli Lobby, complete with their star of David, was a sick attempt to give the killings a different color.  What happened on January 7 has nothing to do with Palestinians’ struggle against the murderous apartheid regime Israel has imposed on the occupied territories.

Lanzarote : an island sinking under the weight of its success

March 25, 2013

The tourist guide got off the bus and greeted the group of chubby British women with “Shopping in Playa Blanca ? Shopping in Playa Blanca?” He could have said “doggy wanna bone?” and it would have been the same. I knew I had to see this.

Playa Blanca, a sprawling resort on the southern coast of Lanzarote, is everything native born artist César Manrique did not want for his waterless, volcanic island. Thanks to Manrique, the farthest east and the most arid of the Canary Islands escaped the mega hotels which defaced La Palma, Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Read the rest of this entry »

Crossing the Vietnamese-Cambodian border

July 17, 2012

Visas just seem to be a money making scheme for the Cambodians while for the Vietnamese it is an exercise in sadism. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hmong and the Vietnamese : Mésentente not so Cordiale

July 13, 2012

The Hmong are a fiercely independent people who see Vietnamese profiteers moving in on their land as a threat.  But the biggest threat to their way of life is probably tourism. Read the rest of this entry »

Vietnam – The Phoenix, the Turtle, the Dragon and the Unicorn

June 29, 2012

In which the Vietnamese try to destroy my prejudice and I search for the war that, as a young soldier, I could not support. Read the rest of this entry »

The Gambia and The Gay Diversion

May 8, 2012

Banjul, May 5, 2012 – When Europeans went to Berlin with their scissors in 1884 to cut up the map of Africa, they played a sick joke which is still felt today. The British wanted the Palm oil from the Gambia River so they took that out of French West Africa and today the place is called a country: 60 kilometers wide at the Atlantic it snakes 338 kilometers up river where it is just a dozen kilometers wide. French diplomats like to refer to it as the finger in the ass of Senegal. The metaphor is à propos this year as the country obsesses over all things anal. Read the rest of this entry »

Libya: the criminal silence of the press

April 2, 2012

The silence of the western press on the situation in Libya is deafening. This is no surprise as the pessimistic predictions of the critics of NATO’s war to oust Qaddafi become reality. Read the rest of this entry »


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