Friday, March 10, 2006

France: A Crisis Area?

The International Crisis Group, a worldwide think tank specializing in the area of conflict prevention, wrote a report on France and 2005 suburb riots. It is rather peculiar, but far from inappropriate, that this well-known organization concentrates on France since one of its principal goals is to concentrate on the areas of crisis in the World (most of its report is devoted to the Balkans, Caucasus, Great Lakes District in Africa etc).

In its report on France ICG argues, “France faces a problem with its Muslim population, but it is not the problem it generally assumes.” Explaining the root of the problem in France, the ICG report, repeats the established opinion that the French integration model is increasingly unable to face with the heterogeneity of the French society, however, there is more to it in this report.

Differently than many other analytical pieces that claimed that the French riots simply follow the world trend where the Muslim population is organizing in Islamic political parties and groups and that the problem lies in such political organization, ICG report argues that the problem is not in “the threat of a Muslim world mobilised by political Islamism” but in the lack of political mobilisation and activism of the French youth from the suburbs. ICG report states, “Yet the opposite is true: paradoxically, it is the exhaustion of political Islamism, not its radicalisation, that explains much of the violence, and it is the depoliticisation of young Muslims, rather than their alleged reversion to a radical kind of communalism, that ought to be cause for worry. “

The Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF) gradually abandoned its strategy of political opposition and was slowly involved into the mainstream, this meant increased clientelism and decreased legitimation among the Muslim population, argues the ICG report. The political vacuum was filled by the Salafist movement that called for concentration on religion and so to speak abandonment of politics. French Muslims were left, says the ICG report, with Salafist Jihadism and uncoordinated riots.

In order to overcome this situation ICG came out with several recommendations:

The French government should, “Reduce the state’s coercive presence in underprivileged neighbourhoods” and “reduce social discrimination” as well as Reform the modes of political representation of the Muslim population, and in particular, abandon the idea that institutionalising Islam as a religion will thwart the jihadist temptation etc. The French government should do its best to “Revitalise the associational movement”. As far as other actors are concerned, ICG thinks that National Political Forces must strengthen their presence in underprivileged suburban neighbourhoods, Activists of the Immigrant Communities and of Underprivileged Neighbourhoods should increase opportunities for young Muslims to be active and mobilised through political parties and local associations, as a means of competing with the salafi and jihadi trends.

The 'French report' makes one think that it would be more than welcome if ICG concentrated on other parts of the liberal democratic world which are themselves not immune to crisis and that have the potentiality, if not monitored, to decrease the level of political stability of the Democratic World and, as a consequence, lead to a period of global turmoil. Many of the liberal democratic countries demonstrate a worrying inability of the state to control and countenance social and natural processes and the involvement of international think thanks such as ICG might help improve the situation and appropriately focalize the state's response to crisis. The world in which we live is still relatively speaking 'safe', which does not mean that it is to remain such in the years to come. In order to control the negative political processes within nation states involvement of international non-governmental and non-profit organizations such as ICG can help. It would be interesting to see the reaction of the French government to this report.


Raphaƫl Paour said...

I find the main thesis of this report hard to take seriously. "it is the exhaustion of political Islamism, not its radicalisation, that explains much of the violence, and it is the de politicisation of young Muslims, rather than their alleged reversion to a radical kind of communalism, that ought to be cause for worry." That implies that: 1) a few years back Muslim teenagers would have been part of the The Union of Islamic Organisations of France or under its influence; 2) that such involvement would have prevented the riots.

I don't believe that 1) is true; teenagers usually don't get involved in such organisations. It's a question of fact that would not be hard to verify. Are there any numbers in the report? There were riots before, very violent ones almost like these. This tends to show that at least one of points 1) et 2) is wrong.

Finally it still accredits the idea which scarily beginning to be taken for granted that the riots implied mainly Muslims.

Jack Thompson said...

Interesting post, Srdjan. I think your suggestion, as long as it does not detract from ICG devoting most of its resources to the worst areas, has real merit.