blogs, the argument is being made by a few, rather insistently, that either the rioters are not 'Arab', being in many cases sub-Saharan Africans, of unknown religion, or that if they are Mohammedan, their religion has nothing to do with the violence. Why? Because they are not devout Moslems, but rather, dressed Western style, and following the ghetto culture common to Western urban underclasses.
I wonder why it is so important to some to assert that the riots have nothing to do with Islam? Are they eager to exonerate Islam from the charge that it promotes violence? Are they leftists seeking out 'Islamophobia', or neocons doing the same thing? Are they just nit-picky pedants who want to show how much more knowledgeable they are, in distinguishing sub-Saharan Africans from North Africans or whoever?
To me, the point that the rioters look to be sub-Saharan Africans for the most part is a pedantic one; the fact is, there are plenty of Moslems in Africa, and they are not confined to North Africa.
Secondly, suppose they are non-religious. Many of them do seem to be typical urban toughs who, as in seemingly all countries, emulate the worst aspects of MTV/hip-hop/Hollywood culture. Surely there are people who identify with that culture in all Western countries and in some non-Western countries -- yet it seems to be mostly those from the Islamic world, whether born there or in the West, who are prone to rioting and otherwise acting out violently. Why is that? Is the religion really just coincidental?
And just because they appear to follow an underclass urban 'youth' culture does not mean that their Islamic background is irrelevant to them or to their behavior. Islam is not just a matter of worship or ritual or religious observances. One need not be an outwardly devout practitioner of a faith to have been influenced by it if one grows up in a culture shaped by that religion. In America, most people are of Christian background; their ancestors practiced Christianity much more rigorously, no doubt, than today's generation does; we live in a secular, godless culture in the West. There are still people who live according to their faith, but the larger culture is godless and secular. Still, the residue of Christian influence in our culture is not fully obliterated. Many liberals who are as anti-Christian as they can be, even professing atheism or some other religion, have been shaped by Christian ethics and standards because our culture is at its core Christian, despite the secularizing trends. Leftists who, for example, become crusaders against animal cruelty, don't realize and probably wouldn't acknowledge the fact that Christianity is the ultimate source of their concern for animal welfare. Many of our charitable practices and our do-gooding projects are based in Christian morality, albeit they have been cut loose from their Christian roots.
So one need not be a practicing, believing Christian to be part of Christian culture, which still exists in an attenuated form in the West.
These 'youths', in some cases, are apparently French-born, though not of French blood. Their parents, or possibly grandparents or even great-grandparents were immigrants who, however, lived in enclaves with others from their home countries, practicing a culture and a way of life which is alien to the West, or old Christendom.
Just because the young people wear baggy gang-style clothing and listen to hip-hop does not mean that they are no longer Islamic; they have grown up in areas where their friends and relatives were members of the same Islamic-based culture, and they identify with their own people, not with the people of the country of their birth.
One can be Islamic in a cultural sense, and an ideological sense while not observing the minutiae of Islamic precepts. And these young people have also imbibed a leftist philosophy, a victimhood ethos, in which they feel entitled because they are outsiders, 'discriminated' against. Blend this with the basic us-vs.-them outlook of Islam, in which there is the Islamic world and the Infidel world, which is the realm of struggle, and you have a recipe for anger, disaffection, and in the right circumstances, violence.
After 9/11 when I really began in earnest to learn something about Islam and its aggressive ideology, I noticed that the jihadist viewpoint owes something to the leftists as well as to the Koran and the Hadiths. Franz Fanon, for example, was the first name which came to my mind. Fanon, who wrote the popular 70s book 'Wretched of the Earth', was widely read and very influential in the Arab world as well as in France, in earlier decades if not now.
In France, which educated and celebrated him, he's little read and rarely quoted. Even so, the spiritual climate he helped create remains, which is why his story shouldn't disappear. To forget him is to ignore one crucial foundation stone of the world we confront today. It was Fanon who brought into modern culture the idea that violence can heal the spiritually wounded.
Fanon, a psychiatrist, romanticized murder. He argued that violence was necessary to Third World peoples not just as a way to win their liberty but, even more, because it would cure the inferiority complex that had been created by the teachings of white men. Once liberated by violence, the formerly subject populations could help bring peace and socialism to everyone.
For the young in many parts of the world, he perfectly expressed the spirit of the times. He was the talk of revolutionary Paris in the 1950s, when the young Saloth Sar, not yet known as Pol Pot, lived there. Later, in America, the Weathermen and the Black Panthers loved to quote him. The book in which Fanon clearly articulated his theory, The Wretched of the Earth, went into six editions in Arabic. Today it's hardly necessary for revolutionaries to read him. His poison flows through the bloodstream of everyone who kills joyfully for an imaginary future.''
Fanon might be said to have been instrumental in the terrible violence of Algeria, which tore that country apart.
So of course there is a leftist element in the 'uprisings' in Europe (which are not confined to France). Flemming Rose, the publisher of the controversial 'Mohammed cartoons' which sparked worldwide rioting, writes about the role of the 'cult of victimology' in these violent outbreaks. And of course the 'cult of victimology' is at the heart of leftism.
So yes, there is a leftist element to the troubles in Europe and wherever Moslems and 'infidels' attempt to coexist, but if it is only leftist ideology, or only poverty and 'alienation' or 'racism' that causes these riots, why are they mostly confined to Moslem enclaves, and areas with large Moslem population? Surely Moslems are not the only poor people (if indeed they are necessarily poor, as their apologists usually claim) and not the only people under the influence of leftist delusions.
And it seems very much like hair-splitting to argue that because these rioters are not bearded and robed young men wearing traditional headdresses, they are not in any way motivated by Islam. Maybe these young men are half in the Western world, at least by their styles of dress and their behavior, but that does not mean they are Westernized in any real, deep sense. Surely, after so many examples of 'assimilated' Moslems in the West developing 'sudden jihad syndrome', or becoming involved in terror acts (the 7/7 bombers in the UK, for example) we don't believe that Islam is something so easily doffed and put aside.
An old proverb which gets a lot of use here on this blog is that 'blood is thicker than water', or occasionally, I say blood is thicker than culture. You can take the boy out of the Islamic world, but you can't take the Islamic world out of the boy -- a few defectors notwithstanding.
It's easy for young immigrants, or children of immigrants, to learn the language of the host country and to adopt the style of clothing and the music and the easy, careless personal morals popular among the urban youth everywhere in the West now. But it is not so easy to change one's habits of mind, the customs passed down from one generation to the next, or perhaps innate tendencies of one's ancestors. In some cases, it proves to be impossible. To believe that adopting outward forms like language, clothing, and music preferences transform the mind, spirit, and heart is absurd, but it is undeniably the kind of thing that liberals dearly love to believe.
Are the rioters then truly 'jihadists'? Are they acting under the specific instructions of some mad imam somewhere, who is pulling their strings? Probably not, but those things are not necessary to be able to say that Islam plays at least a part in the behavior we are seeing. And the fact that they come from a radically different and hostile culture certainly plays a huge part in their supposed alienation and anger and resentment. So at the very least, Islam plays an indirect part in what is happening. Islam is always a volatile ingredient to add to Western civilization.
But for those who somehow feel comforted, for whatever bizarre reason, by denying any role for Islam in these troubles, go right ahead and deny if it makes you feel better, safer, or more moral. But please don't insult the intelligence of the rest of us by insisting that we deny it too.