French politicians scare the proverbial matter out of me. For, although most Western countries are governed by nonentities, we’d rather not be governed by madmen. However, if Nicolas Sarkozy’s views on diversity are any indication, his likely comeback at the next election may indeed create such a fraught situation.
By way of background, the current outburst of Muslim terrorism hasn’t exactly endeared multiculturalism to the French. Over 60 per cent of them, as opposed to 49 per cent in Britain, feel there are too many immigrants.
Such subterranean tremors produce shockwaves of support for Marine Le Pen’s National Front. Marine won’t become queen but she could well become king-maker, by siphoning votes away from Sarkozy’s UMP and Hollande’s Socialists.
Hence Sarkozy’s urgent desire to come up with a cogent and, above all, popular plan for dealing with multiculturalism which everyone realises hasn’t been a success.
Alas, his rhetoric evinces some clinical symptoms of madness. The most worrying of them is losing all touch with reality, which Sarkozy manifests when favourably comparing the French treatment of immigrants with les Anglo Saxons:
“We are not Anglo-Saxons who allow communities to live side by side while ignoring one another…” Newcomers must assimilate “not just with nationality but also with values, culture and way of life.”
Far be it from me to suggest that Britain has handled Muslim immigration well. But claiming that the French have done it better, or that they’re any further advanced in pursuing assimilation, is sheer schizophrenia.
Over 40,000 cars are burnt in France every year, about 30,000 of them in the Muslim banlieues around Paris, with the rioters screaming “Nique la France!” (F*** France). The exact figures aren’t available because the French press, scornful of the British tendency to wash private linen in public, tacitly agrees not to wash even public linen.
This propensity for immolating private transport only gets an airing during electoral campaigns, especially when a member of the Le Pen family is a factor. The fear is that flogging that dead horse (or rather those dead cars) might foster racism, Islamophobia and other fashionable vices worse than which none exists.
The banlieues, where auto-da-fés (no pun intended) take place, are belts of public housing built around French cities specifically to accommodate some eight million North Africans currently resident in France. Having thus assuaged their post-colonial guilt, the French then pumped welfare billions into the banlieues, with the implicit reciprocal agreement that the denizens stay inside and don’t inundate city centres.
No serious attempt to encourage them to assimilate was ever made, partly because the French believe that any native speaker of French is already French, thereby blessed with an innate superiority over anyone of less fortunate nativity. The North Africans speak French, n’est-ce pas? Well, that’s it then. It’s just best that these particular French speakers stew in their own ghetto juice.
A social catastrophe flowed out of this attitude like wine out of a bottle. Up to 50 percent of the banlieues’ residents are unemployed, and for young people the figure is closer to 75 percent. One doesn’t have to be an expert sociologist to realise that such areas will in short order become criminalised.
So it has transpired. The banlieues have turned into urban jungles, bearing little resemblance to ethnic areas in Britain, although the gap is closing. The British still go to such areas to have a quick curry at a place that lets you bring your own beer. The French don’t go to the banlieues at all and avoid driving through them whenever possible.
Even the police steer clear, fearful of the automatic weapons in the hands of the locals. If les flics ever dare cross the line, it’s in armoured cars. That’s not to say we don’t have problems with Islamic alienation – only that the French problems are worse.
If Sarkozy really thinks that France’s situation, for all its acknowledged drawbacks, is any better than in Britain, he has a serious medical problem. The start of any successful treatment would be to acknowledge reality as it is, rather than as he wants it to be.
The second step would be to realise that all Western countries, emphatically including France, have failed to handle the problem of Muslim immigration because they proceed from the false Enlightenment premise of equality. The wrong assumption is that Muslims are fundamentally like us, and the only reason they aren’t really like us is that they’ve been denied opportunities to assimilate.
Indeed, if there were only a few thousand Muslims here or there, they’d have no option but to assimilate, if only as subterfuge. But in a country that admits millions of them they’re much more likely to stick together and try to impose their ways on the hosts.
Hence Western countries cursed with a large Muslim presence can solve the concomitant problems only by curtailing Islamic immigration, reducing the numbers already there by mass deportations of those who evince hostility to the host country, and punishing violent harangues and acts with exemplary firmness.
Neither Sarkozy nor any other Western leader will do that. This makes their variably crazy pronouncements on the subject especially nauseating and sphincter-loosening.