EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the December 5, 2005, issue of National Review.
For the last couple of weeks, most of the Western media have been as overheated as a Renault 5 in Clichy-sous-Bois in their insistence that these riots have nothing to do with Islam. “The mayhem has yet to take on any ideological or religious overtones,” the New York Times assured us. “This has nothing to do with religion,” a Muslim told the Washington Post. Never mind the cries of “Allahu Akbar!,” never mind the invocation of “jihad” by at least some of the “youths,” never mind the particular care given to the incineration of Jewish targets, never mind the fact that the French government itself turned to various bigshot imams in an attempt to pacify les banlieues.
Instead, the move-along-folks-no-jihad-to-see-here crowd points to the rioters’ fondness for drugs, caterwauling rappers, casual sex, and hideous Western leisurewear as evidence of how culturally assimilated they are. Why, they threatened their victims with baseball bats!
Hold it right there for a minute. That’s how we define “assimilating” into Western society at the dawn of the 21st century? If a fellow deals a little coke while wearing pants with a gusset located at calf height while singing along to the remix of “Slap Up My B**ch,” we say, hey, he seems to be fitting in very nicely? No need to worry about his getting any wacky ideas down at the madrassah, he’s an impeccably secular pluralist Peugeot-torcher.
It’s true that the rioters look rather less foreign than, say, the stern young men in the mosques of Peshawar or the training camps outside Jalalabad. But, on the other hand, so did Mohamed Atta and his 18 confreres. They were very well “assimilated” by Clichy-sous-Bois standards. If you recall, in the days after 9/11 a flurry of all-American cocktail waitresses, lap-dancers, and prostitutes popped up to say they remembered Mohamed and Marwan and Majed and the rest of the gang chugging vodkas, groping strippers, renting porn videos–just like fully assimilated citizens of advanced Western democracies. . . .