The mainstream media and government officials continue to avoid any mention of the Islamic identity of the French rioters. But in this Telegraph story, “France divided as the flames creep ever closer to central Paris” (thanks to JE), there are some crucial details indicating that those who have identified the riots as jihadist activity are closer to right than those who speak only of “marauding youths.”
But – and this is the crucial difference between the different generations of rioters – most of those living in the French ghettoes are Muslims and have grown up during a period of Islamic radicalisation. Many of the youths hurling petrol bombs on Parisian estates look up to a slightly older group of mosque stalwarts. These men are capable of being forces for both good and mischief; there have been examples from the past fortnight of situations calmed, but also of attackers acting under their direction, so that Muslim-owned businesses, a halal butcher’s shop and a kebab joint, for example, are spared, while a bank branch and symbols of another France are targeted.
Intelligence officials have already spoken of the involvement of the more sinister of such figures in the recruitment of young French Muslims to fight the American-led coalition in Iraq. Several have been killed, others are missing. The gravest fear for French ministers is that the trouble of the past 10 days has been orchestrated by Islamists bent on exploiting the grievances of impressionable youths. France’s attempts to integrate its large Muslim population have failed; in the name of a secular state in which everyone, theoretically, is equal, there is not even a dependable estimate as to the true numbers – they are widely assumed to be as high as 10 per cent, or six million people, but the official census is not allowed to distinguish between ethnic groups.