So, is it a "clash of civilizations?"
Yesterday, Clive Davis expanded on some comments he made earlier here, about blog response and press coverage (or lack thereof) of the riots in France, and added some interesting-looking links to some French blogs. He also provides a helpful translation of a few bits for the non-French-speaking among us, which includes me.
Religion complicates things enormously in Europe, yes, but we're not yet in a clash of civilisations. I don't want to sound Pollyanna-ish. At the same time, there's no point being apocalyptic either, even if it does give us a nice, warm glow inside.
Today, he adds further commentary on the question of whether this is indeed a "European intifada."
So, are we in a clash of civilizations, or aren't we? Clive is always worth reading and listening to, and I think he is correct to ask the question, and to say the answer is not a simple "either-or."
But sometimes the answer is "maybe," or "yes, and." Unfortunately, I don't think we are in any position to say for sure that we are not in such a clash, much as I would like this to be the case. The "fog of riots" has not lifted. And although there may be no point in being apocalyptic (not Now, at least), I don't think it's a good idea to dismiss the "clash" possibility out of hand.
Reasonable people may differ on this, of course. But I tend to think the evidence is quite strong that if we aren't in a clash of civilizations at the moment, we are at least teetering on the brink. Whether or not these particular riots fall into the category "clash of civilizations" remains to be seen. But pundits and bloggers and people in the street are going to rush in to fill the vacuum of knowledge with theories, and the idea that there are Islamic fundamentalist supremicists behind this, pulling at least some of the strings (directly or indirectly, intially or presently), is not an entirely unreasonable one.
Even without those puppeteers, fundamentalist Islamic tradition has a strain of intolerence, supercessionism, and violence that might be irrelevant were it not being revived today among some Moslems, both in Europe and elsewhere, permeating their worldview and informing their actions. On this topic, here's part of an interview conducted a year ago with Bat Ye'or, author of Eurabia:
Stephen Crittenden: The Muslim populations are here in Europe, in large numbers, particularly in France and Germany. I want to put it to you that there’s only one realistic political reaction to that for the future, and that is to learn to live together.
Bat Ye’or: Yes I agree totally with you. The problem is that Europe has tried to do that and this was in fact the basis of the dialogue, but the Europeans didn’t know how to proceed with the dialogue. They were not imposing their views, they were accepting always, but not imposing. They were apologetic and they didn’t say ‘Here we are, we are like this and you have to accept our mores and our laws’, because the dialogue between Muslim and non-Muslims is not symmetrical, it is not based on equality. The non-Muslims always have to adopt an attitude of passivity and acceptance and flattery in relation to the Muslim. This was how the dialogue developed. Now they didn’t foresee that they would be themselves victims of this policy with a recurrence of Islamic fundamentalism, the return of the 7th century mentality. They didn’t see in the long term the cultural revolution, that migration will bring also the intransigence of the Muslim fundamentalists.
Stephen Crittenden: Where do you think this is all going?
Bat Ye’or: It is going to disaster, because either Europe will become the new continent of dhimmitude or there will be a very savage xenophobic movement, because this immigration was not integrated properly, it happened too quickly. It is not only because the immigration was Muslim, because this would happen with any immigration, when you bring millions of people coming into a country in a very short term, they won’t integrate necessarily. But on top of it there is a refusal from the Muslim population often, not always, to integrate because they reject totally the Judaeo-Christian civilisation. I mean for 13 centuries they fought to destroy it, and if we are not aware - us non-Muslims and Muslims - of this past, we will not be able to come together, to bridge through our differences, and we have to recuperate this whole history that has been totally destroyed by the Janissary, Edward Said, in order to build with the Muslims a future of peace, not on dhimmitude because this will be our future, but on freedom and equal respect.
[ADDENDUM: Austin Bay adds all sorts of perspective, historical and otherwise, to the question of whether this might be jihad, or at least some sort of hybrid of jihad and a host of other things. He also sheds some rather fascinating light on the "Is Paris Burning?" quote from WWII that many bloggers are using in reference to the riots.]