Then in November 2007, a police officer arrived at a traffic accident involving a police vehicle and motorcycle that killed two teenagers. The officer’s car was set on fire before he could escape. He ended up in the hospital with several broken ribs and a punctured lung from being beaten with baseball bats and iron bars. Clashes with police continued for two days as gang members, armed with shotguns, fired at police as they committed acts of looting and arson. About 130 police officers were injured, 70 cars were burned, and various buildings were attacked including a library and two schools. One police officer described the scene as an “open rebellion” by “urban guerillas.”
These hubs of impoverished, mostly Muslim immigrant communities exist because the French government has designated them as “sensitive urban zones.” These are areas where the police do not have control, effectively making them “no-go zones,” as Dr. Daniel Pipes describes them. Almost five million people live in these areas which are left to themselves, allowing gangs and hostility to authority to breed.
In his book Disinformation, Richard Miniter makes the case that a lack of assimilation is a key factor in breeding terrorism. A survey of terrorists by former CIA case officer Marc Sageman found that “80 percent were, in some way, totally excluded from the society they lived in.” The rioters may be more motivated by a belief that they are being persecuted on the basis of their religion or ethnicity and a desire to self-govern than by radical Islam, but the lack of assimilation will also breed extremism. In the United Kingdom, pro-terrorist gangs are forming in such areas and that is a trend that will come to France if it has not already.
Al-Qaeda and other forces hostile to the French government and police can be counted on to try to paint France’s ban on the wearing of the burqa and niqab as an act of oppression, even if few actually wore them. If the past is any indication, this line will be bought by those who have violently reacted to any potential police action with a knee-jerk belief that it is ill-intentioned and abusive.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, based in Algeria, threatened to retaliate when the ban was first being discussed. A Muslim group called “Sheikh Yassin,” in honor of the Hamas founder killed by the Israelis, rioted at a debate about the ban in May. Islamist forces are undoubtedly looking at violent opposition to governing authorities in the “sensitive urban zones” as an opportunity.
The riots are the result of a French government too afraid to exercise control over its own territory. The question now is how long it will take for Islamism to transform these areas into Sharia enclaves.