France has spent billions to improve the living conditions of people in deprived areas. Deprivation cannot be the excuse for the burning of French cities.
On 27 June 2023, Nahel Merzouk, a 17-year-old French youth of Algerian descent, was shot and killed by the police in Nanterre, a suburb of Paris. The death triggered some of the worst violence seen on the streets of Paris. According to the French employers’ organisation, Mouvement des Entreprises de France (Medef), the damage caused by the unrest has cost the local economy more than euro 1 billion. Some 200 businesses across France have been looted and 300 bank branches and 250 tobacco stores destroyed. In other towns and cities public buildings were smashed and burned, including 28 schools, 34 town halls and 80 police stations. Libraries, cash machines, pharmacies and bus depots were set alight.12,031 cars were burnt. 721 police personnel were injured. The police were even shot at with guns. The family of a mayor of a Paris suburb was also attacked. Shops in several malls in Paris suburbs, as well as an Apple store at the centre of Strasbourg were looted. The Nike store in the centre of Paris was looted and shop windows smashed along the Rue de Rivoli. The ferocity with which the violence and destruction took place has left the French in a state of shock. The conventional response supported by the left wing media and liberals has always been that it is racism and police brutality that is to blame. This is further backed up with the oft repeated mantra that poverty, unemployment and terrible living conditions of the immigrants and refugees have sparked the riots. The French term for such areas is Banlieues. This canard has dominated the public space for decades. The immigrant community, according to the left wing Liberals, can do no wrong. For them the majority is always to blame. The bitter truth is that minorities can also be bullies, unreasonable, they can and do commit crimes and they do also indulge in terrorist activities sometimes. The majority cannot always be wrong because it is a majority, and the minority cannot always be right because it is a minority. There are many areas in which the minorities can actually be a majority.
Regarding living conditions and poverty, the French provide free healthcare and education. Social housing and transport are subsidised heavily. The French government has spent billions to improve the living conditions of people in deprived areas. Deprivation, therefore, cannot be the excuse for the burning of French cities. Regarding racism the French government as well as most European countries have brought in law after law to ban discrimination in any form. Racism, therefore, cannot be the cause of the riots. There is no shortage of employment in France. So lack of job prospects cannot be an excuse to riot either. Could it be that the immigrants are actually racist towards the majority? Could it be that they hate the lifestyle of the majority? Could it be the freedoms that the French society gives to women or to any individual to live a life of his or her liking? Could it be the religion of the majority that the newly arrived migrants hate? How does one explain the attacks on firemen and even doctors during the riots? The Western European nations have diligently accommodated the culture and the faith of the immigrant communities. Individuals in these countries have gone out of their way to help and support the new arrivals. The hospitality and welcome that the British people gave to the Ugandan Indians who were driven out of the country can only be described as a golden chapter in contemporary British history.
Indeed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak occupies the highest post in the United Kingdom and his parents too were immigrants from Kenya.
According to French political scientist Jerome Fourquest, we are going through a process of “decivilisation”. It means we are losing control of our impulses, our frustrations, and usual self control that allows us to live together in relative harmony. The French people seem to have challenged the tyranny of left-wing ideology after the recent riots. 73% of the French people do not blame the police. 93% of French people condemn the violence and looting. The immediate impact of the burning of Paris is that the perpetrators have lost the goodwill of the French people. Millions of ordinary people who extended a hand of friendship and welcomed these immigrants to their shores will now not be so forthcoming. This will harm the minorities a lot. A minority needs the goodwill of the majority in almost every aspect of their lives. The right-wing anti-immigrant party of Le Pen could come to power. In other European countries the anti immigrant right wing parties are gaining ground. A backlash from the majority seems to be brewing. I wonder if this backlash will be termed, “majoritarianism”—a term that the Indian media and left-wing individuals dislike so much in India.
Immigrants and refugees have to adapt to the lifestyle of the country they are settling in. They have also to remember that with rights come responsibilities. The Indian diaspora all over the world is a shining example of how to assimilate with the host community. Hard work, hardly any crime rate, achieving excellence in every field of life, that is the recipe for success.