To French policy makers, the recent suburban riots might look like a broken dream for the much vaunted laicité; to the rest of the world however, it looks more like a never-ending nightmare. Some nostalgiques of the prevailing ‘Sarkomania’ could not resist bringing their expertise to the debate. In what seems to be a highly academic analysis of the current events (Le Mauricien 21/11/05), I was marvelled at the skills of some French-trained academicians to do exactly the opposite of what they initially intend to do. Let us resume the arguments.

Concerned to avoid sophistry, a learned political observer remarked that the cause of the prevailing riots is –tenez vous bien- ‘la mauvaise foi et le manque de volonté pour s’adapter au pays de l’hote’. Such reasoning reminds me of a local political party, in vegetative state, that imputed its defeat in the legislative election to ‘the use of plastics’. Pursuing her procès d’intention, the expert declaimed that ‘l’esprit d’ouverture ne figurait pas à l’agenda des immigrés’ hence le respect des valeurs du pays qui accueille est bafoué au nom d’une revendication identitaire religieuse. The wise expert then audaciously proposed some measures to deal with those adults who according to her are not yet utiles à la société : among others, she proposed ‘un retour au pays d’origine’ for those violating the laws of the republic and severely warned against le repli communautaire ainsi que l’obsession identitaire qui n’ont pas leur place dans n’importe quel societé. Otherwise, the expert prophesised –with the certainty of a fortuneteller- ‘les quartiers difficiles seront, sur et certain, les foyers du terrorisme’. Following that logic, you might conclude, like Sarkozy, that la raison d’état dictates that the panacea against all these is a proper karcherisation. You would be excused, if like me, you think that such an incongruous and eccentric ‘analysis’ smacks of bigotry and simply sounds bollocks.

Fist of all, let’s make something clear: laicité oblige, talking of immigration, the suburbs and terrorism in the French context is simply euphemism for Arabs or more precisely of Muslims. Hence the insidious assumptions of our expert’s arguments is that Islam induces the repli communautaire, l’obsession identitaire et retranchement exagéré sur les valeurs religieuses. These inevitably lead to delinquent behaviour for they are inherently incompatible with les valeurs republicaines. Then from delinquency to terrorism, it’s jut one step away. Having said that, I have vainly tried to find a definite link between delinquency and terrorism –as postulated by the expert- but I must confess I was unsuccessful. On the contrary, recent investigations on the profile of current terrorists (in the case of WTC, London and Madrid) have revealed that most if not all, come from middle class families and are well educated, often with no previous ‘delinquent’ records. How many come from those quartiers difficiles? Perhaps none. I am sure if our local scholar has managed to establish that link, beyond reasonable doubt, it would be a great contribution to our knowledge of terrorism. Otherwise all her views run the risk of being branded gutter analysis.

The real danger of such strident views is the implications of such hypotheses, which would elicit anger on many sides, especially from my local Hindu friends. If the burning of cars in France is only a step away from terrorism, then when Hindu mobs went on a spree of raping, burning and murdering in March 2002 in Gujrat (in which more than 2000 Muslims were killed), then such ‘delinquents’ –according to the expert’s hypothesis- are terrorists in waiting! Worse still, it emerged that Mr. Modi (ex-minister and member of the BJP) instructed his administration not to do anything (The Guardian, 18/08/03), which implied that he was an accomplice in breeding terrorism. The same applies to L.K. Advani, whom the appeal court has announced, could be tried for his role in leading a mob to tear down a mosque in December 1992. I wonder whether our expert would consider these as mauvaise foi, obsession identitaire et manque d’ouverture. It would be a hell of a job to convince her peers at the MGI that her analysis does not apply to the delinquency of those Indian zealots. Locally, some years back, when a mob went to Air Mauritius, to the University of Mauritius and a couple of other places and threatened the staff, these delinquents who clearly violating the laws of the republic must be sent back to their country of origin, as per our expert’s view.

As to the bumptious assertion that the immigrants lacked the will to adapt, lacked open-mindedness and in any case l’esprit d’ouverture ne figurait pas l’agenda, consider the following: if you have ever been in holiday in Morocco, Tunisia or Algeria, have you ever had any difficulty conversing in French? Almost everybody speak French, don’t they? Were you ever surprised to see French films on their national TV? Or haven’t you come across theatres playing French plays or French poetry and texts being studied in schools and several universities? Now how easy would it be for you to be on holiday in France and to speak only Arabic? When was the last time you watched an Arabic serial on a French national TV? How many Arab texts do secondary pupils in France study? Which theatre in France plays Arab drama? The same can be said to British holidaymakers in India and of Indian tourists in Britain or the U.S. Yet our local expert, obviously infatuated with occidental overtures, wants us to believe that the immigrants and their peers in their countries of origin seriously lack l’esprit d’ouverture. Aishwarya Rai might be an appropriate person to tell you how westerners are shocked to learn that all her upbringing and education was in India, given her fine English accent and overtures.

To wrap up, I shall dispense with other anachronistic arguments of the ‘doctor’ such as pays de l’hote when talking of 2nd and 3rd generations. The reductionist mention of J. Habermas on public/private sphere out of the context of his overall thought on constitutional patriotism also deserves noting. Devoid of the least shred of evidence, the whole diatribe is simply a fallacious piece of argument littered with names of reputed scholars but which can barely hide the pervading visceral bias throughout the text.

Belall Maudarbux