“Analysts and commentators often seek to find evidence to support their well-established ideas in any given event. So while critics of the ‘French social model’ have gleefully seen evidence of its failure in the recent violence in France, its supporters have seen evidence of the damage done by right-wing policies in the country. But little compares with the extraordinary way in which the disturbances of the last two weeks have been hijacked by those who appear set on either finding, or creating, a ‘clash of civilisations’ between Islam and the West.
“Take one particularly egregious example. Melanie Phillips, writing in the Daily Mail, described the riots in France as ‘a French intifada, an uprising by French Muslims against the state’. I covered the intifada in Israel and Palestine and, beyond the fact that thrown stones look much the same wherever they are, saw little that resembled the Gaza Strip in the autumn of 2000 in Clichy-sous-Bois in the autumn of 2005. In the course of her article, Phillips spoke of how ‘night after night, France [had] been under attack by its Muslim minority’, how the country was being ‘torched from Normandy to the Mediterranean’, how it had ‘sniffed the danger that had arisen in its midst’ and quoted a little-known writer called Bat Ye’Or who is a favourite of the more unsavoury right-wing American websites and believes that the European Union is a conspiracy dedicated to creating one Muslim-dominated political entity that will comprise most of the Middle East and Europe.
“Phillips also conflated Arabs (a race), and Muslims (a global religion of 1.3 billion, some devout, some not). This is dangerous nonsense, but needs to be studied.”