Friday, November 11, 2005

Welfarism should know no bounds (media on Paris riots)

The French turmoil: I've been following closely the Paris events (and then when the mailaise spread to the rest of the country and beyond). But perhaps, for the first time blogosphere was THE source as it beats the conventional, mainstream media in almost all aspects of coverage, save the TV picture.
I've read Russian and English-speaking blogs read comments and even got myself engaged in a small flame over the meaning of the word 'redneck' :-).
Anyways, Canadian media have been conspicuously silent in the beginning of all this and when major publications did pick up the story and the coverage was quite predictable (I guess you know what I mean, right?).
Just by the time the riots subsided somewhat here came the time for analysis.
Yesterday, the Globe ran a piece by certain Tariq Ramadan, a visiting prof. at St. Antony's College, Oxford.
Being a captive to my prejudices, I expected something along "racism made me do it" defense from a Muslim guy. But the article struck as being much nuanced, clever and yet, quite sinister.

First of all, as any true academic, Mr. Ramadan employs the all so familiar “BUT” argument. The BUT part helps one to advance a contrarian view while ostensibly acknowledging the opposite view:
He writes:
There can be no doubt that violence is no solution, that the destruction of public property, buses and cars must stop and wrongdoers be punished. There's no doubt that some young people are indulging in pure vandalism. Restoration of law and order is a priority, especially for residents of the suburbs — the first victims of the violence.
The fact remains, however, that such measures will be ineffective if France fails to grasp the nature of the message sent by this orgy of violence.

and one more:
Clearly, Muslims must remain self-critical about literalist readings that encourage people to withdraw into themselves and move toward radicalization and/or violence. But it is also essential for French society to overcome its own distrust by listening to Muslims, and by ceasing to demand that they keep justifying themselves.

Seemingly there’s nothing wrong to suggest that this, and any, issue, has more than one dimension. Unequivocalness is a rare phenomenon. But the inherent flaw of such arguments is their moral relativism – it’s implied that BOTH sides are on equal footing and therefore are equally guilty.

So, having done assigning the blame Mr. Ramadan proceeds to the solution part:
A new breath of creativity is needed in educational policy, a new focus on teacher training. To truly create equality of opportunity will require a tripling of investment in educationally disadvantaged areas.

So here we go: after serving the reader with a couple of platitudes (“a new breath of creativity” – what the hell is that?) He cuts to the chase – “a tripling of investment” as if the burbs have not been showered with money before. The notion that it’s precisely the culture of entitlement and welfare dependency that brought the havoc completely evades the esteemed professor’s reasoning. More money – the vandals will be happy.
Say, you’ve been robbed by someone on the street. The robber is caught and the question is what to do with him. While contemplating your option, there comes someone, just like prof. Ramadan who tells you that the only way to prevent any future robberies would be to give the perpetrator more money so he’ll be less likely to resort to an illegal act to meet his needs. Would you be up to it?


At 1:28 PM, Blogger A. Shah said...

Hey Ilya,

You'll probably be surprised to find out that Tariq Ramadan is somewhat of a controversial figure.

In my opinion, much of the criticism is unfair because it's mostly based on the fact that he is related to the seminal political Islamist Hassan Al Banna. But people like Daniel Pipes, Faoud Ajami and a gaggle of French intellectuals accuse him of presenting a moderate face to the West while being a Wahhabi when talking to Muslims. Again I think it's mostly based on his lineage. I think it was Ajami that said that he built up his status as a Muslim representative in the West because of the status he had given his Islamist lineage (it supposedly gave him credibility with Muslims). But I don't find his argument convincing at all, the only thing his lineage has really given him is the implacable opposition of people like Ajami.

I have to say all the stuff I've read from him, which is stuff for Westerners, has seemed very moderate and insightful. But personally I think Wahhabi interpretations of the Islam are a huge part of present problem, and if he really is a supporter of this brand of the religion than I'm skeptical he will have any positive role in 'repairing links' between the Islamic world and the West.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Oleksa said...

thanks for the info.
I had no idea who he was when I wrote this post. And yes, it did seem to me that he tried to "present a moderate face" to the Globe and Mail readers. I of course cannot say anything about his message to Muslims.
I read the Wikipedia profile on him and what struck me as quite controvercial is his insistence that
He also advocates that immigrant parents not confuse culture with religion. Accordingly, muslim offspring born in Western countries have to adopt the tastes and cultural norms of their country, and not those of their parents' homeland.
I mean what he is really saying her e is that Algerians, Turks, Moroccans, Lebanese and Iranians should all shed their ethnic identity in favor of a Muslim one. He never spells it out but it's clear that instead of the 'multicultural' mosaic of the present Europe would be turned into a bi-cultural space, divided along the religion line. I find this idea quite subversive.


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