Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The French Shooting: Between Muslim and Jew

French President Nicholas Sarkozy is eager to play hero ahead of the forthcoming presidential elections in April and (the run-off) May. The Socialist candidate - in a head-to-head contest - leads but there is also the insurgent far-right, nativist candidate (the National Front). Prior to running for the head office, Sarkozy served as Interior Ministry where he sought to brandish a reputation for toughness - a "zero tolerance"approach of heavy-handed policing in urban enclaves populated largely by North African immigrants and their offspring. 

Such was his approach that he once visited a Parisian banlieue and declared his intent to hose down the "rascals". Perhaps in recognition that urban crime is due to pervasive un-and underemployment which is in large measure a consequence of racist hiring practices in France, (A French study once found that an identical resumes with a French name like Jean was several times more likely to get a call back than one with a clear Arab name like Karim. This mirrors similar studies on "white" and "black" names in the U.S.) Sarkozy did champion an affirmative action program but it was dismissed by both the left and the right as an affront to France's supposedly egalitarian nature. Since assuming the president he has done little to address underlying socioeconomic concerns, prefer instead the policing track alongside vapid ostensible dialogues about "French identity". 

The recent tragic shooting at a French Jewish school - where a rabbi and three students were killed - follows the perpetrator's initial crime gunning down three soldiers on leave from base. The culprit has been identified as a militant Islamist acting in the name of al Qeada with allegedly past training in Afghanistan who claims that his shootings are in response to France's presence in Afghanistan, Israeli killing of Palestinian children and the nation's ban of the niqab (full-face veil). 

In order to preempt any far-right challenge on national security, Sarkozy has quickly labeled the incident a terrorist act and spoke with resolve about bring the gunman to justice. All that is fine and well, of course, and it may be cynical to suggest electioneering but...cynical I am. 

What was troubling about Sarkozy's comments after the final police showdown where the gunman surrendered and identified as a French-Algerian national is the president's words to the effect that he is committed to avoiding any outbreak in animosity between the nation's Muslim and Jewish communities - both the largest in Europe. 

This is odd for several reasons. First, why assume that French Jews will randomly act indiscriminately against their Muslim neighbors because a Muslim committed a crime anymore than Muslims would attack Jews in response to, say, Israeli brutality against and killing of Palestinians? 

But, more importantly, the aforementioned three soldiers are: Imad Ibn Ziaten, 30, Abel Chennouf, 25, and Mohamed Legouade, 23. 

This was a missed opportunity to underline common suffering instead of always resorting to a politicized and contemporary binary between Arab (Muslim) and Jew. But why bother when you can play the savoir of the nation?

Does Sarkozy instead to protect the Muslim community from retailing against its own as well? 


Anonymous said...


"This means recalling that the struggle against anti-Semitism cannot be exempted from the fight against Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism. It means recalling that today 75 percent of the Jewish community of France is of North African origin; that the Western fight against Islam was always a fight against Judaism, if often by different means; and that the last Messiah to compellingly galvanize the political imagination of the entire Jewish world (and not only of the Jewish world) did not become a Christian, even if Gershom Scholem and others made it sound as if that were the case. Sabbatai Zvi did not become a Zionist either. He became a Muslim. A Muslim Jew. An Arab Jew. Not an identity, but the movement of an identification toward a messianism for today."

The Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University: Student Blog said...

Thank you for this link.