Friday, February 21, 2003

France and the Politics of Peace
A brief look at the events behind the controversial stance of France and the political forces at work.

Viva la' Peace?

If the antiwar protests are the result of an internet led, grassroots retro-Conservative isolationist/libertarian movement, then it's iconographic flagbearer is President Jacques Chirac and the French Republic. Last weekend, tens of thousands of citizens marched in dozens of cities and towns across the nation with perhaps as many as a quarter of a million in Paris alone. From all walks of life, the marchers were flesh-and-blood representatives of an estimated 87% of the population against military intervention in Iraq. Together, the people and the President have become a serious challenge to the American coalltion's desire for fast action. However indirectly related stories coming out of France hint at political motivations undeserving of heroic reward.

Challenging French continental dominance, ten Eastern European countries issued letters supporting the Bush administration. Apparently the ruffled Chirac felt sufficiently threatened that he suggested that the actions taken by Bulgaria and historic ally Romania (among the ten) endangered their admittance to European Union; "If they really want to diminish their chances to join the EU, then they couldn't have found a better way of doing it." Undaunted, the upstart leaders stood their ground.

Romanian President Ion Iliescu was dismayed by the French characterization of countries either being with France or against it; "(Chirac's) remarks are not appropriate, notably in the framework of democratic structures like the EU." Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov was careful to explain that UN support was vital to the developing situation in Iraq and did "not want to be forced to choose between one group of allies and another."

Other European leaders voiced their concerns as well. Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld cautioned that France must respect Poland's policy decisions just as Poland does in return. Slovakian Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda reiterated the mutual right of nations to differences of opinion. Even Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar is set to meet with Chirac to discuss backing a second UN resolution.

But France's reluctance for war needs to be better understood. In a recent interview Chirac admitted that disarmament the threat of US military action is what makes the UN disarmament program possible; "If we disarm Iraq, the goal set by the Americans will have been fulfilled. And if we do that, there can be no doubt that it will be due in large part to the presence of American forces on the spot... If there hadn't been US soldiers present, Saddam might not have agreed to play the game." Furthermore, Chirac acknowledges that "If Saddam Hussein would only vanish, it would without a doubt be the biggest favor he could do for his people and for the world." Finally, Chirac carefully noted that France is not "pacifist by nature " and that would not rule out military intervention if Iraq failed to cooperate with arms inspectors.

In fact France is actively engaged in a military intervention in the Ivory Coast, one of its former colonies and the worlds's leading cocoa grower. France deployed some 3,000 troops at the start of hostilities five months ago to hold a civil war in check and protect an estimated 16,000 foreignors including French citizens. However this does not sit well with many local peoples which Charles Ble Goude, a youthful charasmatic leader has capitalized on. "Tell your brothers, your children, your mothers that from Wednesday we have a new house - the French garrison... Come with your mats and your cooking pots we will remain there until we get a full explanation of what the French forces are doing."

Likewise, a similar action will be undertaken by French forces in parts of the former Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. Chirac and Blair are set to Blair and Chirac will discuss in March the European Union's first deployment of peacekeepers in Macedonia. Some even believe that by 2004 EU peacekeepers will be in Bosnia as well and that in the future missions outside of Europe are a distinct possibility.

Les Beurs

Contrary to the rhetorical output by the libertarian camp, Chirac and France are hardly the serene example of an anti-war peace movement. What then does explain the seemingly virtuous French stance? I would suggest a combination of factors, mostly aimed at internal societal and economic stability.

Underscored by the embarassing support of Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 2002 elections, a element of anger and hate has come to the forefront in the nation known for culture. Crime and unemployment are seen as the dangerous byproducts of tolerating a North African minority that has had difficulty assimilating. Despite a National Assemby which seats 577 deputies and a total of 36,000 mayors, not one of the elected government officials is a "beur" (North African). Said Zair Kedadocuhe, a one-time advisor to the former Prime Minister Alain Juppe; "I am ashamed every time I go to Britain or the US. When I tell people there that such a huge minority has no political representatives they are dumbstruck. And France is the country that presumes to hand out lessons to the world!" This alienation has played on the psychology of this largely Arab community that can not seem to advance through France's "republican traditions of universal equality" which prohibits affirmative action or any policy of "positive discrimination"

France has pursued too long a policy towards its immigrant communities that is laudable in theory, because it genuinely seeks to treat individuals as equal, but atrocious in its effects - because in practice it has not worked. "The French see everything through a theoretical framework. It is all conceptual. We have got to start dealing with reality." - Kedadouche
While the political aspirations of the beur community stagnate, their political concerns are definitely considered. In a report from June 5, 2002, the emotional turbulence following 9/11 exemplified the pressure this community exerts on society:
"Bin Laden for President! Bin Laden for President!" The group of young men bursts into guffaws of approval. This is Val Fourré, one of the largest concentrations of Muslims in northern France, and feelings are running high.

"Maybe I don't approve of what he did in New York, but when I saw him talking on television I thought, 'What a great guy!'" says Tarik, a 19-year-old computer trainee, loafing with his buddies in the shopping centre.

"Have you heard of the French resistance? In the Second World War? Well for us this is the same," says Abdelhaq. "Bin Laden is doing it for the Palestinians and the Muslims. The US is the father of Israel. So he has decided to hit the father, not the son."

Sentiments such as these are commonplace among young French Muslims. In their conversation, "America" and "the Jews" trade places as primary figures of hate. Many appear to believe the rumour that 4,000 Jews left the World Trade Centre an hour before it was hit...

Some 50,000 people live in the town, which lies about 40 miles (64 kilometres) west of Paris. About half of them are of North African and black African origin and live in the Val Fourre tower blocks built in the 1970s to provide labour for nearby car plants.

The estate has a fearsome reputation for delinquency, drugs and gang violence but the last four weeks have been without incident.

For the authorities, this is a tribute to two central tenets of the national philosophy - assimilation and secularism.

The first ensures that an immigrant child receives a remorseless grounding in how to be "French". Multi-culturalism is definitely out. The second bans public displays of religion.

"The English system of multi-culturalism may be freer," says Jerome Seguy, head of cabinet for the town mayor. "But our system is more equal. Here every child should emerge at 16 with exactly the same body of education and values."

"In the same way, religion is fine. But it must be in its place - off the street."

The theory is that this translates into a society that is homogeneous and less prone than others to divisions based on religion, colour or ethnic origin. But then how do you account for the attitudes of Tarik, Abdelhaq and the gang?

They are in many ways integrated into French society - their manners, clothes, habits of speech clearly place them in France - but are fired by a fierce rush of Arab and Islamic pride.

According to Khady Sarr, a Muslim woman who works as a "mediator" in Val Fourré helping resolve local disputes, the answer lies in the deep confusion of identity felt by many young people, especially the children of first generation immigrants.

"They are running away from something. Everything is mixed up in their heads. Nothing is clear," she says.

Seguy says they are "la generation paumée" - the lost generation - and it will only be their children who make the full transition to being French.

Tarek agrees. "When I'm in Morocco, everyone tells me I'm not Moroccan. When I'm in France, everyone says I'm not French. What am I? I AM French but I'm Muslim too and proud of it.

And it seems the the resonant conflict of reason and emotion explains the success of "left-wing French radical" Thierry Meyssan's infammous book, "The Dreadful Imposture." His factually unsubstantiated claim that the Pentagon was damaged by a bomb set "by a group of people who had authorised access" (whose real target was a new Navy Command Center) " was none-the-less met with "media hype and subsequent runaway sales."

The conequence of these societal shifts prompted the French government to establish a new French Council for the Muslim Religion that would be identical to the councils representative of the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths in France. It was hoped that such a move would "replace the multiplicity of different groups - many of them bound by loyalty and funding to foreign countries - that currently speak for French Muslims." But while the goals are certainly worthy, difficulties await:

French Muslims are extremely diverse. Most are immigrants or their descendants from North Africa, but there are also large communities from Turkey, Syria, Pakistan and other countries.

Not only do they worship separately, but mosques and prayer halls - and the imams who preach in them - are intimately linked with the states which finance them. For example Algeria funds about 200 religious centres, and Saudi Arabia provided 90 percent of the money for the main mosque in Lyon.

This foreign financing is necessary because of the strict laws on secularism in France, which prevent any intrusion by religion into public life. But it also means Muslim leaders in France often look outside the country for direction.

One indication of the divisions within Muslim ranks came with the condemnation by the grand mufti of Marseille, Soheib Bencheickh, of the inclusion in the consultation process of the UOIF - which he says is dangerously close to fundamentalist groups such as the Muslim Brothers.

Another major issue is the role of women. It is unlikely Muslim women will be able to vote for the new council, even though this is entirely at odds with France's democratic principles.

NEXT: Status quo for oil?

SOURCES: Expatica, a Netherlands based English-language news source for expats living in several European nations including France, exclusively features the Agence France-Presse newswire. In turn, AFP runs the oldest (founded 1835) global news network with bureaus and correspondents covering 165 countries from its Paris headquarters.

  1. A strained day at Le Touquet
  2. Aznar to meet with Chirac on Iraq split
  3. 'Bin Laden for President!'
  4. Bulgaria rejects Chirac slap over Iraq
  5. Can France's 5 million Muslims agree to one voice?
  6. Chirac says US to thank if Iraq disarms
  7. Eastern European anger at Chirac threart
  8. France faces Ivory Coast youth revolt
  9. France's unrepresented millions
  10. Gulf vets join French anti-war rallies
  11. 9/11: seeing and make-believing
  12. Why French Jews are frightened

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Professor Sami Al-Arian
A brief look at the events leading up to the arrest of this controversial University of Southern Florida professor (both sides are represented)

USF professor Al-Arian arrested at his home
FBI officials also take 3 in Chicago into custody under sealed indictment.

By GRAHAM BRINK, Times staff writer
Published Online, Feb. 23, 2003

TAMPA -- Controversial University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian was arrested at his Temple Terrace home and taken into federal custody early this morning. Al-Arian was handcuffed as agents led him through the front door of the FBI building in downtown Tampa. "It's all about politics," he said to reporters. "It's all about politics." ... The indictment is charged Al-Arian with racketeering and providing material support for terrorism and conspiracy, among other things.
-- link to story



WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General John Ashcroft, Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Paul I. Perez of the Middle District of Florida, and James F. Jarboe, FBI Special Agent In Charge of the Tampa Field Office, today announced the arrest of four members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a designated foreign terrorist organization, following the return of a 50-count indictment by a federal grand jury in Tampa, Florida.

The indictment, returned Feb. 19 and unsealed today, charges a total of eight defendants under RICO with operating a racketeering enterprise from 1984 until the present that engaged in a number of violent activities. In addition, the indictment charges conspiracy within the United States to kill and main persons abroad, conspiracy to provide material support and resources to PIJ, conspiracy to violate emergency economic sanctions, engaging in various acts of interstate extortion, perjury, obstruction of justice and immigration fraud. If convicted, the defendants face up to life in prison.

"The individuals named in this indictment play a substantial role in international terrorism – they are ‘material supporters' of foreign terrorist organizations. They finance, extol and assist acts of terror," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. "Our message to them is clear: We make no distinction between those who carry out terrorist attacks and those who knowingly finance, manage or supervise terrorist organizations. We will bring justice to the full network of terror."

The defendants arrested today are:

  1. Sami Amin Al-Arian, 45, born in Kuwait, a resident of Temple Terrace, Fla., and for many years a professor at the University of South Florida's College of Engineering. Al Arian was the alleged leader of the PIJ in the United States, and Secretary of the "Shura Council," or worldwide governing group of the PIJ

  2. -- link to DOJ press release


  1. On or about March 19, 1995, SAMI AMIN AL-ARIAN, RAMADAN ABDULLAH SHALLAH, SAMEEH HAMMOUDEH and Unindicted Co-Conspirator Twelve received a facsimile at WISE/ICP in Tampa, Florida, which contained a recently published interview of Fathi Shiqaqi. In the interview, Fathi Shiqaqi described the formation and evolution of the PIJ, the objective of the PIJ, the location of PIJ bases or training camps, the relationship of the PIJ with Hizballah, Iran’s financial assistance to the PIJ, and the impossibility of the co-existence of Israel and a Palestinian state. Fathi Shiqaqi further discussed his determination to seek the destruction of Israel because it was an imperialist base and partner of the United States. He also said that suicide operations would continue and he would fight to the death.

  2. On or about March 21, 1995, SAMI AMIN AL-ARIAN, RAMADAN ABDULLAH SHALLAH, SAMEEH HAMMOUDEH and Unindicted Co-Conspirator Twelve received a facsimile from PIJ headquarters in Damascus, Syria, which stated that two PIJ members had been killed two days before when a bomb blew up in their hands.

  3. On or about March 21, 1995, SAMI AMIN AL-ARIAN, RAMADAN ABDULLAH SHALLAH, SAMEEH HAMMOUDEH and Unindicted Co-Conspirator Twelve, who were at WISE/ICP in the Middle District of Florida, received a facsimile from outside the State of Florida from Fathi Shiqaqi, stating he had read RAMADAN ABDULLAH SHALLAH’s remarks concerning the interview of Fathi Shiqaqi which had previously been sent via facsimile. With respect to the interview, Fathi Shiqaqi stated that he also sought the opinions of RAMADAN ABDULLAH SHALLAH, Unindicted Co-Conspirator Twelve and SAMI AMIN AL-ARIAN.

  4. -- link to indictment (PDF) courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times Online

University of South Florida's Official Al-Arian Related Documents Index
Media Contact: Michael Reich
Phone: (813) 974-9047

    College of Engineering: Dr. Samuel Al-Arian
    USF Board Of Trustees Resolution
    President's Report to Trustees
    USF-WISE Timeline
    Legal Opinion to USF by Attorney Thomas Gonzalez
    President's Statement
    Statement by Governor Bush

Partial Transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, September 26, 2001
O'Reilly Interviews Al-Arian in September 2001

O'REILLY: In -- in 1988, you did a little speaking engagement in Cleveland, and you were quoted as saying, "Jihad is our path. Victory to Islam. Death to Israel. Revolution. Revolution until victory. Rolling to Jerusalem." Did you say that?

AL-ARIAN: Let me just put it into context. When resident Bush talked about crusade, we understand what he meant here. The Muslim world thought he is going to carry a cross and go invade the Muslim world and turn them into Christians. We have to understand the context. When you say "Death to Israel," you mean death to occupation, death to apartheid, death to oppression, death to...

Guests and Topics: February 20
The O'Reilly Factor discusses the details the arrest of Professor Al-Arian and the Justice Department's charges with terrorism expert Matt Epstein. (8pm & 11pm EST)

The United Faculty of Florida
defends the Due Process rights, and Academic Freedom & Tenure rights of
USF Professor Sami Al-Arian

    USF/UFF Site Home
    Major Postings
    The Issues
    An Overview of the Entire Controversy
    Before Sept. 11
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The newspaper of the University of South Florida: The Oracle

    Al-Arian grievance will take months - January 08, 2003
    The faculty union filed a grievance Monday on behalf of Sami Al-Arian based on what it calls discrimination and a violation of academic freedom.
    Al-Arian's lawyer says USF violated professor's rights - January 07, 2003
    "Since I was put on paid leave, I was assured that this was for safety and security reasons," Al-Arian said.
    Al-Arian leads anti-war protest - November 4, 2002
    "Hey, hey, ho, ho, we won't fight for Texaco," Al-Arian shouted into a microphone as about 500 people slowly made their way down Dale Mabry Highway
    Group tries to stop Al-Arian speech - October 11, 2002
    Dorfman said the consequences for allowing Al-Arian and the others on campus may be far-reaching. "The university is going to suffer. They're going to lose a lot of alumni dollars"
    $54K spent on Al-Arian, so far - September 25, 2002
    Cotter said lawyer fees in the case will add up quickly. He said most attorneys charge in the neighborhood of $200 to $400 an hour.
    Al-Arian says media unfair - August 28, 2002
    When officers entered Goldstein’s residence, they found a small arsenal of weapons, including assault rifles and ..plans describing how to carry out an attack and a list of Islamic centers.
    Loftus lawsuit temporarily stalled - June 13, 2002
    A Hillsborough County judge ruled on Monday that the lawsuit, which was filed in March, did not prove Al-Arian had caused Loftus harm.
    Terrorism: then and now - April 8, 2002
    “Such extremists are a tiny aspect of the Muslim world and we need to have respect for each other”
    Rallying for freedom - January 24, 2002
    Before the march, Mrs. Al-Arian said she was happy to see so many protesters who turned out in support of her husband.
    Nowhere to go - November 26, 2001
    Al-Arian said the INS seized Al-Najjar just outside his apartment, where his three daughters were sleeping.

Online petition to Reinstate Sami Al-Arian

To: University of South Florida President Judith Genshaft
We, the undersigned, urge you to reconsider your regrettable decision to fire Professor Sami Al-Arian. Since September 11th and the beginning of our War on Terrorism, a blind hysteria overtook our country and now threatens to do away with the very values and freedoms we claim to be fighting for. The dismissal of Dr. Al-Arian seems to be the latest example of this threat from within: a disturbing intolerance for controversial points of view. Dr. Al-Arian cannot be held responsible for how people react to his comments; to do so is to punish the victim. By firing Professor Al-Arian, you have succumbed to outside political and economic pressures and destroyed the spirit of academic freedom at the University of South Florida. Only his immediate reinstatement can restore a faith in freedom in a difficult time of exclusion and ignorance. We ask that you reconsider your decision to dismiss Dr. Al-Arian and reinstate him as soon as possible.

The Undersigned

The Muslim Public Affairs Council Responds

Aschroft Indictment
Thursday, February 20, 2003

The Justice Department's indictment of eight individuals today, four of whom are American residents in South Florida and Illinois, raises several concerns of the American Muslim community.

Dr. Maher Hathout, Sr. Advisor to MPAC, said, "Rather than defending the individuals in this case, we need to defend some important American principles."

He said that the community is gaining the perception that people are rounded up and targeted because of their political opinions and because they exercise their right to dissent on current US policy. "Our community is in dire need to understand how these charges are founded on concrete evidence of criminal activity and not guilt by association or political considerations," said Dr. Hathout.

MPAC and other American organizations will monitor this case to assess the evidentiary basis of the prosecution.

Dr. Hathout added that it was disturbing that Attorney General John Ashcroft inserted religious expressions, like Jihad and martyrdom, to a major federal investigation and indictment. Such ambiguous assertions and inflammatory language about religious terms does not help in clarifying the direction of the war on terrorism nor does it reassure Americans of the effectiveness in the government approach in rooting out terrorism.