Archive for May 2007
I wrote this in May 2007, not forseeing the extent to which the Lebanese army would go in its assault on the camp.
Up to seventy people have been killed so far in Lebanon’s most violent internal battle since the end of the civil war. On one side are the Wahhabi militants of Fateh al-Islam, Palestinians, Lebanese, Saudis and others, based in Tripoli’s Palestinian camp of Nahr el-Bared. On the other is the Lebanese army, with the support of most Lebanese and Palestinians.
Very sadly, very ominously, Wahhabi nihilists are expanding their reach. In recent weeks there have been al-Qa’ida linked bomb attacks in Morocco and Algeria, and hundreds of arrests in Saudi Arabia when a plot to attack infrastructure was allegedly uncovered. In Iraq, Wahhabi car bombings and beheadings continue, with Sunnis now as likely to be the victims as Shia. In Afghanistan and Pakistan al-Qa’ida increases its power. The nihilists are sometimes confused with genuine resistance against occupation (in Afghanistan and Iraq) or against dictatorship (in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia), but in fact their presence confuses and weakens resistance.
Segolene Royal has been much criticised for warning that the French ‘banlieu’ will riot if Sarkozy, the interior minister who called banlieu inhabitants ‘racaille’ (‘scum’), is elected president. The banlieu is prone to riot anyway. Why?
Well, here are a few personal anecdotes. The stories are 15 years old, so are not directly relevant to Sarkozy, but they explain something of the racist background to France’s social problems.
One: One evening in Paris I was walking with an upper-middle class English friend whose mother is Malaysian. I’m an English Arab, but white-skinned and blue-eyed. Out of nowhere arrived two policemen. With no warning they grabbed my friend, threw him against a wall, then pushed a truncheon against his throat until he was choking and weeping. They took me round the corner and asked why I was walking with him.