Not since A.D. 732, almost 1,300 years ago, has there been such a violent clash involving Muslims on French soil.
Then, it was an Islamic army that had already conquered Spain and was well on its way to spreading the new religion of Islam into France. The North African military forces were defeated by the armies of Charles Martel not far from Paris. Europe was saved from a serious Islamic threat.
What will save it now?
For over two weeks, Muslim youths rioted in cities across France, destroying property and burning cars. The latter was not new. According to U.S. News and World Report, "An average of 80 cars were burned every day in France even before the riots began—a practice that has long been an expression of anger and civil disobedience by the nation's underprivileged. 'We don't have a choice; we are ready to sacrifice everything because we have nothing,' said a young man in one neighborhood hit by rioting" ("After the Flames," Nov. 21, 2005).
A great deal of the blame for the riots has been placed at the feet of "racism and poverty." It is certainly true that these second- and third-generation children of Islamic immigrants are generally poorer than their French fellow-citizens. The generous French social welfare system has also contributed to an entitlement mentality that encourages the poor and underprivileged to blame the government for not taking care of them.
Additionally, employers complain that laws making it virtually impossible to fire workers also discourage the hiring of new employees, a contributory factor to France's high rate of unemployment. That rate is currently 10 percent, but it's at least double that level in the poorer, Islamic areas.
However, poverty is not the sole cause of second—and third-generation Islamic resentment against the establishment. Across the English Channel, the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks on London in July came from fairly affluent backgrounds. They, too, were second generation, the children of Muslim immigrants from the Third World.
A major cause of these problems would appear to be an identity crisis among the children of immigrants, desperately trying to reconcile the Islamic values they have been taught with the secular values (or lack of values) that permeate the society around them. Is there any wonder they do not feel they belong?
"The juvenile rioters—some are barely twelve or thirteen—are French-born; they want to make something of themselves but feel trapped on the wrong side of an invisible window as they watch their compatriots succeed, work, and travel . . . As disenfranchised as these young people are, they are first and foremost children of television and supermarkets—they understand perfectly the mechanisms of the media. So they seek to recreate the disorder and vandalism of Baghdad or Gaza (so familiar to them from television) in their own streets, to rival other neighborhoods in destruction. They find validation in the images of their exploits broadcast on television and shared on their cell phones" (Pascal Bruckner, "How French," English translation in The New Republic, Nov. 21, 2005).
While many in the media have played down the Islamic aspect of the riots, one North African immigrant father quoted on the BBC World Service on Nov. 15 said he felt that he was "watching a clash of civilizations in my own living room."
Clash of civilizations
The phrase "clash of civilizations" is particularly disturbing when used in the context of the French riots. Noted American historian Samuel Huntington wrote a book called The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order in 1996, long before the French riots or the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil on 9/11. Mr. Huntington predicted a coming global clash between Islam and Christianity, based partly on history but also on demographic trends—Islamic peoples tend to reproduce at a much greater level than those who are adherents to the myriad forms of Christianity.
In this decade, the numbers of people following the Muslim religion will surpass the numbers calling themselves Christians, a seismic shift in the global balance of power. Over the last 50 years, surplus numbers of peoples from the Islamic world have been pouring into the formerly Christian nations of the West, who are failing to reproduce sufficiently for their economic needs.
Although dismissed by some as "a myth of history," there have been notable clashes in the past between the two civilizations of Islam and Christianity.
Just a few years after the death of the prophet Muhammad, his followers clashed with the Christian empire of Byzantium, the eastern half of what had been the Roman Empire.
After spreading rapidly in all directions, Islamic forces followed their conquest of North Africa with the conquest of Spain, which led to the Battle of Poitiers in 732.
In 1095, three and one half centuries later, following further Islamic expansion, Pope Urban II called on the Christian nations of Europe to launch a "crusade" against Islam. Christian armies were to spend the next two centuries in the Holy Land fighting Muslims.
History shows the Christian armies conducted themselves in a very unchristian manner, treating Jews, Muslims and even fellow Christians badly. Students of the Bible know that one of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 is "You shall not murder."
Jesus Christ expounded on this when He instructed His disciples to "love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44). Christians who murder are going against the teachings of their founder, Jesus Christ.
This is not the case with the Islamic religion. The last words of the prophet Muhammad were: "Muslims should fight all men until they say, 'There is no god but (Allah)'" (Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples, 1991, p. 19). It was a clear instruction to his followers, setting up a conflict until everybody on the planet submits to Islam (a word that means "surrender" or "submission").
These two religions have a violent history. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Islamic armies of the Ottoman Empire twice tried to conquer Vienna, at the very heart of Catholic Europe. The Turks ruled the Balkans right up until the early 20th century. The cultural and religious mix that is the legacy of their presence was the root cause of the Balkan conflicts a decade ago.
Now Western Europe, too, is affected by a significant Islamic presence brought about by massive Third World immigration since World War II. In a naive attempt to create a multicultural society, the thinking was that all peoples could become French, British or Dutch. The reality is quite different. Slowly, Europeans are realizing that cultures that are significantly different from each other don't mix well and are likely to clash.
This is made worse in Europe because of a lack of space. The different ethnic groups have to live literally on top of each other in high-rise apartment blocks, creating an unhealthy environment that exacerbates tensions. There will likely be more riots in France and other Western nations in the years ahead, no matter how much money is spent on social programs aimed at alleviating poverty and giving young people more opportunities.
Blaming the riots on "racism and poverty" denies the growing clash between the followers of Islam and Western secularism, a friction that progressively widens, involving more and more nations. Second-generation Muslim immigrants in Western countries are particularly vulnerable, not having a sense of belonging fully to either culture, a growing resentment that exploded in the streets of many French cities and towns in past weeks.
Bible prophecy predicts a clash of civilizations at the time of the end (Daniel 11:40) when the "king of the South" pushes at the "king of the North." This coming clash between the two civilizations of Islam and Europe is explained more fully in our booklet The Middle East in Bible Prophecy. WNP