November 06, 2005
I went to one of these suburbs that's currently ablaze three years ago. And what was interesting to me is I had to bribe a taxi driver a considerable amount of money just to take me out there. They're miserable places. But what was interesting to me is that after that, I then flew on to the Middle East, and I was in Yemen, and a couple of other places. And what was interesting to me was that I found more menace in the suburbs of Paris than I did in some pretty scary places in the Middle East.
They're places where people who are not Muslim feel very ill at ease. They're places where the writ of the French state does not run. The police don't police there. They basically figure if you go there, you're on your own. You're taking your own chances there. I mean, I don't think Americans understand quite the degree of alienation of some of these groups. You know, there's a French cabinet minister whose title is the minister for social cohesion.
I lived in Angers, France, from 1998-1999. Angers has a population of about 150,000, and I lived right on the edge between the city of Angers and one of these Muslim suburbs. And what I experienced as much as French culture was French-Arab culture.
When I went to get my student train discount, the woman at the counter asked me where I lived. The horrified look on her face should've been my first warning, but it wasn't. The real warning came three weeks into my stay as I was walking home alone in the rain at night. A man on a motorbike drove up on the sidewalk and trapped me between a van and the wall. He started speaking too quietly, and as I strained to hear what he was saying, he grabbed my breasts. I twisted his arm around and took off running. Luckily, I ran into the middle of the street in front of an oncoming car, and the man in the car yelled at the motorbike guy while I escaped. Thus began a year of avoiding the people in my neighborhood.
When we rode the bus, people threw trash at us. We witnessed fights when Arab teens tried to pick up girls. One Brit I knew had a knife put to his throat on a bus. The bus drivers let the Arabs smoke on the bus because if they gave them some concessions, they might be spared real trouble.
When we went to the neighborhood grocery store, young boys (around 12 yrs old) threatened to kill us. One evening while I was on the pay phone, some teens knocked on the glass and said, "Tell your boyfriend that when you get off the phone, we're gonna rape you."
I know that a lot of my problems with France were actually problems with French Arabs. But I lived about half a mile from a police station, and not once did I see a police car check out the area. A man tried to grab me on the street a stone's throw from a police station, which says something about how scared these punks are of the authorities.
France has major problems that have been festering for years. As I watched the footage of these Arabs throwing stones at the public bus, I was not surprised. I'm just surpised it didn't happen sooner.
You know, we kept hearing all this stuff ever since September 11th, you know, the Muslim street is going to explode in anger. Well, it finally did, and it was in Paris, not in the Middle East.
Read all of Steyn's interview, and be very afraid for France.
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