The French government seems to think hosting world leaders and several hundred thousand French citizens at rallies for unity is a step towards the social cohesion which was damaged by the Paris atrocities. They may be right.
There is the obvious risk of more terror. Put a lot of people in one place at a pre-annonouced time and you create a target. I hope and pray the French security services are up to the job.
The greater risk is that the people who show up will be the lily white crowds who have attended the “Je Suis Charlie” demos to date. Will that build unity or will it serve to illustrate the two solitudes which have emerged in France. Without black faces and headscarves the rallies risk underscoring the essential problem Islam poses for France.
The gains from such rallies are ephemeral. If they are successful everyone will feel a little better. The downside risks are long term. Even without a terrorist outrage the stark divisions present in French society may well be underscored.
For France’s sake I hope the rallies are a huge success but there is no question that they represent huge risks for minimal gains. And on Monday the very real problems ill thought out mass Muslim immigration pose for France will be just as intractable.
UPDATE: The March has come and gone and other than anyone trampled by Sarkozy as he pushed his way to the front row, it was without terrorist incident.
And, with the exception of the President of Mali, it was a collection of 1.5 million white French people. I have been scanning the pics but I’ve seen no signs of any black faces. No doubt there were some which I have missed. No headscarves that I could see. I may have missed some of those as well as it was a cold day and people were bundled up.
However, I think it is fair to say that if the demographics of the crowds out today were the actual demographics of France the atrocity at Charlie Hebdo would not have happened.
Non-white, Muslim immigration to France has been a failure. There has been no integration at any sort of mass cultural level. Realistically, one reason why there are so few obvious Muslims at the Charlie Hebdo rallies is because they would have been made to feel deeply unwelcome. As they have been for fifty years.
The Solidarity rally reminded French people of a France which has vanished from day to day life. At the rally there were no “No go” zones.
The sullen, sometimes violent, black, Arab and Muslim immigrants whom the majority of the French population ignore or, sadly, despise are out of sight at the rally. As they are in the parts of France the rally goers will tend to come from.
Tomorrow the rally will be over and the intractibily of the French problems with race, religion and radicals will return.
Two aspects to these rallies. One is the number, which is considerable. Politicians follow, and they have something to follow.
As well, if the politicians or establishment generally didn’t show up in reaction they would have problems.
A very large hole was the lack of American representation equal to the issue. Obama will come to regret it.