... or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right (I Peter 2:14)
I have watched a few telecasts now about the French riots, and read a few comments, and checked a few news sources. Not finding what I was looking for in the English-language news sources, I checked some general-purpose news in French. (You can read along here, here, and here and in related links.)
I found that the French Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, been branded dangerous in certain circles for calling the rioters riffraff/rabble/scum; this is supposed to have set back relationships with the volatile Muslim minorities by decades, and his resignation has been demanded. Sarkozy's views that the violence has now become organized has come under opposition from the French left. Nevertheless, Sarkozy's general approval rating remains about 57%. (Note: Sarkozy noticing that torching cars or day care centers is the work of riffraff and is unacceptable seems the sanest thing in the French response to date. With wild mobs roaming the streets destroying properties, it is a bit incomprehensible how the real "danger" of the situation is the person who dares to criticize them.) Nevertheless, Sarkozy has been ridiculed as trying to play the sheriff (which, in the context of that article, was roughly shorthand for a silly, chest-thumping, unsophisticated approach to resolving the conflict. Rhetorically it was a nice move since "sheriff" hints of "primitive" and "uncivilized" and "American" and "Texan" -- pointing the finger silently at He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and determined not to respond likewise).
I found that the head of the Paris Mosque has called for peace overtures -- from the French government. (I would have expected such a call to be directed towards the rioters, myself.) He received assurance that the scene would not be repeated of French forces tear-gasing rioters who had hidden for sanctuary in a mosque. (I did not see any suggestion in reply that the best way to keep a mosque from being tear-gased would involve not letting rioters use the mosque as a hideout.)
I found that the official response is portrayed as coming under some internal criticism from Jean-Marie Le Pen for its impotence (impuissance).
However, on Saturday 11/05/2005 (a bit late, to my thinking, but somewhat better very, very late than never) the parents of the two boys who electrocuted themselves hiding from the police and the local Muslim federation (fédération des musulmans de Clichy-Montfermeil) called for the cessation of all violence.
I am hoping that there were earlier and clearer calls for cessation of violence ...
The question at the top of my mind is this: If "tolerance" is your chief virtue, is there ever a right time to say "This is wrong and must stop"?
For those wondering if the French are over their heads, we can rest assured that they have received offers of help from Moammar Khaddafi of Libya. No, I'm not kidding about the offer of help, just about the part where that might be cause to rest assured. The text I read did not specify which side Khaddafi would be helping.
Last night's rioting was the worst yet, according to French sources on-line. Authorities have also discovered a place where molotov cocktails were being prepared and assembled for nightly rioting. The only strong condemnations that I have seen issued continue to be directed at Interior Minister Sarkozy for taking too hard a line against the rioters; reports more favorable to Sarkozy mention that he has been tough both on crime and on the causes of crime in his statements. The continuing condemnations of the Interior Minister have called his comments "intolerable" without citing any specific comments, so I'm left wondering if he ever said something more incendiary than that the rioters were "racaille" (rabble / riffraff) which seems unobjectionable if a bit understated from my viewpoint. If he has said something more objectionable, it would be nice to see quotes provided. It also seems out of all proportion that the fellow publicly opposing the riots is subject to public censure far more often that the rioters, at least in the articles I've found.
Handy links to updated news for people who read French:
Most violent night yet
Sarkozy's (unspecified) comments "intolerable"
Homespun Molotov cocktail factory
Some prison news on those arrested so far