Against the backdrop of the riots in France following the killing of a French-Algerian teen by a Paris policeman, senior Saudi journalist 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, a former director of Al-Arabiya TV and former editor of the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily, wrote in the daily that the main reason for these riots is not French racism or hatred towards immigrants or Muslims, but rather the weakness of the French central government. This, he said, is evident from the fact that the riots continued after the French authorities arrested the policeman and charged him with premeditated murder. Al-Rahsed noted that, over the past few years, the French government has repeatedly failed to deal with violent protests led by various social groups, not all of them immigrants or Muslims. This failure to enforce law and order caused respect for the state institutions to erode, inviting further violent protests. This is why the current riots have brought the country to the brink of civil war, Al-Rashed said. He concluded by noting that, whereas in the past France had to deal mostly with clashes between the political right and left, today it has many diverse social sectors from different backgrounds, which creates vast potential for friction. Hence, a strong central government is vitally needed.
'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed (Image: Rudawarabia.net)
The following are translated excerpts from his article: 
“The events in France have nothing to do with social oppression, white supremacy, Muslims, the burning of the Quran [in Sweden], the Charlie Hebdo magazine's lampooning of the Iranian leadership, or a plot hatched by Russian President Putin against France in retaliation for its support of Ukraine. Nor were they caused by President Biden or the Americans. The protesters weren't all Arab or African immigrants. Not everything proposed by the theories of justification and revenge [is necessarily correct].
“The reason [for the riots in France] is the weakness of the central government, which exacerbates civil disobedience. Social media users call to one another and take to the streets, mostly fired up with alarmist campaigns full of lies. The weakness of the government encourages people who want to break the law, regardless of the issue or matter at hand, and regardless of their [skin] color or motivation, whether they want revenge or [just] to loot and cause mayhem. Last Thursday [June 29, 2023], the French authorities arrested the policeman responsible for the killing of the 17-year-old boy – the incident that sparked the demonstrations – and charged him with premeditated murder, yet the protests continued despite his arrest.
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“It is [generally] assumed that whoever is angry or opposed to [the existing order] can turn to the channels of law and justice, and that, when these channels are weakened or inactive, the socio-political mechanism begins to break down and perhaps to collapse. [But] France has mechanisms and elements to which anyone who alleges deprivation can appeal… Moreover, the French can amplify their demands during elections. Legal immigrants, like all other people in France, can [also] express their opinions through a labor strike or non-violent protests. Conversely, chaos, violence, and vigilantism or 'street justice' are criminal acts that trigger a cycle of violence and counter-violence.
“France has been suffering socially and economically for years. The protests continue and grow, and not all of them are by immigrants or Muslim citizens. There have been rounds of chaos led by environmental organizations, wine producers, conspiracy theorists opposed to the COVID laws, racists, immigrant-haters, [various] professionals and people furious about their economic situation. They frequently used violence to challenge the central French government, which was revealed to be politically weak and powerless [to provide] security – and it is safe to assume that we will witness further [violence of this sort].
“In theory, its [France’s] civil apparatus is broad, flexible and can contain the protesters with all their different demands and worldviews. It has parallel legal and political channels that are supposed to contain the social variables and alleviate the tension. However, due to the eroding respect for the state institutions, some of the protestors no longer suffice with non-violent protests. Today the [French] authorities took action, but too late. They warned that violence was not an option and was not justified under any pretext – economic, ideological, religious or political.
“[The French government] appears weak whenever a social group challenges it. This is not only because it fails to utilize its capabilities to enforce security, but also because the [two] houses of parliament fail to help it by supporting the legal institutions and the enforcement of the law. [Conversely], in Britain, shortly before the coronation of King Charles, the government anticipated the intentions of the protestors and appealed to the Parliament, which passed emergency laws restricting protests and violence, some of them unprecedented laws that specified jail time for anyone disrupting traffic in the streets. The [coronation] passed with respect for tradition and total calm throughout the country.
“A [further] reason for the security failure [in France] is a failure on the level of education. France, and most European countries that suffer from foreign migration, never bothered to establish an educational apparatus that can prepare the immigrants and their children for integration in society and turn them into citizens who share the values [of the local population] and respect the laws of the countries that granted them the privilege of living and working [within them]. Such preparation is vital in order to achieve coexistence among groups, [otherwise] the disagreements and clashes between them worsen and the hatred is passed on to the next generations.
"[But] it is the government’s tardiness in confronting the violence that caused the protests to worsen and come to the brink of civil war in the country. The government hoped that the people would vent their anger and then go home. But, since the authorities were weak in dealing with previous rounds of chaos caused by protestors, this time the protests spread and their leaders became more bold in terms of violence and widespread looting.
“The U.S. – which was negligent in [dealing with] the events of the January 6, 2021 [storming of the Capitol], decided to pursue and prosecute those who had attacked the Capitol and handed down harsh sentences to them… The demonstrator whose picture was published sitting in the chair of U.S. House Speaker [Nancy Pelosi] with his feet up on her desk was convicted of eight felonies.
“In the past France [only] had to deal with clashes, most of them non-violent, between two rival camps: the [political] left and the [political] right. [However], today's France is full to the brim with different groups from different backgrounds, and the clashes among them always threaten to explode due to the weakness of the central government.”
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 3, 2023.