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The Clear difference between Amman and Paris - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A reader disagreed with my denunciation of extremism with its terrorist repercussions and my understanding of the justifications for the continuous riots in France. The reader questioned whether there was any notable difference between what happened in the Jordanian capital and what has been happening in the French capital for the past few weeks.

The answer is yes. There is a big difference between rebellion that comes as a result of maltreatment and negligence on one hand, and waging war upon a people and a regime on the other. There is a big difference between burning a car and detonating a building. There is a big difference between unrest and terrorism.

What is taking place in France until now is the outburst of anger that increased substantially after the deaths of two young men who were electrocuted as they were pursued by police. Whatever the reasons were for this flight from the police, this incident was evidently what sparked the fires of France. The spreading of chaos in France is a mere reflection of people”s anger towards the government. The brewing of anger lasted for quite a long time and is now transforming into a state of chaos, particularly in the resembling districts in France.

Despite the powerful justifications of these rebellious acts, we do not say that these are wrong practices especially in a democratic country like France, which allows for the freedom of political activity and freedom of expression. We do not categorize the events in France as terrorism nor as organized action, until now at least.

We may agree with the complaints of the rioters, who are mainly of Arab and African origin, but disagree with the way in which they have expressed their anger.

France is a country that enjoys freedom of speech. If there is a matter to protest against, society can do so in the form of a demonstration, with its clear demands for everyone to see and hear, which even the police or army cannot prohibit.

Unfortunately, the rioters have wasted their efforts. Rioting for the sake of releasing fury without making clear demands is the manner of a backwards people. Political mobilization rather than violence was the option available to them that may have provided a solution to their predicament.

The angry rioters however, can change rather than simply expressing their anger. They can change their situation through parliamentary representation, electing those who can represent them in municipalities, local councils and parliament and even in the race for presidency. These are the advantages of an open system that was designed for those whose demands have not been met. The system allows them to protest peacefully for their voices to be heard without having to resort to starting fires, the use of guns or merely complaining about their situation in cafes.

As for terrorism, it is a crime that no society can purge itself of unless it openly wages war against terrorists and destroys it from its roots. Those who are unable to see the major difference between the criminals that assassinated the wedding guests in Amman because of a difference in thinking, and those who burn cars in the poor districts of France, are simply blind.

The anger that is prevalent among the less advantaged French immigrants can be understood completely, however, what one cannot understand nor accept are the actions of Al-Qaeda, its affiliated groups and their ideology that aims at the deliberate murder of civilians whose ideas differ to their own.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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