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Paris is Burning



It is no wonder that the riots in Paris, ignited by the deaths of two Muslim youths, coincides with Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan. For many Muslims world over, it is time of thanksgiving, the end of a period of reflection, and celebration of family and faith. It is, for those living in west, also a moment in time that sets the divisions between cultures in fine contrast.

Let me explain: I wanted to share with my class images of how people celebrate both Diwali (the Hindu festival of lights) and Eid al-Fitr. Doing a search for images I could find many for Diwali but was really frustrated by the fact that all images pertaining to Eid were, for the most part, people praying. The strangeness is this: think about Christmas and now imagine doing a search for the holiday and calling up only pictures of people sitting in church.

Flickr has some 500 photographs of people all over the world celebrating Eid. The images are often personal with little that actually gives some overriding sense of the celebrations.

And this brings me back to Paris and the riots that started in Clichy-sous-Bois. It takes us to Birmingham and Amsterdam. All these places in Europe that have large immigrant populations from predominately Muslim countries. In these places Muslim immigrants live in what could be considered nothing less than ghettos. Not only is there a lack of integration but downright bitter poverty and boiling frustration.

Radicalism blossoms in these conditions and European countries, which welcomed immigration in the past partly as a long term result of colonialism and as means of building and sustaining modern economies, are now facing the stark reality that, whether they like it not, immigrant cultures cannot be ignored. To continue on this path means only more roiting and unrest, at best, and, worse, radical fundamentalism. Islam, throughout Europe now, is an identity one can hold onto when one is neither Moroccan or French, Turkish or German, Pakistani or English.

If governments and their citizens really considered this and are really concerned about the potential for terrorism they would act immediately to integrate disaffected populations and begin to celebrate the cultures which now augment their great traditions.

Back to the images of Eid. When I can do a search and find images of Eid celebrations in Paris, or when I see a commercial for Eid in London, and when I look and can say to myself, "that's French" or "that's Dutch" I know that we, this global culture, will be just a little better off.
gregory turner-rahman