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Gilles Keppel: Multiculti + Londonistan = Terror

About the author

Tony Curzon Price was Editor-in-Chief of openDemocracy from 2007 to 2012, where he is now contributing editor and technical director. He blogs at

Gilles Kepel, French scholar of Islam (and openDemocracy author) presented us with a paradox: British ``multi-culti'' gave home born terrorism; French republicanism, fired by ``la Mission Civilisatrice de la France'' (the civilising vocation of France), produced banlieues riots of disaffected youth, but no dangerous terrorism. Are there lessons to be drawn?

Kepel offers the argument that the 7/7 bombers came from communities that had, by the policy of multi-culturalism, been allowed to retain their own community structures. These structures were not ready to accommodate the second and third generation rebels, some of whom turned to the radicalism that had been given friendly bearth in Londonistan from the 1970s onwards. The two together made some young men prepared to become terrorists, while the old community structures were unwilling to denounce them because of Britain's Iraq involvement.

The banlieues riots, on the other hand, were caused by the failure of economic growth--the oil that greases the machine that makes French men and women. Hence the inability of any serious religious organisation of the religion--the absence of such a religious tissue is part of the strong laicité (secularity) of the French model.

So here is Kepel's bleak trade-off it seems: immigrant populations capable of a sense of belonging and identification, but which can attach itself to violent alternatives; or an alienated sub-culture waiting for the social elevator, which is decidedly en panne.

But need we be so bleak? If Kepel is right in the historical analysis of British multiculturalism, the link to violence, via Londonistan's radicals, is quite accidental to the system. So, once the worst excesses of that policy are over, multi-culti may not be the dead-end Kepel describes.


tony curzon price 2007-09-02

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