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on 22 March 2014
One of my first experiences of living in Paris was taking the stopping train from the centre of the city back out to CDG airport for a flight home to London. The carriage was crowded, standing room only, meaning it held maybe sixty or eighty or one hundred people. I was the only white person. Notwithstanding, the courtesy I was afforded, when to my surprise a young man was told to stand up and offer me his seat, I was left with the shocking sense of the racial separation that characterises France’s capital city. I learned later that a faster, non-stop train goes straight to CDG airport. You will hardly find a black person on it.
Andrew Hussey’s book begins with a chilling description of the realities of life of the black and Arab-origin populations in the banlieues north of Paris through which my stopping train travelled, cross-referenced to the comparable realities of the outskirts of Lyon and Marseille. The strength of his writing is not just that he gives a sense of how and why the young men of these districts have come into the centre of these cities to burn cars and riot, and sometimes to kill, but he makes you wonder why there isn’t more of it.
It would be easy but wrong to dismiss the challenges in France as comparable to the ones we face in England. Hussey shows how French republican fervour, the determined belief that everyone is not only free but equal – the same - means that the colour of someone’s skin is considered irrelevant. Under republican orthodoxy, the separation of whites in the centre of the city and blacks around the outside is not a legitimate concern.
The French experience of colonialism was very different from ours, especially where its relations with its North African neighbours were concerned. Geographical proximity, the short distance of a narrow sea, makes comparisons with the British experience in Ireland valid to some extent. Hussey gives a brief account of the recent history of the Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia from where the immigrant communities are descended. One result being that the disenfranchised diaspora in the banlieues of Paris is Muslim by background, in a contemporary world where the call of Islamist insurrection is loud and the threat of terrorism very real. Hussey argues that the official response, of arrest and imprisonment, not only fails to deal with this threat but actively creates a school of radicalisation.
What do they think, and how do they feel? Not many white people have taken the time and trouble, and the risk, to go into the banlieues and the prisons to try and find out. The strength of non-identity of second and third generation immigrant French men, educated in France, yet who truly hate the country of their birth is placed in the context of the history of their parents and grandparents. The quality of the pied noir experience in the Maghreb, and the viciousness of the breaking of this recent history, creates a negativity and menace which, in a world where Islamist philosophy remains a determined threat to the West, is something we all need to understand better, before it is too late.
The French Intifada is an account by someone who has gone there, seen it, and reflected with intelligent concern. Hussey’s engaging and highly readable mix of personal experience and contemporary reporting, combined with the reflective eye of historian, literary critic and cultural commentator, helps to address the question of how we have all reached the point we are at today. Leading to the profoundly worrying question of where are we going?
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on 27 June 2015
This is a very good book. Hussey delivers what can only be described as an appraisal of France's secret civil war with it's own Muslim Arab immigrant population. I realise how unlikely that scenario sounds, but the author's evidence is very compelling as well as significantly unnerving too. There are some serious divisions within French society that show no signs of going away and the author explains why this is the case by analysing in-depth present day French politics. Hussey also goes on to explain how French colonial history in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia have also contributed to this tense state of affairs.

Hussey knows his subject well and this clearly shows in his writing as he identifies the current situation in France today; Predominantly white, well maintained, metropolitan cities bordered by run down and poorly funded suburbs (the 'banlieues') housing significant numbers of Arab and North African Muslim migrants. As highlighted, these Migrants are unhappy, very unhappy indeed, at what they see as their marginalisation by mainstream French society. However, they are a people consumed by a deep hatred for their former colonial master. They hate France and all she stands for. This anger has led to violent civil disruption and riots on a scale which, if they'd occurred in other European nations, would have led to serious political upheaval. But not in France. Such anger and thirst for revenge is apparently normal behaviour in there.

A large amount of this anger and hatred amongst the immigrant population stems from the French history in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Whilst none of the European power's empires can claim to be truly benevolent, French conduct in all three nations has left a lot to be desired, particularly in Algeria. Indeed, Hussey gives over a large portion of the book to Algeria and the conduct of the French 'colons' who moved over there. The denigration of the local populace as well as the harsh and vicious treatment at the hands of arrogant colonial settlers was enough to cause resentment and anger not only in Algeria but also Morocco and Tunisia.

The development of the ethnically French 'Pied-Noirs' peoples in Algeria over the years has also contributed much antagonism and anger, both among the French and the Algerians themselves. Hussey develops and explains their role also. Indeed, the nasty situation which arose in Algeria led to the rushed independence during the 1960s for Morocco and Tunisia, which certainly didn't help either the development of those two states or the relationship between North Africans and the French.

Hussey's work is excellent. This is a page turner and a very easily readable book. Above all, I was very impressed with the intimate nature with which the author writes about a subject that's clearly very dear to him. His histories of the Maghreb nations contributes immensely to his work and provides essential understanding as to why many North African Muslims living in France feel as they do. They hate France and all it stands for. They seek revenge through violence and destruction. Very frightening. I was also impressed with the fact that Hussey offers no dinky solution to the present crisis in France. Indeed, his work offers a bleak picture to the quite civil war currently underway across the Channel.

Again, there's more in this book than can be reviewed here. I recommend it for those interested in France and it's history as well as the history of Maghreb North Africa.
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on 12 May 2014
The book is a fine analysis of the relation between France and its erstwhile colonies , and reveals a callous attitude to that
indigenous population The impression is that France has become two states, with no dialogue between them
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 November 2015
It seems that most, if not all, of the terrorists that attacked Paris on 13 November 2015 were French. Only they did not feel French. Their allegiances were elsewhere. But what motivated them? This is one of the books that I have read to find out an answer.
What I found was a bleak account where the division between France and its Arab populations seems utterly stark and unbridgeable. It starts with a riot the author witnesses at the Gare de Nord in 2007. The account turns to recent incidents, the torture and murder of a young Jewish salesman in 2006, the murders at a Jewish school in 2012 and then a chronicle of colonial history in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. A concluding chapter deals with radicalisation in French prisons.

In some respects, a standard liberal explanation is offered – the struggle ‘between the colonisers and the colonised’ is the catch phrase of this book. He doesn’t however draw liberal conclusions. He thinks that the rage of the so-called dispossessed is implacable. It is not merely an equalities issue. ‘F*** France!’ is the refrain of the alienated and they mean f*** everything French, A to Z. What they want is not liberty, equality and fraternity but revenge. France, according to Hussey, does not need a hard-headed political solution but an exorcist.

Strong, bracing stuff. So why only three stars? Not on account of its writing – he writes fantastically well – but because there is too much reliance on psychological explanations. I don’t have a problem per se with that but there is no attempt to get data to scope the scale of the problem. This is partially because statistics are not kept. It is suspected that 80 per cent of the French prison population is Muslim but no one knows because the French code of moral equality, Laïcité, forbids the collection of such data.

But it is not as if the data are not out there. There are five million ‘Muslims’ in France but many are secular. According to 2011 poll by the l’Institut Français d’Opinion Publique (Ifop), only 40 per cent call themselves ‘observant Muslims’ – and only 25 per cent attend Friday prayers. Another poll, among observant Muslims, found that 68 per cent of women never wear the hijab. Fewer than a third of practising Muslims would forbid their daughters from marrying a non-Muslim. Eighty-one per cent accept that women should have equal rights in divorce, 44 per cent have no problem with the issue of co-habitation, 38 per cent support the right to abortion, and 31 per cent approve of sex before marriage. Only on homosexuality is there a deeply conservative stance: 77 per cent of practising Muslims disapprove (poll evidence is taken from Kenan Malik’s website, Pandaemonium).

So how bad is it, then? Obviously, Hussey’s account must contain a great deal of truth. We can’t explain the attacks without reference to the strong undercurrent of nihilistic disaffection among France’s Muslim communities, disaffection that runs deep, driven by ideas with fangs, and it’s not just a matter of adjusting public policy to assuage it. But what is the scope of the problem? Are there counter currents, as the poll data I have shared suggest there are? Perhaps the data are unrepresentative. But at least it’s concrete evidence to be going on, which this book does not really provide, not when it comes to discussing the contemporary problem in France.

I could be accused of being too harsh here. This is a book of cultural history, not social science. Fair enough, but even in history nothing is ever so straightforward. The relationship between France and its former North African colonies is fraught with complexity, as Britain’s relationships with its former colonies are (think of Britain and Ireland). One suspects that the reduction of this to a struggle between the ‘colonisers and the colonised’ is too pat. This makes for a great narrative but I am not so sure if it’s such good history. Indeed, Hussey seems sometimes to grasp this, in his discussion of the psychology of the disaffected, who sometimes seem to hate everything French and sometimes seem desperate to be accepted as French. Moroccan youth cry out that they are ‘dying of boredom’ in their country. Where do they want to go to escape it? To France, of course. These ambiguities do not get the attention they deserve. Nor do French efforts to bridge the divide get the mention that they should. French policy has vacillated between Mitterand’s ‘Viva La Difference’ and aggressive assertions of assimilation, like the headscarves furore. Racism, exclusion and a dirty colonial history do not sum up France’s relationship with its immigrant communities.

For me, there are two pitfalls in this debate. One is to treat the problem of difference as just one big misunderstanding, in other words to deny difference exists. It does. There is no doubt about that and much of it is ideological, driven by clashing world views. The other is to treat migrants as one undifferentiated mass of ‘them’, a pitfall that not only ‘Islamaphones’ fall into. Hussey’s book avoids the first but falls into the second. It was still worth my time to read – it’s a page-turner. But the question I had when I picked it up in the first place wasn’t answered, for all the reasons above.
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on 10 December 2015
A fascinating and illuminating account of the problem of Islamist radicalism in France and its former Francophone colonies in the Maghreb.

Hussey goes into great historical detail about the history of French rule and contemprary political influence in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, but it would have been far more interesting if he had explored in greater detail issues like the high number of Muslims in French jails, which may help create the febrile and dangerous atmosphere that fosters Islamism and the nihilistic identity that underpins it. Nevertheless this book is essential reading if you want to understand the situation in France.
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on 30 December 2015
This is a fabulous book. If you want to truly understand the french - arab situation in France this book is a must to read. I thought I knew the background to the internal conflicts over the years in France and Algeria but I only knew the superficial. This book is incredibly well researched and a very good writing style. please take my recommendation and read and understand the background
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on 8 August 2015
Just as one would expect from Mr Hussey, this is a very informative easy to read book. One comment however is that grammatically there are many mistakes if one follows traditional rules, but , it seems nowadays hardly anyone follows the rules.
I was rather astonished reading it since I had no idea of what went on in France and the extent of their "problems" - a marvellous book
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on 5 February 2015
Great Book, outlining with precision and clarity the origins to the current problems facing France and other European countries relating to the rise and rise of 'angry young people' who espouse the Muslim faith.
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on 17 May 2015
This I found very interesting because I knew nothing about the impact of Algeria on France. And, of course, the enormous impact of France on Algeria. It's quite sad really how the whole thing was managed. Other countries that had colonies were no better.
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on 2 December 2015
Don't think of going to France, especially Paris, without reading this book. The relationship between the indigenous French and the descendants of France's colonisation of North Africa is deeply troubled. The future of the country depends on successfully resolving this crisis. With bad faith on all sides, one would have to be quite the optimist to see a happy ending any time soon. Credit to Hussey for telling the harrowing story in a straight-forward way. This book has street cred.
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