A few days before the riots began, Le Figaro's weekly France-Amerique edition published a disturbing article detailing how French public school textbooks justify terrorism. The article is a summary of the new book Élèves sous influence by Barbara Lefebvre and Éve Bonnivard, published by Editions Audibert, and which details how French high school and college textbooks treat terrorism. The article is Quand les livres scolaires "expliquent" le terrorism: Les manuels d'histoire réduiraient le djihad islamique à une contestation de l'Oncle Sam, by Cécilia Gabizon. (When schoolbooks "explain" terrorism: History textbooks reduce Islamic jihad to a dispute with Uncle Sam.)
Summarizing Élèves sous influence, Gabizon explains that textbooks say almost nothing about the role of Islamic fundamentalism or theocracies in their explanation of terrorism. Rather, terrorism is explained as "l'arme des faibles" (the weapon of the weak), used by people who cannot frontally attack the great powers: the United States and Israel. Textbooks criticize the attitude of condemning only terrorists, and not their enemies. Islamism is justified as resistance to western domination and globalization. The Taliban are described merely as favoring a "rigorous" Islamic moral order.
One textbook quotes with approval an article written in the run-up to the Iraq war, arguing for the urgency of containing American power, which imposes its will by force and is contemptuous of allies.
Also approvingly reprinted in a textbook is a student essay: Terrorism is a revolt against aggressors. As in France during the Nazi occupation, terrorism appears when a people suffer and have no other solution except explosives.
After the riots began, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy denounced the rioters as "racaille," which translates as "rabble" or "scum," depending on who is doing the translation. As the French begin to ponder how their nation came to be filled with a Fifth Column of Jew-hating, French-hating criminal scum, I hope that France re-examines its educational system which, by justifying terrorism against Americans and Israelis, appears to have taught principles that were readily usable to justify terrorism against the French themselves.
UPDATE: A commenter asks how to tell the difference between the justifiable use of arms against tyranny and what Islamonazi terrorists are currently doing. As the commenter notes, I've written several articles on religious attitudes about resistance to tyranny; all of them are available on www.davekopel.org. Most of the religious philosophers whom I cite, including 12th-century Catholics and 17th-century liberal Protestants, addressed the question of "What is tyranny?" a question which is a necessary, but not sufficient, part of inquiring about whether revolution is justified in a particular circumstance. All of these philosophers were Christians, and they were especially interested in freedom for their particular Christian denominations. The philosophers' answers about tyranny are not identical, but they are entirely consistent in two applications: 1. The current French government, notwithstanding its imperfections, is not a tyranny. Among the reasons that it is not a tyranny is that it does not suppress the free exercise of religion. 2. The Taliban-style regimes which contemporary terrorists hope to impose are tyrannies, because they suppress the practice of all religions except for a hateful form of Islam. In modern application, if a government allows religious freedom for everyone, the evidence is strong (although not absolutely dispositive) that the government is not a tyranny, in part because governments which are tolerant of religious freedom are usually tolerant of many other freedoms. Conversely, people who seek a government which will kill all people of a particular race or religion (e.g., Jews) and which will suppress all religions except one particular sect almost certainly is a tyranny. Among the legitimate uses of firearms are self-defense by free governments and free citizens against tyranny and against terrorists who are attempting to impose tyranny.