Those responsible are groups of young Muslim men, the sons of families from France's former Arab and African colonial territories, who have said in interviews that they are protesting economic misery, racial discrimination and provocative policing.
The leader of one police union, Bruno Beschizza, described the riots as "urban terrorism", led by a radicalized minority of criminals and "Islamic radicals".
Sarkozy, who harbours ambitions of becoming president in 2007 elections, has claimed that they are being orchestrated by unknown organizers.
Shrinkwrapped calls this the "French Intifada." (ht Roger L. Simon) He quotes Amir Taheri:
Some are even calling for the areas where Muslims form a majority of the population to be reorganized on the basis of the "millet" system of the Ottoman Empire: Each religious community (millet) would enjoy the right to organize its social, cultural and educational life in accordance with its religious beliefs.
In parts of France, a de facto millet system is already in place. In these areas, all women are obliged to wear the standardized Islamist "hijab" while most men grow their beards to the length prescribed by the sheiks.
The radicals have managed to chase away French shopkeepers selling alcohol and pork products, forced "places of sin," such as dancing halls, cinemas and theaters, to close down, and seized control of much of the local administration.
A reporter who spent last weekend in Clichy and its neighboring towns of Bondy, Aulnay-sous-Bois and Bobigny heard a single overarching message: The French authorities should keep out.
"All we demand is to be left alone," said Mouloud Dahmani, one of the local "emirs" engaged in negotiations to persuade the French to withdraw the police and allow a committee of sheiks, mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood, to negotiate an end to the hostilities.
Here's a link to the Al Jazeera coverage.
Mark Steyn's take here:
And essentially, you're dealing with communities that are totally isolated from the mainstream of French life. Where all kinds of practices that wouldn't be tolerated, that are not officially tolerated by French law, such as polygamy, for example. Polygamy is openly practiced in these...in les Banlieux, as they call these suburbs, these Muslim quarters of Paris. I mean, we're talking about five miles from the Elysee Palace. Five miles from where Jacques Chirac sits. And you finally got...you know, we kept hearing all this stuff ever since September 11th, you know, the Muslim street is going to explode in anger. Well, it finally did, and it was in Paris, not in the Middle East..