Thursday, December 17, 2015

Submission possible - Clifford D. May

by Clifford D. May

A French novelist imagines an Islamist Europe.

Michel Houellebecq is a sardonic and iconoclastic French novelist, winner of the prestigious Prix ‎Goncourt, and subject of considerable controversy in Europe these days. He deserves to be ‎controversial here in the United States as well.‎

He calls his most recent novel a work of "political fiction." Titled "Soumission" (in English, ‎‎"Submission," in Arabic, an accurate translation would be "Islam"), it is set in the near future, in ‎France, "a Western civilization now ending before our very eyes." ‎

Coincidence No. 1: "Soumission" was published in France the same week jihadis attacked the ‎offices of Charlie Hebdo, slaughtering as many members of the editorial staff as they could. ‎

Coincidence No. 2: The satirical magazine's cover that week featured a caricature of M. ‎Houellebecq. It showed him with a large, pimpled nose and bleary eyes, smoking a cigarette and ‎wearing a wizard's hat. The caption read: "Predictions of the sorcerer Houellebecq." In cartoon ‎balloons, he is making two: "In 2015, I'll lose my teeth" and "In 2022, I'll observe Ramadan."‎

A very good English language translation of the novel has now been published. If I were to send ‎copies to U.S. President Obama and all the presidential candidates, do you think they'd read it?‎

Houellebecq's protagonist, Francois, is a world-weary, middle-aged, literature professor at the ‎Sorbonne, a great expert on Joris-Karl Huysmans, a writer of the 19th century Decadent ‎movement. Though bored by academia, Francois' enthusiasm for young women and haute cuisine ‎remain undiminished. Not a particularly political animal, he is only mildly concerned when the ‎Socialists begin negotiating with France's Muslim Brotherhood party to defeat Marine Le Pen's ‎‎"nativist" National Front.‎

A politically savvy acquaintance explains that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Socialists "see ‎eye to eye" on economic issues, "and what's more, the Muslims can actually bring order to the ‎banlieues [suburbs, particularly those populated by immigrants and French of foreign descent]. In foreign policy, they want France to take a slightly firmer stand against Israel, but ‎that's hardly a problem for the left." ‎

Most important to the Muslim Brotherhood, he says, is "birthrate and education. To them it's ‎simple -- whichever segment of the population has the highest birthrate, and does the best job of ‎transmitting its values, wins. If you control the children, you control the future." ‎

Also, they demand the Socialists recognize polygamy and agree that it should "come with the ‎same benefits and tax exemptions." This falls under "the theory of minority Shariah, which the ‎Muslim Brotherhood has already embraced."‎

We learn that such political developments are not unique to France. In Belgium, a Muslim ‎political party has just won a national election, and Islamic parties are ascendant in Britain, ‎Holland and Germany as well. ‎

At the same time, the European Union is being reoriented toward the Mediterranean. ‎Negotiations are underway to bring Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco into the EU. "Preliminary talks ‎had begun with Lebanon and Egypt."‎

Before long, France is celebrating the inauguration of a new president: Mohammad Ben Abbes. ‎He is an Islamist (he prefers to achieve Islamic supremacy through the ballot box), not a jihadist ‎‎(he does not hold with those who believe the path to the caliphate can only be cleared with the ‎sword).‎

Francois elaborates: "Unlike his sometime rival Tariq Ramadan, who'd been tainted by his old ‎Trotskyite connections, Ben Abbes had kept his distance from the anticapitalist left. ... Whereas ‎Ramadan presented Shariah as forward-looking, even revolutionary, Ben Abbes restored its ‎reassuring, traditional value -- with a perfume of exoticism that made it all the more attractive."‎

Certainly, President Ben Abbes has no intention of turning France into a dystopia along the lines ‎of the Islamic State. But, backed by Middle Eastern petromonarchs, a transformation of French ‎life and culture begins. On campus, Francois notices "the way the girls in burkas carried ‎themselves. They moved slowly and with new confidence, walking down the very middle of the ‎hallway, three by three, as if they were already in charge." ‎

Francois' 22-year-old Jewish girlfriend, Myriam, prepares to emigrate. She is not eager to go ‎‎("France is my home. ... I love France. ... I love ... I don't know ... I love the cheese") but her ‎parents insist and she understands: "When a Muslim party comes to power, it's never good for ‎the Jews. Can you think of a time it was?" she asks Francois.‎

After the election, the Sorbonne is restored to financial health by a Saudi prince and renamed the ‎Islamic University of Paris-Sorbonne. As a non-Muslim, Francois is no longer permitted to teach ‎there. This is no reflection on the quality of his scholarship, the new president of the university, ‎Robert Rediger, a convert to Islam, reassures him. And of course he is free to continue his career ‎at a secular university. Alternatively, he can retire -- he is eligible for a generous pension ‎‎"effective immediately."‎

At first, Francois leans toward that option. Teaching has provided little satisfaction. However, he ‎finds himself increasingly intrigued by the political, philosophical and theological perspectives ‎articulated by the university president -- whom the new government promotes to the post of ‎‎"secretary of universities." ‎

Among other things, he argues that "the summit of human happiness resides in the most absolute ‎submission." He thinks it apparent that "Islam had been chosen for world domination." ‎

Francois is struck, too, by how Rediger lives: "A 40-year-old wife to do the cooking, ‎a 15-year-old wife for whatever else. ... No doubt he had one or two wives in between."‎

I suspect you've already guessed where the story goes from there. The larger question, the one ‎that Houellebecq has now thrust into France's public square, the one that has set off such a ‎scandal, is where Europe is going and what it will look like when it gets there.‎

Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a ‎columnist for The Washington Times


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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