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The Prophet Houellebecq

Marine Le Pen: Insufficiently French? Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock.com

Reader Devinicus makes a great point in this comment:

Houellebecq speeds up fictional history while the Kouachi brothers speed up actual history:

In the spirit of unity, President François Hollande invited his arch-rival to the Elysée Palace, in what was Sarkozy’s first visit to the seat of the presidency since he lost power in 2012. The former president, who is back at the helm of the opposition UMP party, accepted Hollande’s invitation to attend a rally in support of Charlie Hebdo and national unity on Sunday. …

By Thursday afternoon, most other parties had followed suit, with the notable exception of the National Front (FN). Its leader, Marine Le Pen, said she had not received an invitation. She denounced the FN’s “exclusion” from the rally and proclaimed “the end of national unity”.

Just as in Sweden and Germany, mainstream political elites are uniting together against the One Unacceptable Force.

More from that France24 story linked in the comment:

The question of whether to invite France’s far right presents a dilemma for Hollande’s Socialist government, which is traditionally averse to any dealings with a party it deems “un-republican”.

By failing to invite Le Pen’s party, the government exposes itself to claims it undermined its own call for unity. If it chooses otherwise, it will incur the wrath of the FN’s many foes.

“There can be no exclusion from national unity,” said Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Thursday, though adding that this unity must be built around certain values “that are profoundly republican – of tolerance, of a refusal to associate [Islam with extremism]”.

The latter remark was widely interpreted as a suggestion that the FN did not meet these requirements.

Houellebecq is turning out to be a prophet. If I’ve read the publicity correctly, his Soumission seems to take the line that the French establishment would rather submit to Islam than treat the National Front as acceptable. Says The Economist, summarizing the Houellebecq novel:

Then, in an imaginary France of 2022, a political earthquake shakes him out of his torpor. The two mainstream parties, on the left and the right, are eliminated in the first round of a presidential election. This leaves French voters with the choice between Marine Le Pen’s populist National Front—and the Muslim Fraternity, a new party led by Mohammed Ben Abbes. Thanks to an anti-Le Pen front, Mr Ben Abbes is elected and thus begins Muslim rule.

After a period of disorder, France returns to a strange calm under its apparently moderate new Muslim president; and François, who fled briefly, returns to Paris. But the city, and his university, are unrecognisable. More women are veiled, and give up work to look after their menfolk (helping to bring down France’s unemployment rate). Polygamy is made legal. France embarks on a geopolitical project to merge Europe with Muslim Mediterranean states. Saudi Arabia has poured petrodollars into better pay for professors and posh apartments on the city’s left bank. And his own university has been rebranded the Islamic University of Paris-Sorbonne. Will François, an atheist, resist, or flee the new regime or compromise with it?

That’s not exactly what’s happening here, with this planned rally, but you can see what Houellebecq means.

French readers, what will the exclusion of Marine Le Pen and the FN from this national solidarity rally do for the FN, or to the FN? Will it make it more popular, or will it take away from its popularity?

UPDATE: Reader HP writes from France:

The French political class is totally discredited, and for very good reason. Marine Le Pen isn’t the Antichrist, true enough. But except for her not being the Antichrist, what qualities does she have?

First of all, as far as “immigrants” are concerned, she is basically lying to people. The reality is that 10% of the French population is Muslim, and almost all of them are French citizens. These people are not going to be deported. They will not be sent to concentration camps. Hopefully there won’t be a civil war with the aim to kill them all. So in the end, they will have to be accomodated, just like everybody else. Now we are all adults here, how can anybody imagine that you can make peacefully live with other people if you insist in saying that what they are is despicable and that they “have to” become something that they are not? How realistic is that, exactly? And note that I am not talking about right and wrong here. But if we are going to talk about right and wrong, I am a (idiosyncratic) conservative and an (even more idiosyncratic) patriot: my values do not allow for civil war. And damn it, I would be happy if we would turn back “the tide of history” just a wee little bit and make some accomodations for moderate social conservatism, which is what 95% of European Muslims stand for. The remaining 5% is divided between the kind of crazies who kill people because of tasteless drawings and the kind that are only called Muslims because of their ethnicity but who are actually progressive extremists. And make no mistake, there’s way, way more of the latter than of the former.

Second, what kind of conservative, which is what Le Pen is supposed to be, defines “Western society”, the kind that has to be “defended” against Islam as basically everything progressives have been able to force on us during the last two decades? And you know what, my problem isn’t even that she does accept these things, because everybody else does too, my problem is that she doesn’t really care about any of that: the only thing she really cares about is finding a reason, any reason, to attack Muslims.

Well not with me. We’ve had this during the thirties – and if I can be politically incorrect, people did have “reasons” not to like Jews, really terrible reasons, but some of them much less irrational than we are led to believe now. Look what happened. That is not the kind of mistake you make twice.

UPDATE.2: Reader pj writes:

The portrait of FN vs. Islam misses the point to me. France is currently in worse shape than either of those two options would lead to. France is already a fundamentalist state. Its religion is secularism and it suppresses those who dissent on a daily basis. I once had a French Muslim graduate student of Algerian descent come to my lab, otherwise filled with a Baptist, a Mormon, an evangelical and two hard core Pentecostals. It took a while for him to adjust. He had a presumption that he should not get along with a bunch of Christians because he was not used to interacting with any, but remarked about how much less stifling the US environment was since he could be himself–have knock down drag out religious discussions, etc.–and still get back to work or share a meal with co-workers. I sympathized completely with his stories from the other side of the world even though I rejected his religious beliefs. France truly has no concept of religious freedom and the ability to be yourself.

The French people are supporting freedom of expression for journalists and that’s all fine and good, but do they lament the lack of freedom of expression for the religious? Because that is what they do in France by blocking Christians from wearing crosses and Muslims from wearing veils and all the rest. If anything happens from this event, it is probably to crank down on religious freedom further and in doing so make the problem worse. So freedom of speech there only goes one direction; you can mock religion publicly but not affirm it. In that situation, you are going to push people into the fringes. They are lucky that Christianity is in many ways a real religion of peace–Turn the other cheek and Love your enemies, etc.–or this might have happened sooner. I do not condone terrorism and dead journalists and the newspaper did not bring it on themselves, but French culture–in part–did by suppressing normal religious expression in the first place. Sorry, I know that is not a PC statement, but it is the truth.

Fortunately, we have a 1st amendment here, so it is unlikely that we will ever face such a restrictive environment in the US. But if the left secularists ever grab hold of enough power in legislative bodies or courts to try and impose one, I dare say many of us might well conclude that it is approaching the time for a 2nd American revolution and start arming ourselves. I know as a Christian I should turn the other cheek and not resist authorities, but as an American I would not feel like rolling over if someone started depriving my fundamental rights the way that French culture does.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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