To understand how Australia could succumb to Islam you need to grasp only one thing: key élites in Western countries would sell out in a heartbeat. That is the primary lesson to be drawn from the two best-selling books about the crisis of Islam in France: Soumission (‘Submission’) a novel by Michel Houellebecq, published in January, and Le Suicide français (‘The French Suicide’) a history of French decline by Éric Zemmour, published last October.
This treachery is certainly the case with academics, as Houellebecq emphasizes by making François, the protagonist (or anti-hero) of his narrative, a professor of literature at Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle. There he specializes in the work of the influential nineteenth century novelist of decadence, Joris-Karl Huysmans, most famous for À rebours (1884), published in English as Against Nature. This is a work saturated with hatred and contempt for the West, Christianity, and the values and conventions of middle-class life, as is the vast bulk of the work done by arts and humanities academics today. Houellebecq’s François lives vicariously in this realm of aestheticist indulgence, musing nihilistically how the Western masses are little more than animals, living their lives mindlessly, without feeling the least need to justify themselves. “They live because they live, and that’s all,” he says.
But François is no different. He is facing a mid-life crisis: his academic career has stalled and the supply of young female students eager to trade sexual favours for special consideration is drying up. And he is only too aware that the knowledge he offers his students and the degrees they acquire at his diploma mill are of little value. What good is arcane knowledge of Proust if you’re selling perfume in a shop? Self-obsessed, François acts mainly as a witness to the succession of political events described in the novel (set in 2022), as the mainstream parties miscalculate in a catastrophic fashion, fragment the popular vote, and deliver France into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, which immediately begins to establish an Islamist regime, beginning with the education system.
François hears rumours of violence and gunfire in the distance, but he succumbs to the same disconnected complacency that engulfed intellectuals during the Weimar republic and paved the way for the Nazi takeover of Germany (so well illustrated in the famous scene in Cabaret, where the Hitler Youth sings “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”. When the Islamo-fascist constitutional coup is suddenly a fait accompli, François finds himself confronted by the fateful choice all his colleagues also face: submit, convert to Islam, and keep his job; or resist and find himself outcast in a new France quickly being transformed into an Islamist state.
Like other members of the French élites, François finds it remarkably easy to submit to the new regime, invigorated by its self-assured authoritarianism, leavened as it is by a faux regard for his status as an academic. Overwhelmed by isolation and the emptiness of his life he longs to lose all sense of himself as an individual and submerge into a vast amorphous mass of unquestioned belief, and here one episode in Soumission rings particularly true. This concerns the un-principled intellectual opportunism of contemporary academics, especially those who take the managerialist path after failing to make a mark in their academic field. François is confronted by a collaborationist colleague only too happy to do his new Muslim masters’ bidding and denounce the great heritage of Western Humanism. This is a perennial obsession of French, American, and Australian intellectuals who take their lead from Martin Heidegger (see Quadrant‘s Heidegger and the Nazi-Philosophers, July 2013), Claude Lévi-Strauss, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida (Quadrant, Derrida and the destruction of the humanities, April 2013), and other theorists of postmodernism. These delight in pouring contempt on all notions of human nature, subjectivity, individuality, inalienable rights, and especially the notion that reason and consciousness grants humanity any special status in the grand scheme of things.
Humanism has failed, François’s professorial colleague insists, faith in humanity is defunct, and so it is time to embrace Islam, which places man in the correct position of absolute submission to an inscrutable God, whose Will is interpreted and handed down by a clerical élite in a one-directional, hierarchical manner with which the professor and François are very comfortable.
And so François submits and converts, a choice made much easier by the promise of a polygamous marriage operating according to Sharia law: with a 40-year-old wife to do the cooking and house-keeping, a 15-year-old for sexual gratification, and perhaps several more for various other purposes. He takes heart too from Dominique Aury’s sado-masochistic The Story of O, which teaches that ultimate happiness is found through absolute submission. And here he might also have recalled Foucault’s infamous celebration of the Iranian Revolution, when he met with the Ayatollah Khomeini and became delirious with sado-masochistic delight at the sight of thousands of Shiite men whipping their bare backs into bloody pulp as they marched through Tehran. He is also encouraged by Huysmans’s deathbed conversion to Catholicism, when the militant atheist realized he couldn’t face the looming certainty of personal oblivion without supernatural support. And of course, François’s decision to defect from the West is made much easier by more material considerations, including the massive salary increase he will receive on the understanding that his teaching and research reflect the world-view of fundamentalist Islam, especially the Salafism of the Saudi princes who now own the university.
Zemmour’s indictment is broader. It goes far beyond the solipsistic world of pampered academics, itemizing in 79 brief chapters the actions, decisions, and events that have led to France’s self-inflicted and terminal decline. In a manner reminiscent of Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged, he details how a myriad of events, apparently minor if viewed in isolation, accumulate to destroy a republic. These are political, cultural, and ideological, and range from French subservience to America, Germany, and the European Union, to mass immigration (mainly Muslim), feminism, birth control, postmodernism, identity politics, and progressive capitulation to Muslim demands for control over education. The perpetrators of this national betrayal include the left-wing media, academics, feminists, the educational establishment, Brussel’s bureaucrats, radical environmentalists, and the globally-minded corporations which have outsourced French jobs. Their first line of defence is an aggressive and intrusive political correctness, enshrined in an ever-growing number of laws that prohibit debate about the steps they have taken along the road to perdition.
Zemmour is particularly livid about the blindness of multiculturalism, with its fierce resistance to any notion of social and cultural integration, which has guaranteed the presence of terminally alienated Muslim enclaves, filled with self-righteous rage against a society which has refused to accommodate their demands for exceptional treatment. He is also appalled by the way in which feminism has demonized marriage and men, and encouraged young women to have children out of wedlock, leaving masses of them to live into old age as single mothers, alone or at the mercy of transient men, and dependent on the state. Allied to this destruction of the family is Zemmour’s despair about the declining birth-rate amongst the native-born French, leaving population growth in the hands of the fecund immigrant masses, and here he quotes the former Algerian president, Houari Boumediene, who observed in 1974 that the Third World would ultimately engulf the West through immigration and reproduction. In the end, “the wombs of our women will bring us victory”.
Zemmour is also contemptuous of the parties of the left in France, which embraced identity politics and abandoned the French working class, imposing upon it a vast and crippling burden of invented guilt and the opprobrium of racism. In desperation, the workers have been driven into the arms of the National Front, prompting the left in reprisal to use violence, intimidation, and draconian laws suppressing any criticism of Muslims, multiculturalism, or any other elements of their new constituency. (This is the path of repression well-trodden by the Australian left and its academics particularly, as heralded by the notorious Blainey affair. In place of the heroic vision of republican France born out of the first great European revolution against special status and privilege, the left depicts France as a brutal imperialist power built on the oppression and exploitation of colonial peoples. Accordingly, academics teach nothing but narratives of limitless and disempowering guilt. Calls for the better integration of immigrants are denounced as racist, while the Muslim enclaves grow fat with self-righteously enraged and unemployable young people, happy to jettison the republican ideal (which means nothing to them) in favour of an imaginary Islamist paradise based on Sharia law imposed on France through terror. Like Houellebecq, Zemmour concludes that the ancient civilization of the West epitomized by France is doomed; it simply lacks the guts to defend itself against a relentless, self-confident enemy. “France is dying, France is dead”, he concludes.
Critics from the left have lined up to attack Houellebecq and especially Zemmour, who is depicted as a deranged neo-Gaullist prophet of cultural despair. Adam Gopnick exemplifies this leftist complacency, ridiculing the concerns of Houellebecq and Zemmour. He writes in in The New Yorker:
The idea of an overnight Muslim takeover, where suddenly the University of Paris becomes the Islamic University of Paris, perches at the back of the European apocalyptic imagination, perhaps because it once really happened. On the morning of May 28, 1453, Constantinople was still a Christian city. The next day, it wasn’t. The great churches were turned into great mosques, and the Sultan’s flag flew over the conquered city.
Gopnick thinks this is a throw-away line (who cares if a Muslim flag flies over Sophia Hagia?), but in fact it depicts a cataclysm that re-shaped the world. Apart from the brutal sacking, carnage, and wholesale rape in which his victorious troops indulged, the victory confirmed Mehmed II in his view that he was the instrument of Allah upon the earth. The prophet Muhammed had viewed Constantinople as the centre of the world, and after his conquest Mehmed styled himself ‘Sultan I Rum’ – the Ruler of Rome and therefore the world. This conviction was taken up the following century by Sultan Sulieman the Magnificent whose aim was a universal Islamic state, as the inscription above the entrance of the Grand Mosque in Constantinople declared: Sulieman was the “Conqueror of the lands of the Orient and the Occident and with the help of Almighty Allah and his victorious army, possessor of the Kingdoms of the World”. The Ottomans continued this campaign for centuries, seizing the Balkans, Hungary, the Danube valley and reaching as far Poland and the gates of Vienna.
All this may never have happened if the Christian powers of the time had the foresight to form a united front against a mortal foe and provide the military support for which the Byzantine Empire had long been begging. There is no reason to think that the ambitions of the Muslim world are any different now to what they were then – quite the contrary, as ISIS and Hizb ut-Tahrir make clear. And there is no less an imperative at present to resist the Islamization of Europe. Efforts to protect a civilization — 560 years ago or right now — should not be derided, whatever trendy leftists and the Islamists’ fellow travellers might think. The theorists of Islamism think in terms of centuries and epochs. The West will only be able to comprehend the passion with which they pursue jihad by doing likewise.
On one point Gopnick (despite himself) provides a useful insight into the intractable situation that Houellebecq and Zemmour are trying to deal with. This occurs when he cites G.K. Chesterton on the restless inner nature of Islam, driven always by its hunger for conquest and jihad and its desire to bend the world to the Will of Allah, as Islamists themselves insist:
A void is made in the heart of Islam which has to be filled up again and again by a mere repetition of the revolution that founded it. There are no sacraments; the only thing that can happen is a sort of apocalypse, as unique as the end of the world; so the apocalypse can only be repeated and the world end again and again.
This is what is at stake. In the great journey of human history and in the absence of resolute resistance, “Islam”, Gopnick concludes, “is the zombie state at its end”.
Mervyn F. Bendle is a frequent contributor to Quadrant and Quadrant Online