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When his mother became a Muslim, Michel Houellebecq did not take her seriously, he did not see the spiritual journey of a French woman from Algeria. He speaks to The Express like the whim of an eccentric old lady. “The last way she had found to annoy the world”he said.
The writer deals with the Muslim faith without the irrational scope of spirituality. It then becomes a pretext, an outlet for social misery. It’s an old way of thinking that we find in the French judeophobic elite of a time. But Michel Houellebecq is not Salman Rushdie.
Salman Rushdie knows the Islamic faith inside out. Michel Houellebecq remains on the surface, his eyes riveted on the Muslims. This Islam that we read about in Houellebecq’s books is crude; a collection of precepts. An ideological thing whose internal logic leads to contradictions and dangerous excesses. In short, this Islam frightens people, because this Islam threatens France.
The Islam of Houellebecq, a reflection of a look at Islam that frightens
Being on the surface of the religious, Michel Houellebecq is consistent in “part-time Islamophobe” he says to himself, unlike the painter Étienne Dinet (1861-1929) who, after his conversion to Islam, gave thanks to God “to have known Islam before knowing the Muslims”. It was another era.
In his Elementary particles as in Submission, the Islam of Houellebecq is the Islam of the reactionary media of France. The talent of writer caresses our media prejudices where Salman Rushdie operates with a scalpel against our dogmas and beliefs. With finesse, the American-British writer produces a rich discourse, with a double poetic background. It delivers an apparent meaning for everyone and an implicit, incisive meaning for those who know the internal problems of Islam.
Does Michel Houellebecq reach the Muslim in his faith? We doubt it, even if he plays the fire-eater who fills his mouth with a flammable liquid and spreads his fangs to blow on Islam and Muslim citizens. It validates a certain media alienation that assigns Islam and Muslims to the role of “potential source of trouble”.
When History Reminds Us of Judeophobia
As a writer, he is part of a tradition of talent known to French literature. In the past, they had the Jew in their sights. Whether it was Voltaire, Céline or Barrès, the media were unanimous on their talents and the editors stuffed themselves by distilling hatred of the Jew. But in our time, to speak of Judeophobia is anachronistic concerning them; they could not foresee either the effect or the consequences of their writings over time! Maybe they would have changed their mind?
Sheikh René Guénon is a symbolic case, one who begins in Christian identity circles and Masonic spirituality before his discovery of Islam. In 1936, Guénon is Muslim, he lives in Cairo, Egypt, while his youthful writings are republished to serve Nazi propaganda. One cannot blame René Guénon for not having foreseen Hitler and the Nazis. But we, today, know very well the role of writings in the construction of hatred of the other.
At the end of the 19th century, crowds of demonstrators wanted to condemn Dreyfus to death in France. As Dreyfus was not guilty, he had to be killed because he was a Jew. Because “Innocent Jew” was an oxymoron for leading figures in journalism. Great writers including Maurice Barrès, Paul Valery, Charles Maurras and many other good writers, all notorious anti-Dreyfusards. Of course, they had no weapons because they had better: pretty words and murderous aphorisms.
Judeophobia in France is not a spontaneous generation. Neither does Islamophobia. These racist ideas exist like others, always stamped with cowardice, always against minorities. But to flourish and colonize minds en masse, racism uses vectors of dissemination. Before social networks, the media and literature hold the upper hand next to artistic creation.
One can be black, Jewish or Muslim and be ecstatic in front of a Cézanne, a Renoir or a Rodin without suspecting for a moment the opinions of the artist. Because emotions, aesthetics or humor are natural to our species. One can love women, children and dogs and be called Adolf Hitler.
A pen that embellishes the literary space with toxic exhalations on Islam and Muslims
Since the victory over Nazism, France has criminalized judeophobia and closed the door to the racist hatreds that Michel Houellebecq teases out the window. Because, to read certain passages of the author, one can wonder if the Jew has not given way to the Muslim in our racist literature. Michel Houellebecq is indeed masterful with Extension of the field of struggle. But there are his other books including Elementary particles and Submission without speaking about Platform who maintain the petty schemes of the media Muslim to the point of caricature. It is a vein that he can exploit as long as his vaudeville is successful. But is this man aware of the game he is playing? Does Michel Houellebecq know what his talent is the instrument of in France, for Muslims and for our children?
French Islamophobia is not a fantasy of susceptible militants. It is a statistically verified social reality, which follows the ratings curve. Like an autoimmune disease, it waits, on favorable grounds, for a triggering factor to declare itself. In 2003, Vincent Geisser offers a historical and sociological analysis of the phenomenon in The new Islamophobia (ed. La Découverte). Over the past 40 years, the Muslim has gone from foreigner to immigrant, before ending up in the fifth column in the Republic after terrorist and jihadist. In this French reality which is contemporary, the pen of Michel Houellebecq stinks. If she is not Islamophobic, she perfumes the literary space with toxic exhalations on Islam and Muslim citizens.
That Houellebecq is good and famous only puts him in the tradition of racist literature in France which, historically, knows how to surf through the prejudices of the time. Because he does not know Islam well, he relies mainly on Muslims and seems “willing to do anything to achieve fortune and fame”, as his mother writes. Objective achieved since its Elementary particles ; he prances in the media on Islamophobic lands, in unfair competition with Eric Zemmour!
To bring such a megalomaniac to justice is to offer him a platform
Faced with Barrès, Maurras and the anti-Drefusards, history retains Émile Zola and the “intellectuals” to defend Dreyfus. Facing Houellebecq and Zemmour, there is a media boulevard. This is the time.
Formerly diversified, the French media space is swollen on Islam. Apart from Saphirnews and a few rare media sensitive to the phenomenon, Islamophobia oozes from our newsrooms, our TV sets and spills over into society. Michel Houellebecq dips his pen in this pus offered. He holds his “infamous carrion on a bed strewn with pebbles, Charles Baudelaire would say, legs in the air, like a lustful woman, burning and sweating poisons”. He won’t give up, he has to earn his living.
To bring such a megalomaniac to justice is to offer him a platform. An official forum to stage the contempt he would like to ennoble in literature. A sword in the water. Obviously, Mr. Houellebecq will not change his way of writing because he already writes very well; it fills his bowl. And a purebred dog doesn’t change the way it sits, much less the way it barks.
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