In France in the very near future, the respectable republican parties fragment the vote in a multiparty election, and the two top vote-getters are Marine Le Pen, of the extreme right, and one Mohammed Ben Abbes, the fictive leader of a French Muslim Brotherhood. In the runoff, the French left backs the Muslim, preferring the devil it doesn’t know to the one it does. Ben Abbes’s government soon imposes a kind of relaxed Sharia law throughout France and -- this is the book’s central joke and point -- the French élite are cravenly eager to collaborate with the new regime, delighted not only to convert but to submit to a bracing and self-assured authoritarianism.Im' not sure how different this is from the imagined futures -- "Eurabia" and the like -- that trouble the sleep of right-wingers. The prophets of doom don't even think the coming sharia will be "relaxed," yet they think we're so spineless and indifferent to our own values that we'll happily forgo our free speech, our Western dress, our sexual freedom, our bacon, and welcome our new headscarf-wielding, beard-measuring overlords.
... it turns out that the principal target of the satire is not French Islam -- which is really a bystander that gets, at most, winged -- but the spinelessness of the French intellectual class.... The jokes are all about how quickly the professors find excuses to do what’s asked of them by the Islamic regime.... The new Islamic administration at the University of Paris allows a professor of Rimbaud studies to carry on, but on the condition that he teach Rimbaud’s conjectured conversion to Islam as an established fact. The professor is happy to do it....
The charge that Houellebecq is Islamophobic seems misplaced. He’s not Islamophobic. He’s Francophobic. The portrait of the Islamic regime is quite fond; he likes the fundamentalists’ suavity and sureness....
I've always thought this was a ridiculous notion. But even if it were plausible, the current crop of jihadists seems determined to stoke our outrage, not lull us into, well, submission.
George Packer noted earlier this month that ISIS clearly wants us all angry and ready to fight. Here, for instance, is what Packer writes about Japan:
Why did ISIS execute a second Japanese hostage? Before the beheading of the journalist Kenji Goto, Japan didn’t think that it was even in a fight with the Islamic State. All Japan had done was contribute a couple of hundred million dollars in humanitarian aid to countries fighting ISIS. Then the man who has come to be known as Jihadi John, the executioner with the London accent seen in several of the group’s videos, threatened death to every Japanese person on the planet as he prepared to slaughter Goto. As a result, a political scientist at the University of Tokyo told the Times, “The cruelty of the Islamic State has made Japan see a harsh new reality.... We now realize we face the same dangers as other countries do.” People in Japan are now calling Kenji Goto’s murder their 9/11.And as Packer notes, the same is true of Jordan -- why did ISIS refuse a prisoner exchange for the captured Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, and, of course, why did ISIS burn him alive on video, if not to stoke Jordanian outrage?
Juan Cole, responding to the events in Copenhagen, explains the strategy:
This kind of violence is extremely useful to al-Qaeda offshoots and affiliates, since it produces a Western backlash against ordinary everyday European Muslims, which can then drive the latter into the arms of the radicals. Denmark has a couple hundred thousand Muslims, and about 2700 Danish converts to Islam.... Because Danish Muslims are relatively wealthy and from a relatively wealthy country, and because they are Europeans, al-Qaeda would like to recruit them. But they would for the most part only embrace it out of desperation. It is therefore necessary to produce desperation by putting them in trouble with the government and with white supremacists.We don't want to "submit," and they don't want us to "submit." So really, righties, it's not going to happen.