Monday, March 28, 2016

“There is a refusal to think about this era on its own terms” says the boogeyman for proselytizers of painless multiculturalism, a rumpled intellectual the French left loves to hate for challenging the its May 1968 orthodoxies

HE is the intellectual much of the French left loves to hate
writes Adam Nossiter in his New York Times profile of Alain Finkielkraut,
the writer whose rumpled look has racked up multiple magazine covers, the bookish essayist turned omnipresent media star and boogeyman for proselytizers of painless multiculturalism. Alain Finkielkraut’s mere presence in a television studio raises temperatures and sends accusations of racism flying.

 … After several dozen books, an influential weekly radio show, frequent interview requests and his induction in January into one of French civilization’s holiest — albeit most conservative — shrines, the Académie Française, Mr. Finkielkraut has no intention of shutting up.

 … The national audience for Mr. Finkielkraut’s themes, returned to obsessively and buttressed by a seamless web of references, is now larger than ever in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 2015.

Before and after the attacks, those themes have not varied: Much of Islam is radically incompatible with French culture and society; Muslim immigrants represent a threat; French schools are crumbling under a mistaken multicultural outreach; the inherited corpus of French culture is in danger; and anti-Semitism is on the rise again, this time by way of Islam.

Many of the 2015 attackers were French. “Hatred of France is present in France,” Mr. Finkielkraut said in a recent interview. “What the attacks proved is that we have a redoubtable and determined enemy.”

 … “Today, when some, like me, speak of the problem of Islam, we are denounced as the successors of Maurras and Barrès,” said Mr. Finkielkraut, naming two influential far-right thinkers of pre-World War II France. “There is a refusal to think about this era on its own terms.”

MR. FINKIELKRAUT’S political roots are on the left, though.

 … His wife, the lawyer Sylvie Topaloff, has been quoted as lamenting the friends they have lost over her husband’s political views. Yet his ideas carry just enough of an old tradition of left-leaning nationalism in France — exemplified by one of his favorite authors, Charles Péguy — for him to be acceptable to the law-and-order faction in the ruling Socialist Party.

 … In Mr. Finkielkraut’s view, [Felicien Marceau, who did broadcasts for German-controlled Belgian radio during World War II, before fleeing — accused of collaborating with the Nazis] was blinded to the dangers of Hitler by the horrors of World War I; and the French left, obsessed because of fascism with the National Front, has been blind to the dangers of radical Islam.

 … The historian Mr. Nora, in the [Académie Française] induction speech, spoke of Mr. Finkielkraut’s “omnipresence” and noted that he was at the very top of a “blacklist” of those challenging the French left’s May 1968 orthodoxies.

“You are the one who breaks the public omerta, who says — and very well indeed — what the politicians can’t say, and what the journalists don’t want to,” Mr. Nora said.

Mr. Finkielkraut, for all of his warnings about the difficulty — if not impossibility — of assimilating France’s approximately four million Muslims, is not advocating their expulsion. Yet he has no practical agenda for how to integrate them into French society.

He has little to say about the evident discrimination against Muslims in France today, or about the anti-Muslim violence since the attacks. The Muslim teacher who clashed with him on television, Wiam Berhouma, raised these points to no response — before telling Mr. Finkielkraut to shut up.

For Mr. Finkielkraut, the problem is with Muslims, not with France. “We’ve got to fix very clear rules,” he said in the interview. “Secularism has got to prevail. And we can’t compromise on the status of women.”

He is adamant about that last point. “Everything plays out there,” he says. “People are telling us that problem comes from all sorts of oppression by the West. No. The problem comes from the oppression by Islam of women. We’ve got to help the Muslims resolve this question.”