Ordinarily, Jean-Marie Le Pen of France's National Front Party would be the left's ideal politician. He regularly denounces U.S. "imperialism." He opposed the Gulf War. He is supported by communists. He so despises religion that he happily married a divorcee, pleased that he would not have to marry her in a church. He has lots of affairs -- the centerpiece of France's superiority to America.
But liberals don't like Le Pen. They want Muslims to do for Paris what they did for Kabul, and Le Pen stands in their way.
After years of irrelevant rants against Muslim immigrants, Le Pen's anti-immigration message has finally hit a nerve with voters. Despite glib, cheerful assertions that Islam is a religion of "peace," the French have been repeatedly presented with stark evidence to the contrary. In addition to their usual prodigious criminal behavior, French Muslims are responsible for a rash of recent synagogue-burnings and anti-Semitic violence. (One of them even took a field trip to America, hoping to slaughter yet more infidels on Sept. 11.)
And then, suddenly -- shocking liberals everywhere -- Le Pen rose like a phoenix from the ashes, placing second in the presidential election. He even beat the sitting prime minister.
Liberals are hopping mad about this turn of events. Consequently, they are accusing their beloved French of "xenophobia." "Odious xenophobia," in the words of a New York Times editorial. The Times was in such blind rage that it simultaneously denounced Le Pen for capitalizing on opposition to immigrants, "mostly Arab," and for speaking in "anti-Semitic overtones." How, precisely, opposition to anti-Semitic violence committed by Arabs reflects anti-Semitism remains murky.
Whenever liberals are frustrated, they accuse their opponents of "xenophobia" -- which is admittedly a step up from Muslims who express frustration by strapping dynamite to children. In the Times' classic argument-by-epithet style, an op-ed referred to the surge of European opposition to Muslim immigration as: "hypernationalist," "anti-foreigner," "anti-immigrant" and "ultranationalist."
I don't know. Maybe they just don't like female genital mutilation. (On account of the rich culture brought to France by Muslim immigrants, France actually had to pass a law specifically forbidding this charming practice.)
When President Bush cut funding to the U.N. population fund -- which evidently issues periodic and utterly impotent condemnations of clitorectomies -- liberals accused him of "stand(ing) for" female genital mutilation (Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, April 26, 2002). But when French voters oppose a massive influx of immigrants whose cultural customs include female genital mutilation, the Times calls them xenophobes.
I propose a new term for people opposed to Third World immigrants coming to their countries: "Westerners Against Genital Mutilation." Other apt labels include: "Westerners Against Arranged Marriages for 12-Year-Old Girls," "Westerners Against Beating Women Whose Shoes Make Noise," and "Westerners Against Barbarians Committing Acts of Savage Violence and Then Explaining They Felt 'Humiliated.'"
In addition to mutilating girls and burning synagogues, another popular Muslim pastime in France is to steal cars, set them on fire and push them off cliffs. Is xenophobia really the only explanation for Le Pen's surprise upset?
Very possibly, what the Times calls "xenophobia" is a logical reaction to a specific group of immigrants. It has to be said, no politician ever appealed to voters by railing against Belgian immigrants. If an abstract fear of foreigners were the issue, France would not have already admitted so many Arabs that Islam is now the second-largest religion in France.
But in the careful analysis of the Times, the various permutations of "Westerners Against Genital Mutilation" (my label) have three "interlocking obsessions": "crime, immigration and the loss of national 'identity.'"
Arguably, foreigners who move to another country and refuse to abandon genital mutilation, polygamy and violent attacks on Jews are more preoccupied with maintaining their national "identity" than the Frenchman who never left home but suddenly finds polygamists slaughtering goats in the back yard.
Last year, when British Home Secretary David Blunkett said immigrants would have to adopt "British norms" by dropping such quaint cultural traditions as forced marriages and genital mutilation, a female writer by the name of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown condemned him, sneering that "British norms" consisted of "drink(ing) themselves to death in a pub." (One British norm Ms. Alibhai-Brown embraced with little difficulty was the one about women talking.)
When the French outlawed polygamy in 1993, Muslim immigrants perceived discrimination. One polygamist announced his refusal to relinquish his supernumerary wives, saying, "I will never divorce, even if they had a knife and cut off my head." Of course, the risk of a beheading is rather remote, inasmuch as Frenchmen, not Muslims, will be enforcing the law.
Another Immigrant for Polygamy said: "We accept the French for how they are, and I would like them to accept the way we live." Just like in the old country -- where they warmly embrace other cultures by blowing up ancient Buddhist statues. Give them another few years, and they'll dynamite Notre Dame.