So far as I can tell, the origins of the unholy Leftist-Islamist alliance in the West go back thirty years, to the trip by the French philosopher Michel Foucault to Iran, where he enthused about the revolution taking place before his eyes. As Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson explain:
Throughout his life, Michel Foucault's concept of authenticity meant looking at situations where people lived dangerously and flirted with death, the site where creativity originated. In the tradition of Friedrich Nietzsche and Georges Bataille, Foucault had embraced the artist who pushed the limits of rationality and he wrote with great passion in defense of irrationalities that broke new boundaries. In 1978, Foucault found such transgressive powers in the revolutionary figure of Ayatollah Khomeini and the millions who risked death as they followed him in the course of the Revolution. He knew that such "limit" experiences could lead to new forms of creativity and he passionately threw in his support.
The alliance has gone from strength to strength since then, with no end seemingly in sight. (This pattern has not, however, extended to majority-Muslim countries, to places like Turkey and Egypt, where the Left generally stands as the bulwark of anti-Islamist sentiments.) The few Western Leftists who resist this connection found themselves called fascists and relegated to the far-right. Pim Fortuyn of the Netherlands offers a prime example of this phenomenon.
The PvdA logo.
But today comes stunning news, again from the Netherlands, where the largest left-wing political party, the Labor Party (Partij van de Arbeid
, PvdA), has come out with a stirring statement on behalf of the country's historic culture and demanding that Muslim immigrants integrate. John Vinocur explains in "From the left, a call to end the current Dutch notion of tolerance
" how Lilianne Ploumen, PvdA's chairperson, two weeks ago issued a position paper that deemed the famed Dutch "tolerance" a failure and called for its repeal in favor of a robust marketplace of ideas: "The mistake we can never repeat is stifling criticism of cultures and religions for reasons of tolerance." Vinocur explains:
Government and politicians had too long failed to acknowledge the feelings of "loss and estrangement" felt by Dutch society facing parallel communities that disregard its language, laws and customs. Newcomers, according to Ploumen, must avoid "self-designated victimization." She asserted, "the grip of the homeland has to disappear" for these immigrants who, news reports indicate, also retain their original nationality at a rate of about 80 percent once becoming Dutch citizens. Instead of reflexively offering tolerance with the expectation that things would work out in the long run, she said, the government strategy should be "bringing our values into confrontation with people who think otherwise."
Lilianne Ploumen, chairperson of the Dutch Labor Party.
There was more: punishment for trouble-making young people has to become so effective such that when they emerge from jail they are not automatically big shots, Ploumen said. For Ploumen, talking to the local media, "The street is mine, too. I don't want to walk away if they're standing in my path. Without a strategy to deal with these issues, all discussion about creating opportunities and acceptance of diversity will be blocked by suspicion and negative experience." …
Labor's line seems to stand on its head the old equation of jobs-plus-education equals integration. Conforming to Dutch society's social standards now comes first. Strikingly, it turns its back on cultural relativism and uses the word emancipation in discussing the process of outsiders' becoming Dutch. For the Netherlands' Arab and Turkish population (about 6 percent of a total of 16 million) it refers to jobs and educational opportunities as "machines of emancipation." Yet it also suggests that employment and advancement will not come in full measure until there is a consciousness engagement in Dutch life by immigrants that goes far beyond the present level. Indeed, Ploumen says, "Integration calls on the greatest effort from the new Dutch. Let go of where you come from; choose the Netherlands unconditionally." Immigrants must "take responsibility for this country" and cherish and protect its Dutch essence.
Not clear enough? Ploumen insists, "The success of the integration process is hindered by the disproportionate number of non-natives involved in criminality and trouble-making, by men who refuse to shake hands with women, by burqas and separate courses for women on citizenship. "We have to stop the existence of parallel societies within our society."
Comments: (1) For documentation of other cases of dispute between these two outlooks, see my blog, "The Left vs. the Islamists." (2) Is this Dutch example an exception that proves the rule or a fundamental shift away from the old Foucault paradigm? Only time will tell but I am mildly optimistic. (December 29, 2008)
Sep. 9, 2009 update: Another Dutch political party, the GreenLeft, likewise takes a staunch stand against Islam, as evidenced today in an interview with its leader, Femke Halsema: "Islam is a problem. Indeed, especially Islam in combination with illiteracy."
Related Topics: Conservatives & Liberals, Immigration, Muslims in Europe
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