Can Europe Make It?

Minorities within minorities: how Le Pen attracts some Muslim votes

It is not a “choice” in the proper sense, it is rather an instinct to reach the surface in order to breathe. It offers them a home in which the restlessness of “to be” can be resolved.

Firat M. Haciahmetoglu
15 December 2015
Two rays and one vertex.

Two rays and one vertex. Wikicommons/ CMBJ. Some rights reserved.Surveys in France reveal that a small but increasing number of Muslims are associating themselves with the ideas of the leader of the French far-right political party Front National (National Front), Marine Le Pen - an unexpected fact understandably baffling to many leftwing people. “Muslims” in Europe, by their very nature, are considered to be the natural allies of the European Left, for the reason that they were oppressed by the Right. How could anyone vote for his or her own oppressor, for those who hate them!

That “Muslims” are gradually slipping away from the monopoly of the left to the trenches of the enemy, even theoretically, should cast some doubt on the premises of leftist discourse: so, did that happen?

It did not; or more precisely, it could not. For the left, remaining dogmatically tied to the conviction that “Muslims ought to vote for us”, is not in a position to realise that Europe is no longer living in a world where it alone is the protagonist of history, where it is the one and only centre of the world. Without understanding our postcolonial epoch for what it is, the left can only see “Muslims” who turn their face to Le Pen as a mistake, a misunderstanding that will in time correct itself – that is, “Muslims” will eventually realize that it is the left to whom they belong.

Two related phenomena might possibly explain the reason why “Muslims” are preferring Le Pen over the left, or its left-liberal flanks. The first is the result of the historical shift from Eurocentrism to polycentrism. That is, the world in which we are living now has many centres and each centre claims its difference in terms of its own values, norms, and tradition. Europe no longer occupies the throne of history. It is just another actor within these polymorphous, nomadic power relations - yet another section of the relay race through which power passes. The second phenomenon directly derives from this historical shift into polycentrism – namely, the phenomenon of minorities within minorities.

The polycentrization of the world, a phenomenon that emerges concomitantly with post-colonialism and globalization, resulted in local actors who do not define themselves entirely on the basis of the values, norms and tradition of the centre to which they “belong” (in the sense of having being born into those values, norms and traditions). This situation precipitates a conflict within centres, an irreversible hybridity – to put it concisely, a conflict between home and existence – the former can take the form of simply a passport or the community or the fatherland, and the latter consists in the always already open possibility of being otherwise: the overwhelming richness of existence.

The fervent attempts to fit one’s whole existence, i.e., all the possibilities that one can actualize, into the small borders of a home, of a passport, or of a community, inevitably create problems within those centres. When one no longer feels one’s own innermost possibilities can be actualized in one’s own home, i.e., within the limits set by a relevant centre, the result is the emergence of existential minorities within those centres. The duality of home and existence has brought about a figure who cannot be defined on the sole basis of his or her own home – that is, of his or her own values, norms and traditions. He or she is more likely to feel affiliated to the homes of others to which he or she does not have direct access.

In short, the transformation into a polycentric world results in enormously polymorphous geo-existential structures. It creates a vastly intricate web divided among several big centres (the West, Islam, China, Russia and so on) whose vertices do not necessarily coincide with such a division. Each vertex is a nomadic, decentered centre that, by the virtue of belonging to the larger web, acquires the virtual possibility of locating itself in relation to a certain centre, it has the possibility of moving within this web, yet its actuality is strictly regulated by passports, loyalty to communities, and homesickness.

But how does all of this hang together with Muslims voting for Le Pen?

As such a monolithic mass called the Europeans simply does not exist, so in the same way the term “Muslims” entirely fails to catch the nuances, i.e., those internal centres within centres – and, first and foremost, it misses the minorities within minorities. That is, it fails to catch sight of those dissident voices, of those local actors, who - passport-wise or based on its community - belong to the centre that is defined on the basis of its Muslim majority. I would like to dwell on this issue in order to make my point crystal clear.

No need to add that Muslims who disconcert the left by voting for Le Pen do not exclusively reside in Europe. There are centres within and outside Europe where Muslims have the majority and have the power to impose their own values, norms and tradition on those who are subject to them. This subjugation is furthermore justified by the fact that it is their own home, by the name of which the imposition is inflicted on them. And within these centres, there are minorities who refuse to be subjected to those values of the centre, who are unhomely and therefore ridiculed, demonized and in one way or another eliminated.

Let me put it as basic as it already is. In countries where the centre is defined on the basis of its Muslim majority, there exist men who could never hold the hand of the girl they love without any trepidation, there exist women who could never taste the freedom of walking on a street alone after sunset, there exist people who have to obey the order of those who feed on other people’s unhappiness and whose hands they would not even shake in another possible world. I can go on ad infinitum, but this much must be clear. Briefly put, there are minorities within these centres whose home, which is not something chosen but rather given, does not reflect the way they wish to exist.

Now, these people, who comprise the minorities within the Muslim-majority centres, become minorities within minorities within the centre defined on the basis of European values, norms and tradition; and, as such, they are entirely dismissed on all sides, as if they do not exist. The term “Muslims” presents an undifferentiated mass in which everybody is, as it were, enormously happy to be defined on the basis of a Muslim-majority centre – as if, being dissident is the exclusive right of the European and cannot be attributed to those “underdeveloped” non-Europeans.

As long as one keeps insisting on seeing “Muslims”, or in more general terms, any Other, as such a monolithic mass, it is impossible to understand the anger, frustration and weariness of those reductively called “Muslims”; it is impossible to understand why these so-called “Muslims” are sick and tired of leftists and left-liberals who are, in the name of their respect for other cultures, pushing them back to those centres from which they are desperately trying to escape.

The minorities within minorities are neither western in the west, nor eastern enough in the east. They are heretical hybrid forms and as such left in the zone of non-being.

There is an agreement to keep them there: “not too close to ‘us’” both centres announce, “let these strange creatures subsist there.” Without understanding the pain and agony of being a minority within a minority, of the violent duality of home and existence, the left will keep searching for answers about so-called “Muslims”’ desire to be “truly French”.

It will miss the crucial point that it is not a desire to be this or that, it is, first and foremost, a desire to be something – to exist. The reason why “Muslims” are turning to Le Pen is precisely because these people see the hope of existence in Le Pen that only derivatively takes the form of being French. It is not a “choice” in the proper sense, it is rather an instinct to reach the surface in order to breathe. It offers them a home in which the restlessness of “to be” can be resolved. Such a promise precisely constitutes the strength of the New Right that is emerging in Europe.

And what is the response of the left and left-liberals to such an enormous existential problem, one that constitutes the ground of the advent of the Right - apart from pushing these people back to the very centres whence they are trying to escape? Are the leftists or/and the left-liberals even aware of this problem that lies at the very bottom of all crises in Europe? Or, do they really think that by repeating that Le Pen is a racist, an Islamophobe, and so on, they will somehow solve all these problems and stop the rise of right-wing politics in Europe?

To be sure, I am not trying to defend Le Pen here. What I am striving desperately to achieve with this account is to reach the correct diagnosis so that we can begin thinking about what it is that can be done to stop the rise of the Right. How can we respond to this phenomenon in a way that does justice to everyone and especially to those minorities within minorities, for they lie at the heart of this problem.

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