- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2002

We all heard about Jean-Marie Le Pen and his surprising electoral surge in France. Most people were shocked Sacre bleu! by the man's bigotry. We saw mass protests against Mr. Le Pen and his withered anti-Semitism on the streets of Paris, and most of us were heartened vive la Republique! by the national outpouring of liberal fervor. On reflection, though, it may seem as if Mr. Le Pen was in fact a paper scourge and all that lovely outrage a grossly misdirected exercise against the wrong menace.
That is, if France's real shame is the recrudescence of a freshly toxic anti-Semitism, manifested by burning synagogues (five to date), desecrated Jewish cemeteries, and physical assaults on French Jews, not only is Mr. Le Pen not the real villain, he is a uniquely outspoken opponent of the real perpetrators of this new wave of anti-Jewish violence. Far from being the neo-Nazi spawn of the continent, reports indicate that they mainly come from among France's 5 to 10 million Muslim immigrants, all too many of whom, like Zacarias Moussaoui, have been radicalized in the nation's Islamist mosques.
This seldom-reported fact was lost on elites too carried away by the time-travel thrills of facing down a specter of Vichy to notice that the ghost's main link to 21st -century anti-Semitism was a crude animus toward its contemporary practitioners. Not everyone missed the connection. "The very fact that Le Pen is an outspoken opponent of Muslim immigration to France sends a message which helps contain the violence which has come from this immigration," Roger Cukierman, president of a French umbrella group of Jewish organizations, told Israel's Ha'aretz in the days before the French election. "Le Pen's success is a message to Muslims to keep quiet."
I could find no reports of new violence against French Jews after Mr. Le Pen's electoral showing. This indicates that his message was taken seriously for at least the past week. Given Mr. Le Pen's short-lived success, will that message soon be forgotten? And what message comes from this week's stunning assassination of Pim Fortuyn, who, until his violent end, was the politically ascendant opponent of further Muslim immigration into the Netherlands?
Fortuyn always bristled at comparisons with France's Mr. Le Pen, and rightfully so. The dandyish, 54-year-old former Marxist professor could hardly have differed more from the 72-year-old former paratrooper. "We did not move in the same circles," Mr. Le Pen said tersely after Mr. Fortuyn's death, alluding to Mr. Fortuyn's open homosexuality.
Fortuyn's sexuality dictated more than his "circles." Through it, he not only articulated, but also embodied a compelling defense of Western liberalism against the medieval encroachments of Islamic intolerance. (For this, of course, he was pegged a right-wing extremist, despite his left-wing support of "soft" drugs and euthanasia, among other things.) Where an atavistic traditionalism inspires Mr. Le Pen's opposition to the Islamic transformation of French demographics, Pim Fortuyn took up the anti-immigration cause on behalf of the very progressiveness that characterizes modern Holland.
"Christianity and Judaism have gone through the laundromat of humanism and enlightenment, but that is not the case with Islam," he said recently. "We have separation of state and church. The laws of the country are not subject to the Koran. We have equality of men and women, whereas in Islamic culture women are inferior to men." He also pointed out that in Holland, "homosexuality is treated the same way as heterosexuality. In what Islamic country does that happen?"
Where Jean-Marie Le Pen has advocated the deportation of Muslims, Pim Fortuyn stressed the need for assimilation. "If you allow immigrants into your country then you're responsible for them," he said. "If Turkish or Moroccan boys misbehave here, it's up to us to re-educate them, and when necessary to punish them. Those who are in, stay in. For the rest, the portcullis comes down."
Why? Living in Holland, among whose 16 million are 800,000 Muslims, Fortuyn observed, "What we are witnessing now is a clash of civilizations, not just between states but within them." Such clarity made him a target, both metaphorically and literally. It also reminded me of another European election. In Great Britain last year, political parties signed a virtual gag order on "race, nationality and religion" a shameful sop to "multicultural" sensitivities that effectively eliminated urgently important issues from the national debate.
It's a testament to Fortuyn's courage that he not only confronted such issues, but based a meteoric political movement on them. "If you try to discuss multiculturalism in the U.K. you're labeled a racist," Fortuyn said recently. "But here we're still free to talk, and I say multicultural society doesn't work. We're not living closer, we're living apart." He was onto something, at least about multicultural society. But his assassination makes me wonder: Are we still free to talk?


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