France, 2022: a Muslim is elected president of the Republic. This is the plot of Michel Houellebecq’s new book. Submission paints a portrait of France led by an Islamic party, where the Sorbonne is an Islamic university and the president is named Mohammed Ben Abbes. The book’s release followed Eric Zemmour’s controversial remarks about French Muslims. University professor Franck Fregosi contends that books such as Houellebecq’s demonstrate “the anxieties of their writers but also of society.”
Submission describes a France whose political policies are limited to those of the National Front or to a religious authority. In 2022 the “Muslim Brotherhood,” a political party invented by Houellebecq, defeats the National Front. The country is shaken, as is the book’s nihilistic protagonist Francois. The university professor is reluctant to convert to Islam in order to keep his power at the “Islamic University of Paris-Sorbonne,” where the secretaries all wear headscarves.
“We’ve built a kind of social fear of an Islam without any nuances…Islam is the scapegoat, it is the cause of all of French society’s ills,” says Fregosi.
Houellebecq’s scenario is “completely implausible,” argues political scientist Philippe Braud. “Muslims are only 10% of the French population. This number will not change, even if there is an increase in immigration,” he says.
Houellebecq caused controversy in 2001 when he stated, “The most stupid religion is Islam.” He has been known to take extreme positions concerning immigration in Europe. President François Hollande recently stated that one in four Frenchmen are immigrants or born to immigrant parents and called for there to be “no room for speech that exploits the fear of France’s dissolution.”