I’ve been following (here and here) the escalating controversy in France over recent remarks made by a conservative French minister, Claude Gueant, to the effect that civilizations that support liberty, fraternity, equality (sounds like France) are superior to civilizations that accept tyranny, the subjugation of women, ethnic and social hatreds (fits Islam to a T). There has been backpedaling (Gueant says he didn’t mean any one culture in particular) and forward-thrusting (a French Muslim group has asked for “clarification,” i.e. retraction), all reminiscent of the firestorm that consumed Silvio Berlusconi on making similar statements in the aftermath of 9/11, an episode elaborated on in my book The Death of the Grown-Up. With this latest twist — a parliamentary walk-out — the Gueant controversy now surpasses the Berlusconi controversy at its own game: opera.
The French prime minister and his cabinet have stormed out of parliament after an opposition MP accused the rightwing interior minister of flirting with Nazi ideology.
The Socialist Serge Letchimy, from Martinique, questioned the interior minister and close Sarkozy ally, Claude Guéant, over his controversial comments this weekend that “not all civilisations are of equal value”, and his assertion that some civilisations, namely France’s, are worth more than others.
Letchimy (pictured above) said Guéant was “day by day leading us back to these European ideologies that gave birth to concentration camps”.
After a loud interruption of protests, he added: “Mr Guéant, the Nazi regime, which was so concerned about purity, was that a civilization?”
What a fat, gorgeous softball to bat out of the park — if only Gueant and his fellow ministers had just one single clue among them. This was the perfect moment to read Gueant’s original discussion, which as reported by AFP, was this:
“Contrary to what the left’s relativist ideology says, for us all civilisations are not of equal value,” Guéant told a gathering of right-wing students. “
Those which defend humanity seem to us to be more advanced than those that do not,” he said.
“Those which defend liberty, equality and fraternity, seem to us superior to those which accept tyranny, the subservience of women, social and ethnic hatred,” he said in his speech, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.
He also stressed the need to “protect our civilisation”.
At that point, all Gueant and his fellow ministers had to do was ask for a show of hands in the chamber: Who here believes Gueant’s statements have anything whatsoever to do with Nazism? And who here doesn’t agree with Gueant’s statements? That is, who here doesn’t believe that a civilization that defends humanity and liberty is superior to a civilization of tyranny, the subjugation of women, and repressions and hatreds as codified by the sharia (Islamic law)? Who here doesn’t believe in protecting liberty from tyranny?
They could have all been singing “La Marseillaise” by the time this was over.
The Guardian reports:
In a rare move, the entire French government stormed out of the question-time session. …
This paid Letchimy far too high a compliment, treating his misfiring melodrama as if it actually added up to something important. This was an opportunity to have it out, right then and there, in the Parliament.
The French prime minister François Fillon demanded an apology from the Socialist party for the “indecent” and “shameful” Nazi analogy in parliament. The head of the ruling rightwing UMP party’s parliament group, Christian Jacob, said an analogy of this kind was a first in the history of parliament.
The Socialist Letchimy said that as the son of a slave, he refused to apologise.
Jean-Marc Ayrault, head of the Socialist parliamentary group, said Guéant’s “repeated provocations” had damaged the political climate.
Some in Sarkozy’s own camp had distanced themselves from Guéant in recent days. “He makes a better minister than ethnologist,” said the former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.