Is Europe about to be overrun by Muslims? A number of prominent European and American politicians and journalists seem to think so. The historian Niall Ferguson has predicted that “a youthful Muslim society to the south and east of the Mediterranean is poised to colonise – the term is not too strong – a senescent Europe”. And according to Christopher Caldwell, an American columnist with the Financial Times, whom the Observer recently described as a “bracing, clear-eyed analyst of European pieties”, Muslims are already “conquering Europe’s cities, street by street”. So what if Muslims account for only 3 per cent to 4 per cent of the EU’s total population of 493 million? In his book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Can Europe Be the Same With Different People in It? – which was featured on Start the Week, excerpted in Prospect, commended as “morally serious” by the New York Times and has beguiled some liberal opinion-makers as well as rightwing blowhards – Caldwell writes: “Of course minorities can shape countries. They can conquer countries. There were probably fewer Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917 than there are Islamists in Europe today.”
Apparently it’s not only Islamist revolutionaries, but also rapidly breeding Muslims who are transforming Europe into “Eurabia”. The birth rates of Europe’s Muslim immigrants are actually falling and converging with national averages, according to a recent survey in the Financial Times; but “advanced” cultures, Caldwell claims in his book, “have a long track record of underestimating their vulnerability to ‘primitive’ ones”. As the London Daily Telegraph, quoting Caldwell, asserted last weekend, Britain and the EU have simply ignored the “demographic time bomb” in their midst. Caldwell is convinced that “Muslim culture is unusually full of messages laying out the practical advantages of procreation”, and, he wonders – though Muslims don’t despise Europe as much as Palestinians hate Israel – didn’t Yasser Arafat call the wombs of Palestinian women “the secret weapon” of his cause?
Caldwell stops short of speculating what Europe would or should do to atone for its folly of nurturing a perfidious minority. The Canadian journalist Mark Steyn, whom Martin Amis has hailed as a “great sayer of the unsayable”, does not hesitate to spell it out in his bestselling America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It:
In a democratic age, you can’t buck demography – except through civil war. The Serbs figured that out – as other Continentals will in the years ahead: if you can’t outbreed the enemy, cull ‘em.
Bruce Bawer, whose book While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle award, suggests that European officials, who are “in a position to deport planeloads of people everyday”, “could start rescuing Europe tomorrow”. There are now even politicians ready to do the “unsayable”. The Dutch MP Geert Wilders, whose party was one of the big rightwing winners of June’s elections to the European Parliament, proposes expelling millions of Muslims from Europe. A separate ministry for this purpose is advocated by Austria’s extreme-right parties, which gained an unprecedented 29 per cent of the popular vote last year.
Many European politicians and commentators are reluctant to denounce the headscarf as, in French philosopher Andre Glucksmann’s description, a “terrorist operation”, or to see the Somali-Dutch polemicist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, presently employed by an American neoconservative think tank, as Islam’s Luther. But these sceptics may be, according to Bawer’s new book Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom, as much the dupes of “Islamo-fascism” as Europe’s multiculturalists, who, Bawer writes, “might have been invented by Osama bin Laden himself”.
The lone representative of the Muslim world among us, a Turkish scholar, occasionally protested, and was ignored. He later complained in his newspaper column about the “Islamophobia” that makes his country’s accession to the EU all the more arduous. It was hard then not to feel the poignancy of Turkish aspirations.
No Muslim country has ever done as much as Turkey to make itself over in the image of a European nation-state; the country’s westernised elite brutally imposed secularism, among other things, on its devout population of peasants. Despite having taken almost all prescribed routes to western modernity, Turkey finds that Europe would rather use it as a foil. According to Austria’s extreme-right Freedom Party, Christendom’s old rival is not welcome in Europe because “there was no Enlightenment and no Renaissance in Turkey” and “one of the most important values of Europeans, tolerance, does not count in Turkey”.
Surveys and opinion polls, including a recent one by Gallup, repeatedly reveal the average European Muslim to be poor, socially conservative, unhappy about discrimination, but generally content, hopeful about their children – who attend non-religious schools – and eager, like their non-Muslim peers, to get on with their lives. Initially high, birth rates among Muslim communities across Europe are falling as more men and women become literate. Exposure to secular modernity has also weaned many of these immigrants away from traditional faith: only 5 per cent of Muslims in France regularly attend mosques, and elsewhere, too, non-observant “cultural Muslims” predominate.
Ordinary Muslims in Europe, who suffer from the demoralisation caused by living as perennial objects of suspicion and contempt, are far from thinking of themselves as a politically powerful, or even cohesive, community, not to speak of conquerors of Europe. So what explains the rash of bestsellers with histrionic titles – While Europe Slept, America Alone, The Last Days of Europe? None of their mostly neo-con American authors was previously known for their knowledge of Muslim societies; all of them suffer the handicaps of what the philosopher Charles Taylor, in his introduction to a new collection of scholarly essays entitled Secularism, Religion and Multicultural Citizenship, calls “block thinking”, which “fuses a very varied reality into one indissoluble unity”. Certainly, the idea of a monolithic “Islam” in Europe appears an especially pitiable bogey when you regard the varying national origins, linguistic and legal backgrounds, and cultural and religious practices of European Muslims.
Unemployment, discrimination and other generic psychological disorientations of second- or third-generation immigrants make young Muslims in Europe vulnerable to globalised forms of political Islam, many of whose militant versions vend political aphrodisiacs of a restored Islamic community to powerless individuals. But it is a tiny minority that is attracted to or is ready to condone terrorist violence. Not surprisingly, most of these Muslims live in Britain, the European country most tainted by the calamitous “war on terror” that [UK foreign secretary] David Miliband, as well as Barack Obama, now concedes was possible to see as a war on Muslims.
Europe’s security and intelligence agencies are demonstrably more effective against Islamist terror groups than they were against many home-grown militant organisations: the murderous attacks on London in July 2005 and Madrid in March 2004 have to be measured against the more numerous and relentless assaults by the IRA in the past and ETA in the present. But the killings of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Gaza, which are exhaustively reported and not euphemised away as “collateral damage” by the global Muslim media, have created a general volatility, in which seemingly local acts can, as the Danish cartoon controversy proved, immediately spark a worldwide conflagration.
Stoked by tabloids and opportunist politicians, a general paranoia linking Muslims to extremism has simmered in Europe since 9/11. A mini-riot erupted in Birmingham, central England, last weekend (Aug 9-10), when demonstrators against “militant Islam” from a group claiming to represent “English people, from businessmen and women, to football hooligans”, clashed with Asian men. Fortunately, the good sense and decency of the great majority of Europeans still prevails in everyday transactions of civil society; this instinctive neighbourly regard may be more effective than the state’s many initiatives in keeping the peace among Europe’s politically diverse communities.
[By Pankaj Mishra, Courtesy Dawn/Guardian News Service , Monday, 17 Aug, 2009]