Friday, December 03, 2004

David Pryce-Jones on Islam in Europe

David Pryce-Jones, writing in Commentary, discusses here the rise of Islam in Western Europe:

"Only a few years ago, mass-murder attacks on the West in the name of Islam, like those of September 11, would have seemed like a thriller writer’s fantasy. Nor would anyone have imagined that a bombing by Islamists could swing a general election in a European country, that a Dutch movie-maker might be shot dead on the street for a film about the abuse of women in Islam, or that one might find oneself watching, on television, the beheading of Western hostages by men crying out Allahu Akhbar! over their savage deeds. Pakistan now has a nuclear bomb, and this weapon is widely described as an Islamic bomb. To judge by their pronouncements, the Islamist leaders of Iran can hardly wait to perfect and use their derivative of it.
At present, it is not clear whether the religious/ideological rage that is the motive force behind these developments has any limits, whether it may yet succeed in mobilizing truly huge numbers of Muslim masses, or whether it can be deflected or crushed. What is clear is that a phenomenon that at first looked like a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand has lashed up into a crisis with global implications.

Does this crisis amount to a “clash of civilizations”? Many people reject that notion as too sweeping or downright misleading. Yet whether or not it applies to, say, the ituation in Iraq, or to the war on terror, the phrase has much to recommend it as a
description of what is going on inside Europe today. As Yves Charles Zarka, a French philosopher and analyst, has written: “there is taking place in France a central phase of the more general and mutually conflicting encounter between the West and Islam, which only someone completely blind or of radical bad faith, or possibly of is concerting naiveté, could fail to recognize.” In the opinion of Bassam Tibi, an academic of Syrian origins who lives in Germany, Europeans are facing a stark alternative: “Either Islam gets Europeanized, or Europe gets Islamized.” Going still farther, the eminent historian Bernard Lewis has speculated that the clash may well be over by the end of this century, at which time, if present demographic trends continue, Europe itself will be Muslim."

The question of Muslim Europe, while still essentially a taboo in any meaningful discussion in Western Europe, governed by a code of politically correct multiculturalism, is starting to emerge slightly into polite discourse. The remarks by Bernard Lewis, noted above, were widely noted and quoted, especially. However, the Economist notes in its Charlemagne column of 27 November 2004 that Lewis' arithmetic is off: "At present there are not more than 13 m Muslims in the European Union, out of a total population of 457 m. Even if there is a massive surge in immigration and the fertility of white Europeans falls even further, it is difficult to see how this will lead to a merger between Europe and North Africa." ( p 56) However, by referring to the EU rather than Western Europe, the Economist tilts matters considerably - Poland has some 60 m people, and virtually no Muslim population - in Western Europe, matters are very different, as the Economist recognizes: "The demographic picture in particular places is admittedly more dramatic. The Muslim population of France is now nearly 10% of the total. And it is officially projected that the three largest Dutch cities will have 50% non-western populations (most of them Muslim) by 2020." (Id.)

Why does any of this matter? Well, it matters if you have reason to think that in the midst of that demographic shift, you are bringing in even relatively small numbers terrorists and terrorist ideologues.

It also matters if you think that the immigrant populations remain economically unintegrated, in large part because of a welfare state that supports them without drawing them into the productive economy (which, more than any other thing, socializes its participants by drawing upon their self-interest). The failure of Western Europe economically to integrate its immigrants, preferring them to remain on the margins, supported by the welfare state but unproductive, has been disastrous. Young men will seek some form of authority, power, legitimacy, status, importance, place in the world, a possibility to fulfil genuine ambition, and obtain respect - young men will go and seek their fortunes - they always have and always will. If they cannot get there by being socialized to enter the workforce, a workforce that actually accepts them but also disciplines them to accept society and its values, then they will get it by some other means, which may well mean a radical imam in a mosque preaching jihad. In which case they may well find the self-respect they seek - fighting in Afghanistan or Bosnia, preaching the religion of the despised and unassimilated to those who likewise have no place in regular society, or seeking to blow up symbols of the West. It is a wholly negative lesson from which the United States ought to learn deeply.

It matters, too, if you think that these immigrants remain unassimilated to a set of values of liberalism, tolerance, secular government and the separation of church and state, and respect for such things as the rights of women - and that the governments of these European countries do not believe it worth fighting for the inculcation of these values as part of economic and social assimilation, because they are in thrall, once again, to an anodyne but ultimately dangerous multiculturalism. Western Europeans are going to have to decide if they stand for their own values, within their own countries. They will very soon discover that they cannot elide the question or make it go away. It is not at all clear that they do stand for the things they like to say; Europe too often seems to be assertive about the value of its own culture only when speaking to Americans and the United States (in this they are like American feminists who have no difficulty trashing the easy targets of the Catholic Church, but cannot see their way to engagement in the struggle against the far more frightening forces of radical Islam - preferring, as Christopher Hitchens has noted, to let American conservatives fight those battles for them). It's the usual official multiculturalism that has the terribly corrosive effect of driving the concerns of ordinary Europeans (who, like the Americans, are rather patriotic even when it takes the unattractive form of anti-Americanism), underground where it risks taking dangerously nationalistic expression. But there is virtually no talking about this with most European elites, whose vocabularies cannot admit of a difference between patriotism and nationalism.

Finally, it matters in the longer term to US security policy (more on this in a later post). The rise of Muslim Europe changes drastically the Robert Kagan view that Europe has reached the end of history, and is in a kind of utopia, beyond war, beyond want, beyond genuine conflict. The demographic shifts in Europe mean that this Europe will last no longer than this generation, and the next generation will inevitably be part of history again. Dealing with Muslim concerns within Western Europe - whether integrated and so part of internal domestic democratic politics or whether unintegrated and so representing unassimilated pressure on existing political forces - may have the effect of greater tension and indeed conflict with the US. It is not impossible that the transatlantic alliance, in fifty years, might founder on that tension among others.

So, yes, this all matters a great deal.

UPDATE (Saturday, December 11, 2004). Victor Hanson Davis on Islam in Europe, here.

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