While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West From Within, by Bruce Bawer. This is a clarion call from an American writer alarmed at the growing presence of Islam and Muslims in post-9/11 Europe. The title says it all: liberal immigration and welfare policies of modern Europe, both EU and non-EU states, have caused their elites to turn a blind eye to the erosion of their liberal cultural values engendered by a growing influx of Muslims from North Africa and the Mid-East. Somewhat to Bawer’s own surprise as the reader gradually perceives, Bawer, altho regarding himself as something of a refugee from America, has come belatedly to believe that Europe and America alike deserve defending from the cultural annihilation of radical Islam.
Having departed an ultra-conservative America due to frustration over intolerance, Bawer lands in the Netherlands expecting to find a happy land accepting of homosexuality, women’s rights, and social differences. Instead he discovers that the Land of Oz has growing ghettos of angry Muslims, who bring with them intolerance of gays, women’s rights, and infidels. Even more surprising to him, and disillusioning, he discovers that Europe in general and the Netherlands in particular look upon all Americans with condescension and smug contempt, and are so set in their liberal ways that they cannot see the rot that is occurring in their own society, as Muslims in his view increasingly engage in violent crime and rape, and demand and receive special treatment in politics, employment, and media.
While not completely rejecting his thesis, I have several criticisms. First, if one is a Reagan conservative, it is probably not the best plan if one wishes to find social acceptance to move to ultra-liberal Netherlands, Denmark, or Norway, even if one is gay. A rainbow button will scarcely immunize one from receiving negative reactions to advocating a conservative politics of social darwinism.
Second, given his strident national loyalty to America, even if only belatedly realized, social acceptance once again will likely be elusive in Europe. The negative reactions he received hardly seem a surprise to this reviewer given the depth of anti-nationalist attitudes that prevail in most of Europe today, still smarting from the killing fields of two hyper-nationalistic world wars. Strident nationalism, as Bawer points out, is frowned on thruout Europe whatever the source, not just when voiced by Americans.
Third, Bawer defensively acquiesces in the simple distinctions that his European conversants make between a harsh capitalist America and a caring paternalistic Europe, with Bawer extrapolating a series of fundamental i’s that he finds sadly lacking in contemporary Europe: individualism, initiative, imagination, inventiveness, independence of mind. But this distinction is false. The U.S. is in fact far along the path of merging with European secular liberalism and dusk set long ago on the legacy of Reagan among America’s elites, which was itself a mere Indian summer of traditional small-government American values. The U.S. is steadily transforming into a European-style welfare state. And last I checked, the Netherlands still produced the most professors per citizen of any country, and CERN, the source of the most profound scientific inquiries on the planet, was still located in Switzerland, while the U.S. continues to struggle with censorship, bigotry, militarization, and unrestricted spying, while a vastly disproportionate amount of its innovation, military and otherwise, is conducted by recent immigrants bribed with gigantic salaries extracted from American taxpayers to perform such work, including by many technocratic Muslims. The American military-industrial complex is anything but a free market.
But to the real subject of the book, the Menace of Islam. Again several criticisms and observations. First, the numbers of Muslims in Europe simply don’t amount to the critical mass that he suggests they have attained. France, one of the most in danger in his view, has between 6 and 8.5% of its population of Muslim origin, a far smaller percentage than that of blacks in America which is around 13%, and much smaller than Hispanics who are around 14%. The vagueness of the percent is due to France’s prohibition on keeping statistics on ethnicity, a much wiser and more honest policy than the statistical paranoia of the U.S. While some countries, like Sweden, may conceivably attain a Muslim-origin majority within fifty years, these immigrants are far from united or monolithic, and conflicts between various national immigrant groups in Sweden have resulted in numerous public clashes among them, and only a small percentage could be called “fundamentalist”. About the only common factors that one can reasonably identify are dark skin, high regard for a book called the Quran even if few so-called Muslim immigrants can actually read it, and great respect for a historical figure called Muhammad. Only a small minority even among immigrants who style themselves Muslim have more than a remote affiliation with the language of Arabic, which is usually far superseded today among many Muslims by the new universal language of English.
Second, the militant defense of icons such as Muhammad and Islam are not alien to the U.S. but have a very close parallel in America. If one considers Dr. Martin Luther King and his elevated position among African-Americans, this is closely analogous to the position of Muhammad among Arabs, and of those non-Arabs who embrace Islam. Just as it is unacceptable publicly to criticize Dr. King in the U.S., it is no great sacrifice even if one is not a Muslim to refrain from publicly insulting the most revered national and ethnic leader of hundreds of millions of people of Arab-Muslim culture. Islam also can be compared to the narrative of black slavery and the civil rights movement in the U.S. in that they all claim a similar immunity from criticism and don’t hesitate to take to the streets if they feel their eponymous leader has been insulted. For the sake of social harmony in the U.S. the civil rights movement and the up-from-slavery narrative have been removed from open criticism in politics, media, and academia, despite King’s less than perfect personal life and questionable credentials. Article by Sirius.Reviews. Yet in the U.S., while the icons of African-Americans remain inviolate, Islam remains open-season for smear campaigns, with the name of Muhammad spared no insult, second only to Hitler in being universally condemned, with Muslims reflexively playing the “racist” card in a weak attempt to garner some of the same immunity from criticism habitually proffered to American blacks.
Bawer’s accusation that Muslims in Europe are tribal and fight integration as individuals into their host countries, unlike the U.S. which allegedly successfully integrates immigrants as individuals into the American melting pot, exaggerates both the success of the American melting pot and the resistance of Muslims to assimilation in both Europe and the U.S. It has often been asserted that, just as the most strident Marxists were to be found in the West and not in China or in the Soviet Union, whose rulers understood Marxism all too well, today the most fervent Muslims are to be found in Western Europe and the U.S. and not in many of the traditional Islamic countries which, in the view of many in the Mid-East, perhaps know Islam all too well.
Bawer sees Islamic countries as undiscriminating purveyors of Islamist radicalism with Dutch and Norwegian Muslims residing by choice mainly in their country of origin and only establishing European citizenry to grab welfare payments for repatriation to their real homes in Pakistan, etc. But Westernized Pakistanis are in fact prime targets of abduction for ransom when they return to Pakistan for visits—their wealth and education make it extremely dangerous for them to wander about without expensive security to escort them—far more dangerous than for a European or American to wander through a Muslim “ghetto” in the West. It remains more likely for a Norwegian immigrant Muslim to be abducted on a trip to a small village in Pakistan if he wanders out of tightly secured “Little Norway” than for a white native Dutchman to be abducted on a stroll through Oud West in Amsterdam, abductions in fact being unheard of in the latter locality.
Bawer’s description of Muslim ghettos in Western Europe, fostered and reinforced by local national policy, also applies to the U.S. The kind of individualism that Bawer fondly recalls from his stay in the U.S. has long given way to the new regime of ethnic group identity. Affirmative action in the U.S. is in fact a new kind of tribal identity, the permanent division of society into ethnic factions, with a growing balkanization of U.S. cities, and which will eventually balkanize American politics into a multiplicity of ethnic political parties. Every major city in the U.S. has its ethnic districts populated predominantly by Mexicans, Hondurans, Salvadorans, Afro-Americans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans, Arabs, Pakistanis, Indians, and there are even sizable Polish and Italian districts in some eastern cities more than a century after those groups immigrated. Many of these immigrants do not speak English, even to the third generation. For the most part, light skinned people from Europe have finally melded into each other, though red haired Celts remain still often excluded. But after three centuries, European-Americans and African-Americans have yet to produce a significant mestizo population, even after 50 years of official encouragement of racial intermarriage. So what is the likelihood today that Muslim minorities in the U.S. will ever meld? Less likely than apologists for immigration policy, who clearly have an ulterior agenda beyond the myth of the melting pot, like to assert. But more likely than what Bawer believes, since he persists in overlooking the fragmented internal divisions and wide spectrum of beliefs and interpretations displayed by the many different immigrant groups of the broad Islamic tradition.
And while much of Islamic history is a story of conquest, much also is a story of third-world resistance to European encroachment and servitude, from resistance to French rule in Algeria and Morocco, to resistance to French and British rule in Egypt, to Italian rule in Libya, to Russian rule in Central Asia and the Caucasus. And the conversion to Islam of tens of millions of serf-like untouchables in India was certainly a civil rights movement unparalleled anywhere in the West or the U.S., centuries before Gandhi appeared. The complexities of history can be argued many ways, and there is no lack of victims in history from every race and every ethnic group, even whites having a long history of being enslaved by dark Muslims; but dismissing the dignity of a vast conglomeration of ethnic groups struggling to find identity and self-respect under a confused umbrella called “Islam” with a simplistic “radical Muslims want to make us dhimmis under sharia law” is a reductio ad absurdam and far from helpful.
Yet there is a fundamental culture clash at work, which Bawer successfully identifies and recoils from. In some sense the phrase “radical Muslim” is redundant in that there is a fundamental set of philosophical and social values intrinsic to Islam—indeed not only to Muslims, but also to fringe groups rejected by mainstream Muslims, and even to Christians and Jews and other religious minorities with historic roots in the greater Islamic civilization area. These are the predominance of clan and family ties, or “tribalism” for want of a better word; the importance of religion in their daily lives, with strict observance of their sectarian dietary restrictions and religious holidays and non-observance of local dietary customs and holidays; imposition of their clan religion, whichever religious flavor it might be, on every member of their clan; the importance of female chastity, which for Muslims is the most extreme of any civilization area; intolerance for alien religions, whatever those religions may be; and a profound ignorance of Western philosophy, Western history, and Western values, with very little interest in learning such. These are classic Middle Eastern cultural traits which are characteristic of Christians from that area as well as Muslims.
Other values Bawer also names: for example, no separation of church and state, but this view is just as prevalent in Asia and Africa in official Christian countries like Liberia and Cameroon and Papua New Guinea as much if not more so than in Islamic countries, even if they have significant religious minorities participating in government. He implies that the cutting custom of FGM is Islamic; but this is an African custom prevalent in places like Nigeria, and has nothing to do with Islam and to this reviewer’s impression happens only in places where black Africa happens to overlap with Islam, such as Somalia. Just as intolerance of homosexuality is far more entrenched in sub-Saharan Africa than in most of the Islamic world.
He is correct in perceiving the depth of the problem of assimilation. This reviewer has often been struck by the incongruity of immigrant Muslims in the U.S. who assert they are completely assimilated into American society, only to learn that none have an education beyond that required by a superficial technical degree, and who refuse to observe Halloween or Christmas, entirely failing to understand that in the U.S. these are completely secularized holidays that all Americans observe. Or who announce their family obligation to visit dozens of close and distant relatives around the globe, all of whom belong to exactly the same sect within Islam, failing to understand that, in the U.S., ‘family’ means exclusively the nuclear family. Or to eat pork, again entirely failing to understand that the U.S. is a secular pluralistic society, in which religion is entirely a matter of private individual conscience and not at all a question of what one eats.
Assimilation in the U.S. ultimately requires sitting down to eat Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday hams together with non-Muslims and will forever be incomplete until Muslim immigrants who do this are fully accepted by other Muslims as Muslims. No Muslim who refuses to eat ham or refuses to celebrate Christmas can authentically say he has assimilated to American culture and society.
This outlook, which focuses on outward group behavior instead of individual conscience, is profoundly Middle Eastern with its origin in the greater Islamic civilizational area—not American culture. Similarly, paying locals to clandestinely take their American history and government exams, such courses being already exceedingly elementary and shallow, for many immigrant Muslims is standard practice, for these “assimilated” Muslims could not possibly pass such exams, often having never attended the classes. Indeed this reviewer has met immigrant Muslims completing degrees at leading American universities who cannot identify Abraham Lincoln and have never heard of the American Civil War. Yet American affirmative action policies require American universities to hire these same immigrants to teach classes in these same subjects, and ethnic studies classes to boot, refusing to hire non-immigrant American instructors, whatever their educational attainments may be, because their Anglo ethnicity is officially disfavored. Bawer cannot see this advanced American rot from his seclusion in Europe.
The confluence of Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. continuing to promote massive immigration in order to bolster corrupt Tammany Hall votes and corporate profits, respectively, will clearly continue until the North American population hits a billion people and the U.S. either fragments politically or suspends the Constitution and slams the gates shut—either way, the Constitution is doomed, for the rot in the U.S. can no longer be reversed. Europe has a similar dilemma: someone, after all, must work and pay the taxes to support the millions of childless (read “selfish”) retiring older generations, and this need is more urgent in Europe than in the U.S., tho the U.S. is heading rapidly in the same direction sirius.reviews.
Bawer correctly questions why the incoming streams of immigrants in Europe should be allowed to colonize Europe and impose their own social values on their new countries rather than be required to learn local European languages and values and truly assimilate. Where Bawer falls down is his overestimation of the unity and uniformity of Islamic-oriented immigrants whom he sees as lumped together as “radical Muslims” wishing to impose a uniform sharia law, a subject about which he is not very familiar; and his conservative characterization of the U.S., which in this reviewer’s view is much more similar to Europe than Bawer believes, both in its intellectual culture and in its treatment of immigrant Muslims, yet in its tribalism is worse than Europe.
While Europe Slept is an entertaining polemic, but like most anti-Islam polemics is not deeply informed about Muslims, Islam, or the sharia tradition. For an informative curative, one should read Edward Said’s Covering Islam, a similar polemic that has many of the same flaws, but from the opposite point of view. Sirius.reviews