"Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder." -- Arnold Toynbee
As Danish embassies and European Union offices smolder in Beirut, Damascus, Gaza and Tehran -- the result of a junior varsity jihad -- the time could not be more apt for Bruce Bawer's "While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within," due out at the end of this month. Bawer is a gay American with a flair for languages who moved to Europe in 1999 to escape what he perceived to be the narrow-mindedness of the Christian right in America.
The move changed him. It also afforded a front row seat at the clash of civilizations now flaring into flames. If American Christian conservatives seemed intolerant to Bawer, they were cream puffs in comparison with the Islamofascists who are multiplying in Europe. Theo van Gogh produced a film about the mistreatment of women in the Islamic community and was assassinated by an unrepentant Islamist who defiantly told the dead man's mother, "I cannot feel for you because I believe you are an infidel." A rumor swept the Muslim world that American soldiers in Guantanamo flushed the Koran down a toilet, and violence erupted worldwide. European newspapers published cartoons insulting to Mohammad, and death threats poured in, embassies were set ablaze, and red-faced Muslims now vow jihad throughout the world.
The Muslim world clearly is not composed solely of murderous fanatics -- but only the most self-deluded would deny that the umma is under the sway of its most radical, medieval and intolerant members. It is they who have the wind at their backs at this moment of history. Forty percent of Britain's Muslims hold a favorable view of Osama bin Laden. Hopeful Westerners continue to call for moderate Muslims to speak up. But, as Bawer asks, "[W]here were the moderate Muslims? British Muslims seemed sincerely to deplore the London attacks. But though hundreds of thousands of them had marched in protest against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, 7/7 occasioned no sizable Muslim protest demonstration against Islamic terror . . . if that silent majority existed at all, it had to be one of the most silent majorities ever. It had remained silent after 9/11, Madrid, Beslan, and van Gogh's murder."
Europe is a beacon for Arab and Muslim immigrants, who flock to the freedom, comfort and convenience available in Western nations. There is no corresponding emigration from Europe to the Islamic world. Immigrants seek a better life, which is abundantly available, particularly in light of Europe's generous welfare benefits. But Europe does not assimilate its Muslim immigrants and does not wish to. Norway refers to its Muslim population as the "colorful community" and prides itself on keeping its "colorful" members separate from mainstream Norwegian society (in the name of multiculturalism, of course). But if a Muslim were to attempt to become an ordinary Norwegian (or Swede or Swiss or Frenchman), he would be met with rigid resistance. Multicultural cant thus covers a multitude of ethnocentric sins.
Many Muslim immigrants, Bawer argues, resist absorption as well, regarding Western society as fundamentally corrupt and unworthy. They want to live in Europe and reap the benefit of the civilization Christianity, rationalism and enlightenment have created -- but they despise it and hope to destroy it.
Into this boiling cauldron (recall the October 2005 riots in France) insert demography. Muslim families have multiple children, and European families are failing to have babies at even replacement levels. Historian Bernard Lewis has predicted that Europe will be majority Muslim by the end of this century "at the very latest." In Stockholm, Muslim teenagers can be seen wearing a T-shirt that says "2030 -- then we take over."
The heart of Bawer's book is not to replow familiar demographic ground, but to probe the political, moral and psychological aspects of Europe's response to this existential threat. The depressing answer, all too often, is that they capitulate. Bawer recounts how Amsterdam police, responding to a complaint by Muslims, dismantled a street mural erected on the site of van Gogh's murder that said "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Some leftist academics in Norway have suggested establishing sharia courts for Muslim citizens. Britain's Channel 4 canceled a documentary about abuse of girls in the Muslim community because the police cautioned that it might "increase community tension."
That self-censorship was exactly what the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten was attempting to expose with its cartoons. That impulse -- to assert the value of free speech despite threats and violence -- is the best evidence to surface in quite some time that there is some life spirit left in sagging old Europe.