Islam and Europe
To the Editor:
David Pryce-Jones’s article is excellent, and I wish it had been written 30 years ago [“The Islamization of Europe?,” December 2004]. From the mid-1970’s through the mid-1980’s, I used to ask my colleagues in the political-science and history departments of universities at which I taught, or at national and international scientific meetings, whether Western Christianity had the wherewithal to withstand a Muslim onslaught. They had no clue what I was referring to. They could not conceive of an Islam on the march in the modern world as, centuries earlier, it had been on the march across the entire Mediterranean region and parts of Asia. Unfortunately, many of these same individuals and their contemporary counterparts persist today in the same misunderstanding.
In my view, however, the article is also incomplete. Mr. Pryce-Jones either does not mention or insufficiently emphasizes three interrelated developments that have aided Islam’s spread throughout Europe, the United States, Africa, and elsewhere. These are the world-wide resurgence of religiosity, with its accompanying spirit of anti-intellectualism to which the young (including the educated young) are especially vulnerable; the increasing dependence of the West on oil and the resultant enrichment of the (mostly Saudi) families that control it, whose wealth has helped fund the massive immigration of Arab Muslims into Western societies as well as religious and educational institutions that have been used to preach and teach hatred of Jews, Christians, and Western life; and the revival of anti-Semitism throughout Christian Europe, especially among its elites.
Sheldon F. Gottlieb
Boynton Beach, Florida
To the Editor:
An Israeli friend who lost family in the Holocaust remarked to me recently that Europe used to have a minority that was well-educated, hard-working, productive, and integrated; now, she added, Europe has the minority it deserves.
A fine, cynical remark—but Europe must win the demographic and cultural war that its Islamists are waging against it. Unfortunately, as David Pryce-Jones points out, many Europeans are blind even to the existence of this war. One hopes they prove right to put their trust in the long-term durability of their liberal democracies, but wishes are not horses, and neither are hopes.
Kevin Jon Williams
To the Editor:
When the Soviets imposed a blockade on Berlin in June 1948 and told the West to get out, the British and French were all packed and ready to leave. It was the United States that informed both the Soviets and our allies that we were in Berlin to stay. Whereupon, as if on cue, the Western intelligentsia predicted that Communization of the West was the wave of the future and that the best we could hope for was some sort of accommodation with the Soviets.
Now, as David Pryce-Jones documents, we are being similarly told that it is our duty and obligation to accommodate ourselves to Islam and, indeed, as the London Guardian has argued, to embrace it. Our encounter with Soviet Communism ended well. How will this one end?
San Leandro, California
To the Editor:
David Pryce-Jones’s penetrating article exposes a development more dangerous by far than earlier Islamic invasions that were accomplished by force of arms. Whether Europeans can summon the clarity and strength necessary to defend against today’s politically correct infiltration remains to be seen. But the European predicament also proves the wisdom of President Bush’s strategy, which is to fight the global war against radical Islam by going on the offensive and by seeking to transform the political culture of the Middle East.
The idea that Afghani-stan and Iraq might join Turkey in choosing liberalism and democracy over theocratic and autocratic rule, and thereby provide a compelling model for the suppressed majority in Iran, is the American coalition’s bold counter to what radical Islam is looking to achieve in Europe and beyond. It is ironic that, in the millennial struggle many Europeans have not yet recognized we are all in, their own best hope for strategic deliverance may well lie in the “wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time” they have so vehemently disparaged.
Iowa City, Iowa
To the Editor:
If David Pryce-Jones’s pessimism becomes a reality, as the facts thus far seem to portend, then the question mark in his article’s title can be erased. Recently, the Muslim community in Bradford, England was able to have the town council install a publicly funded, modified madrassa for Muslim children, and it has been working toward instituting a local system of shari’a law.
Why has the liberal West sat still while such things go on in its midst? There is an idea abroad among us that good and evil are retrograde, simplistic concepts; that other cultures would be more in tune with us were it not for our own airs of superiority; and that any adverse outcomes creeping our way are our own fault.
Western Europe, having been jolted by incidents like the murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, may be beginning to think more realistically about the problems it faces, and we can only hope that it is not too late. But we in the United States are faced with similar (though lagging) realities. Several years ago, in American Jihad, Steven Emerson reported that sermons denouncing Americans and Jews were being delivered in mosques throughout the country. Some mosques have been under investigation for raising funds for terrorist groups like Hamas.
Authorities here and in Europe know about Islamist incitement. But because restrictions on speech, assembly, and movement are anathema in our societies, reports like Emerson’s about realities on the ground tend to be denied or dismissed. We need to remember that in times of war, icons like Abraham Lincoln and FDR permitted far more profound restrictions on civil liberties than does today’s Patriot Act.
New York City
To the Editor:
I enjoyed David Pryce-Jones’s article very much, but I fear he misquoted Hilaire Belloc. Belloc did not “boast” that “We have got the Gatling gun, and they have not.” The lines Mr. Pryce-Jones alludes to are from Belloc’s poem “The Modern Traveler,” which was published in 1899 when the Gatling gun was already an antiquated weapon. The correct quotation is: “Whatever happens, we have got,/The Maxim gun, and they have not.” The lines are spoken by an unpleasant character named Blood; Belloc, who opposed imperialism, was not himself boasting of “Western cultural and military superiority.”
Iowa City, Iowa
To the Editor:
David Pryce-Jones writes that Muslims in Western countries face a choice between defining themselves as law-abiding citizens who seek to live by “common values” or as Muslims exempt from having to make any concessions to the faith of others. But if all citizens have the right to self-expression, should not Muslims feel entitled to live on their own terms—so long as they are not violent—and should not society respect their choice?
David Pryce-Jones writes:
Sheldon F. Gottlieb regrets that “The Islamization of Europe?” was not written 30 years ago. At that time, Arab and other nationalists had succeeded in pushing the colonial European powers out of the Middle East and everywhere else. It was not yet evident that Arab nationalism would produce societies from which so many desperate people would long to escape, nor that men like Sayyid Qutb and Ayatollah Khomeini would offer the alternative of political Islamism.
Settling in their millions in the various countries of Europe, Muslim immigrants have an identity crisis: whether to accept or reject assimilation. Fired by Islamism, plenty of voices among them are calling for outright colonialism in reverse. Sheikh Omar Bakr Muhammad, for instance, recently told Muslims in Britain that they must now consider themselves at war. An Islamic state, he said, had to be established in Britain. Six hundred delegates at one of his conferences were shown images of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center; in the words of a press report, “the rapt watchers thrust their fists in the air and chanted ‘Allahu Akhbar!’ (God is great!)” They then all cheered the name of bin Laden.
Europeans have a corresponding identity crisis, as they decide what to make of this large and growing minority in their midst, particularly the Islamists who aspire to colonize them. Kevin Jon Williams, Leslie Dale, Michael Balch, and Frederic Wile express doubt that European civilization now has the necessary resilience to continue in its sweet old ways: either Europe will succumb, they suggest, or there will be a backlash of the kind experienced in Holland as a result of the murder of the film-maker Theo van Gogh by a local Islamist. Down either of these roads lies every prospect of social disintegration and violence, as I indicated in citing Hilaire Belloc’s famous lines. When those lines are quoted, the Gatling habitually replaces the Maxim gun, but I should have done as William Kupersmith did, and checked the source.
Benjamin Schenkier suggests that Muslims should feel entitled to live in non-Muslim countries “on their own terms,” so long as they are not violent. More than a plea for tolerance, this is in effect a commendation of reverse colonialism, of the kind that the likes of those 600 bin Laden supporters seize on eagerly and skillfully.
Mustafa Akyol also pleads for reverse colonialism, albeit in a soft form. The wearing of the hijab may indeed be more symbolic than anything else, but the French have decided that the symbol challenges social and ethical values that they struggled for at great cost to themselves, and that cannot now be compromised. The statue of St. James Matamoros, likewise, is part of Spanish history. The Moors were once in Andalusia as conquerors and colonialists, and they gave as good as they got. Are Spaniards really to repudiate the personalities—and the centuries—that went into the making of their nation and their identity? And if they were to do so, why and how would that “show respect for Muslim faith and culture” rather than the surrender of respect for their own faith and culture? Finally, there are effigies and portraits of Torquemada, and Jews do not ask for their removal.