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Eurabia, The myth and reality of Islam in Europe

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  • Eurabia, The myth and reality of Islam in Europe

    Tales from Eurabia
    Jun 22nd 2006
    From The Economist print edition

    Contrary to fears on both sides of the Atlantic, integrating Europe's Muslims can be done

    THIS week George Bush was in Vienna, doing his best to mend relations with his allies. The list of disputes between the United States and Europe remains long and familiar: Guantánamo, Iraq, Iran, the common agricultural policy. Less easy for Mr Bush to talk about, let alone fix, is the equally long list of different attitudes from which so many transatlantic tensions seem to spring—opposing prejudices on everything from capitalism and religiosity to Mr Bush's “war on terror”.

    These underlying emotions—what a British historian, Sir Lewis Namier, once called “the music to which [political] ideas are a mere libretto”—occasionally converge around a particular issue, such as Guantánamo Bay or Hurricane Katrina. This can be unhelpful: Katrina made America look like a failed state, Guantánamo is not a typical example of American justice. Now a similar caricature—this time about Europe—is forming in America (see article). It is known as “Eurabia”, and it represents an ever-growing Muslim Europe-within-Europe—poor, unassimilated and hostile to the United States.

    Two years ago, the White House's favourite Arabist scholar, Bernard Lewis, gave a warning that Europe would turn Muslim by the end of this century, becoming “part of the Arab West, the Maghreb”. Now there is a plethora of books with titles like “While Europe Slept” and “Menace in Europe” (see article). Stagnant Europe, goes the standard argument, cannot offer immigrants jobs; appeasing Europe will not clamp down on Islamofascist extremism; secular Europe cannot deal with religiosity (in some cities, more people go to mosques each week than to churches). Europe needs to study America's melting pot, where Muslims fare better.

    Londonistan calling
    Such advice gets short shrift from European leaders, who often blame Muslim militancy on American foreign policy. But something similar to Eurabia scares many Europeans too. Terrorism is part of it, thanks to the Madrid and London bombings (as well as September 11th). But it goes wider than that: the past two years have seen riots in France's banlieues, the uproar about Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, the murder of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch film-maker, and now the virtual exile (to America) of his muse, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

    Fears about “Londonistan” and so on have helped Europe's far right; on the other side of politics, a bizarre alliance has sprung up between the anti-war left and Islamic hardliners. But the respectable centre is split between France's strict integrationist approach (banning Muslim children from wearing head-scarves in state schools) and the more tolerant multiculturalism of Britain and the Netherlands. The debate about Turkey (and its 71m Muslims) joining the European Union is increasingly a Eurabian one. Meanwhile, at the centre of all this fuss Europe's Muslims are themselves riven by inter-generational arguments on everything from whether there is a European version of Islam to which cricket team to support.

    Is Eurabia really something to worry about? The concept includes a string of myths and a couple of hard truths. Most of the myths have to do with the potency of Islam in Europe. The European Union is home to no more than 20m Muslims, or 4% of the union's inhabitants. That figure would soar closer to 17% if Turkey were to join the EU—but that, alas, is something that Europeans are far less keen on than Americans are. Even taking into account Christian and agnostic Europe's lousy breeding record, Muslims will account for no more than a tenth of west Europe's population by 2025. Besides, Europe's Muslims are not homogenous. Britain's mainly South Asian Muslims have far less in common with France's North African migrants or Germany's Turks than they do with other Britons.

    Arguments about alienation are also more complicated than they first appear. Many European terrorists were either relatively well-off or apparently well-integrated. The Muslims who torched France's suburbs last year were the ones who seldom attend mosques. First-generation immigrants (with the strongest ties to the Muslim world) seem to be less radical than their European-educated sons and daughters. And the treatment of them is far from uniform either: for all the American charges of “appeasement”, the FBI is a downright softie compared with France's internal security services.

    Give us jobs, education and a seat on the city council
    Given these subtleties, perhaps the most dangerous myth is the idea that there is one sure-fire answer when it comes to assimilating Europe's Muslims. In some cases, integrationism goes too far (France's head-scarf ban was surely harsh); but multiculturalism can too (Britain is now reining in its Muslim schools). America's church-state divide and its tolerance of religious fervour are attractive, but its fabled melting pot is not a definitive guide either: many American Muslims are black, and many Arab-Americans are Christian. In some ways, a better comparison (in terms of numbers and closeness of homeland) is with Latinos—and nobody in Europe is (yet) talking about building a wall to keep Muslims out.

    Yet amid all this hyperbole, two hard realities stand out. The first is the importance of jobs. In America, it is easy for a newcomer to get work and hard to claim welfare; in Europe the opposite is true. Deregulating labour markets is a less emotive subject than head-scarves or cartoons, but it matters far more.

    Second, the future of Europe's Muslims, no less than that of America's Latinos, lies with the young. For every depressing statistic about integration—France's prisons hold nine times more young men with North African fathers than ones with French fathers—there are several reassuring ones: a quarter of young Muslim Frenchwomen are married to non-Muslim men; Muslims are flocking to British universities and even popping up in white bastions like the Tory party. In 50 years' time, Americans may be praising this generation of European Muslims for leading the enlightenment that Islam needed.

    Europe's Islamic experience will be different from America's: geography and history have seen to that already. Integration will be hard work for all concerned. But for the moment at least, the prospect of Eurabia looks like scaremongering.


  • #2
    Bought the Economist on Friday, still haven’t read the articles yet – there’s about 4 articles covering the topic.


    • #3
      Dittoes on that; I've yet to read the whole thing but it does look interesting: will post something hopefully when I've fully digested it.



      • #4
        November 26, 2006 -- A RASH of pop prophets tell us that Muslims in Europe are reproducing so fast and European societies are so weak and listless that, before you know it, the continent will become "Eurabia," with all those topless gals on the Riviera wearing veils.

        Well, maybe not.

        The notion that continental Europeans, who are world-champion haters, will let the impoverished Muslim immigrants they confine to ghettos take over their societies and extend the caliphate from the Amalfi Coast to Amsterdam has it exactly wrong.

        The endangered species isn't the "peace loving" European lolling in his or her welfare state, but the continent's Muslims immigrants - and their multi-generation descendents - who were foolish enough to imagine that Europeans would share their toys.

        In fact, Muslims are hardly welcome to pick up the trash on Europe's playgrounds.

        Don't let Europe's current round of playing pacifist dress-up fool you: This is the continent that perfected genocide and ethnic cleansing, the happy-go-lucky slice of humanity that brought us such recent hits as the Holocaust and Srebrenica.

        The historical patterns are clear: When Europeans feel sufficiently threatened - even when the threat's concocted nonsense - they don't just react, they over-react with stunning ferocity. One of their more-humane (and frequently employed) techniques has been ethnic cleansing.

        And Europeans won't even need to re-write "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" with an Islamist theme - real Muslims zealots provide Europe's bigots with all the propaganda they need. Al Qaeda and its wannabe fans are the worst thing that could have happened to Europe's Muslims. Europe hasn't broken free of its historical addictions - we're going to see Europe's history reprised on meth.

        The year 1492 wasn't just big for Columbus. It's also when Spain expelled its culturally magnificent Jewish community en masse - to be followed shortly by the Moors, Muslims who had been on the Iberian Peninsula for more than 800 years.

        Jews got the boot elsewhere in Europe, too - if they weren't just killed on the spot. When Shakespeare wrote "The Merchant of Venice," it's a safe bet he'd never met a Jew. The Chosen People were long-gone from Jolly Olde England.

        From the French expulsion of the Huguenots right down to the last century's massive ethnic cleansings, Europeans have never been shy about showing "foreigners and subversives" the door.

        And Europe's Muslims don't even have roots, by historical standards. For the Europeans, they're just the detritus of colonial history. When Europeans feel sufficiently provoked and threatened - a few serious terrorist attacks could do it - Europe's Muslims will be lucky just to be deported.

        Sound impossible? Have the Europeans become too soft for that sort of thing? Has narcotic socialism destroyed their ability to hate? Is their atheism a prelude to total surrender to faith-intoxicated Muslim jihadis?

        The answer to all of the above questions is a booming "No!" The Europeans have enjoyed a comfy ride for the last 60 years - but the very fact that they don't want it to stop increases their rage and sense of being besieged by Muslim minorities they've long refused to assimilate (and which no longer want to assimilate).

        We don't need to gloss over the many Muslim acts of barbarism down the centuries to recognize that the Europeans are just better at the extermination process. From the massacre of all Muslims and Jews (and quite a few Eastern Christians) when the Crusaders reached Jerusalem in 1099 to the massacre of all the Jews in Buda (not yet attached to Pest across the Danube) when the "liberating" Habsburg armies retook the citadel at the end of the 17th century, Europeans have just been better organized for genocide.

        It's the difference between the messy Turkish execution of the Armenian genocide and the industrial efficiency of the Holocaust. Hey, when you love your work, you get good at it.

        Far from enjoying the prospect of taking over Europe by having babies, Europe's Muslims are living on borrowed time. When a third of French voters have demonstrated their willingness to vote for Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front - a party that makes the Ku Klux Klan seem like Human Rights Watch - all predictions of Europe going gently into that good night are surreal.

        I have no difficulty imagining a scenario in which U.S. Navy ships are at anchor and U.S. Marines have gone ashore at Brest, Bremerhaven or Bari to guarantee the safe evacuation of Europe's Muslims. After all, we were the only ones to do anything about the slaughter of Muslims in the Balkans. And even though we botched it, our effort in Iraq was meant to give the Middle East's Muslims a last chance to escape their self-inflicted misery.

        And we're lucky. The United States attracts the quality. American Muslims have a higher income level than our national average. We hear about the handful of rabble-rousers, but more of our fellow Americans who happen to be Muslims are doctors, professors and entrepreneurs.

        And the American dream is still alive and well, thanks: Even the newest taxi driver stumbling over his English grammar knows he can truly become an American.

        But European Muslims can't become French or Dutch or Italian or German. Even if they qualify for a passport, they remain second-class citizens. On a good day. And they're supposed to take over the continent that's exported more death than any other?

        All the copy-cat predictions of a Muslim takeover of Europe not only ignore history and Europe's ineradicable viciousness, but do a serious disservice by exacerbating fear and hatred. And when it comes to hatred, trust me: The Europeans don't need our help.

        The jobless and hopeless kids in the suburbs may burn a couple of cars, but we'll always have Paris.

        The 'Eurabia' myth


        • #5
          Originally posted by Al-khiyal View Post
          But European Muslims can't become French or Dutch or Italian or German. Even if they qualify for a passport, they remain second-class citizens. On a good day. And they're supposed to take over the continent that's exported more death than any other?
          I think that's what's known as a gross overstatement with a grain of truth at its core. Obviously it is true that there is discrimination against Muslims as Muslims in the UK and the rest of Europe - although a lot of that is a mask for old-style anti-Arab or South Asian racism. In particular, some of the coverage in the press, especially since 9/11, has been just vile.

          However it's also the case (and the ommission from the article is glaring) that there are in the UK, for instance, a large Muslim population that spans back generations, a very different case from someone "qualifying for a passport". It's also not true that there's a kind of wall of bigotry towards all Muslim people everywhere, from every other community in the UK, which is what it seems to me is inferred by statements like "second class citizens... on a good day". There is a wide spectrum of attitudes, and bigoted stances towards Muslims tend to reflect similar demographics to patterns of bigotry towards other minorites.

          It's certainly an issue that needs tackling, and for people on the recieving end of Islamophobic abuse, it must be appalling. But this sort of sensationalism does not contribute towards a solution. It's the mirror image of, and as unhelpful as, the gates-of-vienna "Eurabia" fantasy on the other side of the equation.



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