On Tuesday, a new book by Christopher Caldwell, a columnist for The Financial Times, was released: Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West.
Caldwell's book gives a comprehensive treatment to an issue that's intrigued me for a long time: how the rise of Islam and the decline of Christianity will affect Europe's political and cultural future. Up until now, Mark Steyn's book, America Alone, has been the definitive (and funniest) book on that topic, although I've written on it ocassionaly here, here, here.
The New York Times (certainly no bastion for conservative thinking) gives Caldwell's book a very favorable review, and I've pasted some of the highlights below...
Through decades of mass immigration to Europe’s hospitable cities and because of a strong disinclination to assimilate, Muslims are changing the face of Europe, perhaps decisively. These Muslim immigrants are not so much enhancing European culture as they are supplanting it. The products of an adversarial culture, these immigrants and their religion, Islam, are “patiently conquering Europe’s cities, street by street.”
“Imagine that the West, at the height of the Cold War, had received a mass inflow of immigrants from Communist countries who were ambivalent about which side they supported,” he writes. “Something similar is taking place now.”
Muslim cultures “have historically been Europe’s enemies, its overlords, or its underlings,” he deposes. “Europe is wagering that attitudes handed down over the centuries, on both sides, have disappeared, or can be made to disappear. That is probably not a wise wager.”
There has been nothing, he suggests, quite like the recent influx of Muslims into Europe — he refers to it as “a rupture in its history.”
“In the middle of the 20th century, there were virtually no Muslims in Western Europe,” Mr. Caldwell writes. “At the turn of the 21st, there were between 15 and 17 million Muslims in Western Europe, including 5 million in France, 4 million in Germany, and 2 million in Britain.”
These immigrants are further swamping Europe demographically, he adds, because of their high fertility rates.
The problem, in Mr. Caldwell’s view, is less about sheer numbers than cultural divergence. What’s happening in Europe is not the creation of an American-style melting pot, he writes, because Muslims are not melting in. They are instead forming what he calls “a parallel society.”
The most chilling observation in Mr. Caldwell’s book may be that the debate over Muslim immigration in Europe is one that the continent can’t openly have, because anyone remotely critical of Islam is branded as Islamophobic. Europe’s citizens — as well as its leaders, its artists and, crucially, its satirists — are scared to speak because of a demonstrated willingness by Islam’s fanatics to commit violence against their perceived opponents. There exists, Mr. Caldwell writes, a kind of “standing fatwa” against Islam’s critics.
Mr. Caldwell, who is also a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, finds things to praise about Islamic society, but he is unsparing about its deficiencies. “The Islamic world is an economic and intellectual basket case, the part of the potentially civilized world most left behind by progress,” he writes. He adds, devastatingly: “Spain translates more foreign books in a year than all the Arab-speaking countries have translated since the reign of Caliph Mamoun in the ninth century.”
Mr. Caldwell’s book is well researched, fervently argued and morally serious. It may serve as a dense, footnoted wake-up call to many of Europe’s liberal democracies.
It is hard to argue with his ultimate observation about Europe today: “When an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture” (Europe’s) “meets a culture that is anchored, confident, and strengthened by common doctrines” (Islam’s), “it is generally the former that changes to suit the latter.”
I think I might have to read Mr. Caldwell's book. And if I do, I'll certainly write a review.