BOOK REVIEW: News Weekly
REFLECTIONS ON THE REVOLUTION IN EUROPE: Immigration, Islam and the West, by Christopher Caldwell
, October 31, 2009
Europe's mass immigration policies questioned
REFLECTIONS ON THE REVOLUTION IN EUROPE:
Immigration, Islam and the West
by Christopher Caldwell
(London: Allen Lane/ Penguin)
Paperback: 350 pages
Rec. price: AUD$29.95
Reviewed by Bill Muehlenberg
In this important volume, Harvard-educated US journalist Christopher Caldwell explores a number of important issues concerning the present state of Europe, chief of which is how 50 years of mass immigration - especially by Muslims - has forever changed the continent.
In the first third of this book, Caldwell examines the history and rationale for mass immigration into Europe since the end of World War II. There was certainly a labour shortage back then, and bringing in guest-workers on a temporary basis seemed like a good idea at the time.
But the temporary usually became permanent, contrary to common expectations. For example, foreign workers demanded - and got, in most cases - the right to have their families come and join them. Since a large percentage of these workers were Muslims, major demographic and religious shifts ensued. While native Europeans were going through a birth dearth, the new arrivals were having rather large families.
Thus Europe changed dramatically, even simply in terms of the numbers. For the first time in its recent history, Europe is now, according to Caldwell, "a continent of migrants". He says, "Of the 375 million people in Western Europe, 40 million are living outside their countries of birth."
But since postwar Europe was "built on an intolerance of intolerance", very few Europeans actually said these people should return home when they had finished their work. They were also at this time losing all commitment to their own core beliefs and values, and "behaved as if no-one's culture was better than anyone else's".
Caldwell examines the economic value of an immigration culture. Just who has benefited? While Europe made some gains, it may be that the sending countries benefited the most. No model of development aid comes close to competing with what we find in Europe, says Caldwell. Europe allowed "migrants to set up a beachhead in an advanced economy and ship money home in the form of so-called 'remittances'."
Then there is the whole question of the welfare state and how it can fare in quite multicultural climates. Caldwell notes that they were originally set up in Europe under conditions of ethnic homogeneity. But the massive wave of migrants is heavily testing both the welfare state, and the ability of host nations to remain cohesive.
The second part of the book focuses on Islam, and how well - or otherwise - it is fitting into post-Christian Europe. The non-judgmentalism of so many Europeans - especially the ruling elites - along with the decline of Christian values and beliefs meant that Islam became not just an accepted part of Europe, but a politically protected part.
Fear of "Islamophobia" and of being politically incorrect resulted in numerous policies and practices which basically have led to Continental defeatism. Even after September 11, EU bureaucrats debated whether it was even right to use such terms as jihad and terrorism.
Indeed, a real clash of civilisations has occurred. On the one hand, a civilisation which was exhausted, no longer believed in itself, no longer seemed to care, no longer held up anything as worth fighting for, had come face to face with an opposing worldview full of confidence, contempt for the infidel, sure of itself, and with an evangelistic and millennialist faith.
The modern values of diversity, tolerance, secularism and relativism "that were supposed to liberate Europeans had left them paralysed". A guilt-tripping, cowering, faithless Europe is no match for a triumphant and militant faith system. Thus any talk of integration and assimilation is mainly a pipedream in Europe.
If anything, the tensions and frictions are as strong as ever. With many Europeans - perhaps a majority - are not happy with the way things have panned out on the Continent, and many wishing the migrants would go back home.
And they have good reason to feel this way. Too many segregated encampments in major European cities have become no-go zones for native Europeans. Crime rates are soaring, with Muslims becoming the majority of those found in European prisons.
Then of course there is the problem of Islamic terrorism, and the lack of a vigorous rejection of and protest against it from the Muslim community. The assassinations (e.g., Holland's Pim Fortuyn), the Danish cartoon riots, demands for sharia law, outbreaks of anti-semitism, and other examples all too fresh in our memories, demonstrate the very real problems Europeans are having with their Islamic guests.
Compared to the American experience of immigration, in which the nation became a grand melting-pot of cultures and peoples, the Europe-Muslim divide looks too difficult to easily overcome. A divided loyalty is the result. As Caldwell rightly remarks, "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."
Caldwell documents how so often European authorities have encouraged and assisted in separatist policies and mentalities. This has resulted in a completely foreign culture growing up within the European culture, with little hope of resolution. It is in fact an adversarial culture, and few Europeans seem to know how to deal with it.
The third part of this book looks at the West and its response to the rise of Islam. Is it capable of compatibility with Western liberal institutions? While the meeting of cultures can be a good thing for all involved, in this case one must ask who will be the winner: the West or Islam? Caldwell suggests, "What Islam will contribute to the West is Islam".
It seems to be one-way traffic. Western nations bend over backwards to accommodate their Muslim guests, to make life easy for them, to assure them that they are fully wanted. Yet at least a dedicated minority of Muslims are convinced that the end of history means a universal caliphate. Gullible and clueless Westerners are mere fools standing in their way.
Caldwell concludes by looking at how many European nations are now, belatedly, sobering up and clamping down. Radical nationalist and anti-immigration parties have of course sprung up, and the EU has recently been dealt some major blows at the ballot box.
Europeans are beginning to realise they now have some major problems on their hands. But those who realise this tend to be ordinary people, not politicians, rulers or intellectuals. Indeed, if "Europe is getting more immigrants than its voters want, this is a good indication that its democracy is malfunctioning".
As such, this book is as much a critique of short-sighted and naïve policy-makers as it is about the new immigrants. Europe has shown us how not to deal with the immigration issue, thus at least serving as a negative example.
Even if Europe now wanted to defend its values against those of Islam, the problem is that Europe no longer knows what those values are. It has long ago jettisoned its Christian foundations, and is now floundering in a sea of relativism, diversity, hedonism and secularism. "Whether or not it can defend itself, it has lost sight of why it should," says Caldwell.
He concludes: "It is certain that Europe will emerge changed from its confrontation with Islam. It is far less certain that Islam will prove assimilable. ...
"When an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture meets a culture that is anchored, confident and strengthened by common doctrines, it is generally the former that changes to suit the latter."