The current issue of The Wilson Quarterly features an essay by Martin Walker, editor of United Press International, called “Europe’s Mosque Hysteria.” The basic message: “Don’t worry, be happy.” Sure, there are “significant numbers of potential terrorist cells” throughout Europe that reject such Western delicacies as democracy, a respect for individual liberty, the separation of church and state, freedom of religion, women’s rights, and so on (I expand a bit on the list that Mr. Walker supplies), but, hey, “there are other, more promising currents” of Islamic thought. “Muslims are being changed by Europe,” Mr. Walker assures us, “just as much as they are changing their adopted countries.”
Exhibit A in Mr. Walker’s new, improved Islam is Tariq Ramadan, the author of To Be a European Muslim (1999) (and also grandson of Hassan al Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt). Exhibit B in his list of reformers is . . . oops: there isn’t any Exhibit B. I wonder why? Maybe it is because the “current” of reformist Islam is only a trickle. Indeed, one wonders whether it is really even a trickle. Tariq Ramadan is dusted off and presented as the epitome of the new, secularized, accommodating Islam. Is he? According to the French writer Caroline Fourest, who has studied Ramadan’s speeches and writings, the more closely one looks, the less appealing is what one finds. “One here discovers Ramadan,” Ms.Fourest writes,
the warlord giving orders and spelling out his political objectives: to modify the secular state and help matters evolve toward ’more Islam’. Unfortunately, the Islam in question is not an enlightened and modern Islam, but a reactionary and fundamentalist one. . . . He weakens secular resistance to fundamentalism by forming alliances with secular anti-racist associations. He has accomplished a sort of tour de force: to make Islamism seductive in the eyes of certain militants of the anti-globalization Left. His tactic is simple: to send young partisans of his cause to register in anti-racist associations and left-wing parties.But let’s leave Tariq Ramadan to one side. Mr. Walker’s larger point is that “There is nothing ineluctable about any clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. Current demographic trends are not immutable.” Quite right. But that is hardly consoling. There are many degrees of probability short of ineluctability, and they encompass all, or almost all, of the vast unfolding panorama of history. In other words, pace Marx, Hegel, and possibly Mr. Walker, to say that something is not ineluctable is to say very little indeed. It is just a nice rhetorical curlicue, mollifying to the inattentive, perhaps. But since individual initiative and a thousand chance elements are ingredients in just about everything that actually happens in the world, the lack of the ineluctable is like subtracting zero from a sum of numbers. It doesn’t matter.
Of course, to say that the ineluctable has no place in history outside the pages of Teutonic metaphysics is not to deny that there are historical trends. But Mr. Walker wants it both ways: it is not “ineluctable” (i.e., absolutely necessary) that there will be a clash of civilizations (never mind that that clash is, as a matter of fact, happening all around us). At the same time, he downplays the alarming demographic trends in Europe with the anodyne observation that current trends are not “immutable.” Who said they were? What’s worrisome is the trend, not whether it is “immutable.” As Mark Steyn wrote in The New Criterion earlier this year,
When it comes to forecasting the future, the birth rate is the nearest thing to hard numbers. If only a million babies are born in 2006, it’s hard to have two million adults enter the workforce in 2026 (or 2033, or 2037, or whenever they get around to finishing their Anger Management and Queer Studies degrees). And the hard data on babies around the western world is that they’re running out a lot faster than the oil is. Replacement fertility rate—i.e., the number you need for merely a stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller—is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that: the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75. Notice what those nations have in common?
Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders and you’ll eventually find the United States, hovering just at replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada’s fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That’s to say, Spain’s population is halving every generation. By 2050, Italy’s population will have fallen by 22 percent, Bulgaria’s by 36 percent, Estonia’s by 52 percent.
In 1970, the developed world had twice as big a share of the global population as the Muslim world: 30 percent to 15 percent. By 2000, they were the same: each had about 20 percent. . . .
And by 2020?
Mr. Walker soothes us with the thought that the clash between radical Islam and the West is not “foreordained.” So what? The Second World War wasn’t foreordained, either. But as the 1930s wore on and the pusillanimous men of good will bargained, negotiated, accommodated, and appeased the Nazis, it became more and more likely. There was nothing “foreordained” about Hitler’s Panzer divisions rolling into Poland on September 1, 1939. I doubt that provided much consolation to the denizens of Warsaw. The lack of necessity offers no protection against the imperatives of actuality.
Mr. Walker’s essay belongs to that large and growing genre of fiction, the political fairytale. The aim of such works is not to put its readers to sleep, but to soothe them into acquiescence. This it does in two ways. First, it tells people what they want to hear--the threat of radical Islam is overstated by irresponsible purveyors of hysteria. Second, it flatters their moral vanity: you, Dear Reader, are a good liberal and know that there is no political problem that cannot be solved by good will and a willingness to negotiate and see the other chap’s point of view.
But wait: What is the other chap’s point of view? I have always admired this frank observation by Hussein Massawi, a former Hezbollah leader: “We are not fighting so that you will offer us something, We are fighting to eliminate you.” Point noted.
Mr. Walker tells a pleasing tale. He seems especially happy about what he calls “The rich variety of Muslim immigration” in Britain which, he says, is not “monolithic” (i.e., bad) but rather a “potpourri” (i.e., good or at least promising) that Tony Blair is trying to lure into “the common identity of Britishness.” How’s Mr. Blair doing? The 20-odd chaps who were arrested last week when MI5 discovered a plot to blow up a bunch of airplanes over the Atlantic give us some sense of the situation. As Melanie Phillips notes in harrowing new book Londonistan, the “rich variety” of Muslim immigration in Britain has precipitated a very grim situation indeed. Writing about the subway bombings in London last July, Ms. Phillips notes that
it quickly became clear that the bombers were all British. The realisation that British boys would want to murder their fellow citizens was bad enough. But the thought that they would do so by using their own bodies as human bombs was a horror which people had assumed was confined to the mystifying passions of the Middle East. So, for some time afterwards, Britain told itself these had not been suicide bombings. Eventually, it was proved beyond doubt that they had been. A shocking videotape surfaced in which the bombers’ young leader, clad in an anorak and an Arab keffiyeh, calmly declared that suicide bombing was the only way to make Britain acknowledge Muslim grievances - and all in a broad Yorkshire accent. There was now no getting away from the fact that British Muslims had turned themselves into human bombs to murder as many of their fellow citizens as possible.
It was only then that Britain belatedly acknowledged the lethal and many-headed hydra it had allowed to grow inside its own society. The attacks had been carried out by home-grown Muslim terrorists, suburban boys who had been educated at British schools and had degrees, jobs and comfortable families. Yet these British boys, who loved cricket and helped disabled children, had somehow been so radicalised within the British society that had nurtured them that they were prepared to murder their fellow citizens in huge numbers and to turn themselves into human bombs to do so.
An appalling vista thus opened up for Britain, which houses around two million Muslim citizens out of a population of some 60 million. How many more Muslim youths, people wondered, might similarly be planning mass murder against their fellow Britons? For although no-one thinks that the vast majority of British Muslims are anything other than peaceful and law-abiding, the evidence suggests that the numbers who do support either the aims of the tactics of the jihad are terrifying. According to British officials, up to 16,000 British Muslims are either actively engaged in or support terrorist activity, while up to 3000 are estimated to have passed through al Qaeda training camps and with several hundred thought to be primed to attack the UK.
Mr. Walker’s talk of “Europe’s Mosque Hysteria” is on a par with the criticism of “Islamophobia.” A phobia is an irrational fear or dread. But dreading the effects of the incursion of radical Islam into Western society is eminently rational, as the events of 9/11, 7/7, the Madrid train bombing, the Bali nightclub bombing, the murder of Theo van Gogh, the wave of embassy burnings in the wake of those Danish cartoons of Moahmmed, and a hundred other incidents show. Like Rodney King, Mr. Walker wonders why we can’t all get along. Neville Chamberlain tried the same wheeze. Adolf was only too happy to play along. Until, that is, he decided the time for playing was over.