The New Inquisition | The Nation


The New Inquisition

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European Muslims have unintentionally revived a whole genre of nonfiction--the alarmist tract, billed as a "searing" yet "necessary" exposé on Europe's impending demise now that it has allowed so many millions of Muslims to settle on its shores. The titles are each more ominous than the last: The Rage and the Pride, by Oriana Fallaci (2002); Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, by Bat Ye'Or (2005); Londonistan, by Melanie Phillips (2006); Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis Is America's Too, by Claire Berlinski (2006); and While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West From Within, by Bruce Bawer (2006). The authors rely mostly on tabloid or newspaper accounts; the arguments are simple, or, more accurately, simplistic, and the preferred method of inference is extrapolation.

About the Author

Laila Lalami
Laila Lalami
Laila Lalami, the author of Secret Son and Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, is an associate professor of creative...

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Facile explanations for the massacre must be resisted.

Tidy stories reducing the atrocity to a clash of civilizations or a problem with integration are neither enlightening nor satisfying.

The latest offering in this genre is Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West, by Christopher Caldwell, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard and a regular contributor to the Financial Times, The New York Times Magazine and many other publications. However, just as Chirac and Sarkozy prefer to say more carefully what Le Pen says bluntly, Caldwell articulates in polite and embellished language what Bawer and others have been saying aggressively for years: Europe is being overrun by Muslim immigrants; these immigrants show no sign of assimilating to European culture and social mores; and as a result, Europe is in danger of becoming an outpost of the Islamic empire.

According to Caldwell, European "political and commercial elites" invited immigrants to work on the continent in order to help rebuild the infrastructure that had been destroyed during World War II. These immigrants were expected to take up jobs in construction and, in later waves, jobs that were deemed too menial or too low-paying for "European natives." Immigrants revitalized industries like car manufacturing in the 1950s, but by the 1960s they were already propping up those, like textile mills, that were failing. Deindustrialization, combined with the 1973 oil crisis, resulted in the closing of factories and the loss of thousands of jobs. By then, the immigrants had already settled in Europe indefinitely, had married or brought spouses and had children. "Decade in, decade out," Caldwell writes, "the sentiment of Western European publics, as measured by opinion polls, has been resolutely opposed to mass immigration. But that is the beginning, not the end of our story."

That story, in Caldwell's telling, focuses on the Muslim communities of Europe. The plot involves the physical isolation of rapidly growing numbers of Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians, Turks, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Indians in suburban neighborhoods; high rates of crime and imprisonment; misogynistic practices and anti-Semitic confrontations; and general cultural tensions with mainstream society. The story's climax is the Muslim minority's "demands" for concessions to its religion, laws and customs. The other characters in this high drama are the "self-loathing" European elites, who are in love with the idea of a multicultural society and who close their eyes to any negativity because they feel they have to atone for centuries of colonialism.

However, Caldwell argues, "immigration is not enhancing or validating European culture; it is supplanting it." European Muslims, he warns, are having children at a rate unmatched by the secularized natives. As of 2005, there were approximately 5 million Muslims in France; 3 million in Germany; 1.6 million in Britain; 1 million in Spain; and fewer than 1 million in the Netherlands and in Italy. All told, Muslims account for about 5 percent of the total population of Western Europe; but that may be 5 percent too many, because in Caldwell's estimation, "if one abandons the idea that Western Europeans are rapacious and exploitative by nature, and that Africans, Asians, and other would-be immigrants are inevitably their victims, then the fundamental difference between colonization and labor migration ceases to be obvious."

The comparison between labor migrations of the past fifty years and colonization--the most memorable example of which, in recent history, is European colonialism in Africa and Asia--leaves out such details as invasions by armed troops; the systematic expropriation of land; the exploitation of natural resources to the sole benefit of the settlers; genocide, as happened to an estimated 10 million Congolese; wars of independence that cost millions of lives; and the installation of brutal dictatorships. Unbelievably, Caldwell insists that the immigration of individuals, each one acting independently and for economic or political reasons, not in obeisance to a collective supranational policy or religious mission, is nothing short of colonization.

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