The New Inquisition | The Nation


The New Inquisition

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To continue with Caldwell's story, the Muslims of Europe--and, naturally, the elites who enable them--have led each major European country to a national tragedy: the London underground bombing; the Madrid commuter train attacks; the Paris riots; the murder of Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands; and the cartoon crisis in Denmark. He concludes by sounding a pessimistic note on Europe's chances of winning this existential fight for its cultural survival. "Europe finds itself in a contest with Islam for the allegiance of its newcomers," he writes. "For now, Islam is the stronger party in that contest, in an obvious demographic way and in a less obvious philosophical way. In such circumstances, words like 'majority' and 'minority' mean little. When an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture meets a culture that is anchored, confident, and strengthened by common doctriness, it is generally the former that changes to suit the latter."

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 assumption here is that Europe's culture was a rigid construct that remained unchanged until the immigrants arrived. But cultures are not static; they change all the time. Of course Europe's culture will change as a result of its demographic shifts, but that change need not (indeed, it should not) be turned into a culture war between Islam and the West. Caldwell's conclusion is also contradictory, coming as it does after 300 pages in which he has argued just the opposite: that Muslims are backward, unemployed, criminal and, until recently, disengaged from the political process. By the time he ends the book, they are suddenly and inexplicably strong enough to "conquer" Europe.

Reflections on the Revolution in Europe is the kind of book that will reaffirm the opinions of those who already agree with its author. If you happen to think that the establishment of what is now called "Eurabia" is a matter of time, you will find plenty of support in the many statistics and anecdotes Caldwell culls from newspaper and magazine reports. If, on the other hand, you prefer a more reasoned and complex view of the issues, the simplifications, contradictions and errors in this book will fail to persuade you. Caldwell repeats the thoroughly debunked canard that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were roundly celebrated in the Muslim world: "It was a day of joy in much of the Muslim world, including parts of Muslim Europe." On the contrary, there were demonstrations of solidarity with the families of the victims in nearly every major Muslim capital, from Rabat to Cairo to Tehran. More to the point, when the United States invaded Iraq, under the spurious claim that it possessed weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein had helped plot the 9/11 attacks, were the bombings not greeted with shouts of "U-S-A" in this country? That does not mean that the vast majority of Americans approved of the wholesale killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians. Simplifying the facts is expedient for Caldwell, however, as it helps bolster the argument he is trying to make, which is that Islam is locked in an inevitable and perpetual civilizational conflict with the West.

Although a large proportion of Europe's immigrants are not Muslim, and although the continent has faced serious economic, political and social challenges at various times over the past fifty years, European Muslims are held to blame for the rise in crime, violence against women, the resurgence of anti-Semitism and homegrown terrorism. For instance, Caldwell examines rates of incarceration in Europe, finds them proportionately higher for Muslims and attributes this finding to their religion and their culture, neither of which, in his view, equip them with the necessary tools for succeeding in the West. Missing from this grim assessment is the stubborn fact that Muslims are more likely than non-Muslims to be prosecuted for minor offenses. In France, where judges and prosecutors have large discretionary powers, noncitizens are significantly more likely to be forced into pretrial detention while their case is being investigated. The sociologist Devah Pager, who teaches at Princeton, also found a strong correlation between crime-control strategies in French local jurisdictions and the ethnic heterogeneity of these jurisdictions. To put it more plainly, crime is not policed in the same way for everyone. Researchers at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands found a similar pattern; they recently published the result of a study showing that Moroccans sit in jail for lighter crimes than ethnic Dutch.

At no time was the question of crime in Muslim neighborhoods debated more hotly than in the fall of 2005, when the Parisian banlieues erupted in riots that lasted three weeks, leading then-President Chirac to declare a state of emergency. The riots were triggered by the deaths of two teenage boys, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, who, while fleeing the police, hid in a power station and were electrocuted. Initially, Sarkozy, at the time Chirac's interior minister, claimed that the boys were suspected of robbery, but there was no solid evidence that they committed a crime--they had been playing soccer in a field when they saw police officers and fled to avoid a lengthy process of interrogation. In interviews after the riots, the people of the banlieues often described the teenagers' deaths as a spark but cited as fuel discrimination, isolation and joblessness. The banlieues are ghettos, and as James Baldwin once wrote, "To smash something is the ghetto's chronic need." Though Pascal Mailhos, the head of the French national intelligence services, flatly stated that religious beliefs played no part in the riots, several French politicians blamed, persistently and exclusively, Islam. So does Caldwell: "Even if they did not believe in Islam, they believed in Team Islam." The point here, I suppose, is that Muslims are acting collectively even when they tell you they're not.

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