The Magazine

Vive le Califat

Does European Islam mean Islamic Europe?

Nov 20, 2006, Vol. 12, No. 10 • By JEREMY RABKIN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

America Alone

The End of the World

as We Know It

by Mark Steyn

Regnery, 256 pp., $27.95

It's human nature to recoil from the saddest or most distressing sights. If there's another side of us that is fascinated by disaster, there are lots of disaster stories competing for attention. Cable news and the Internet make it all too easy to switch over or click on to the latest breaking tale of woe. To keep us focused on the most alarming underlying trends, we need
a really entertaining writer.

So here's Mark Steyn, with all his trademarked verbal slapstick and clowning. And his new book is intensely sobering. Most of it has been said before--and by no one more insistently than Steyn himself in his regular columns in America, Canada, and Britain. But with the space now to keep spinning out the implications, Steyn offers a warning that is riveting.

The challenge starts with demographic trends. European birthrates have fallen way below replacement levels. In today's Italy, for example, there are barely half as many children under the age of five as there were in 1970. As the proportion of old people increases and the proportion of young workers declines, European welfare states face financial strains that make our own problems with Social Security look mild and manageable.

Immigration, once seen as an answer to this problem, now poses an even more intense challenge in much of Europe. Immigrants from Muslim countries have maintained high birthrates and concentrated in major cities, so large parts of major cities are now preserves of immigrant cultures. Complacent talk of multiculturalism has allowed European governments to ignore the challenge of winning the loyalties and attachments of immigrants. For children of immigrants, who have no strong attachments either to their old or new countries, extremist ideology often fills the void.

In practice, Steyn warns, Europe is trending toward societies that are not so much multicultural as bicultural--split between a growing minority that embraces Muslim discipline and identity, and a bewildered, anxious, aging population that does not. Bicultural societies are rarely stable.

Europeans scoff at the idea that Iraq could become a pluralist democracy, but then imagine that European social democracy can ensure happy harmony with people fired by some of the same zeal as Iraqi "insurgents."

You think Kurds and Arabs, Sunni and Shia are incompatible? What do you call a jurisdiction split between post-Christian secular gay potheads and anti-whoring anti-sodomite anti-everything-you-dig Islamists? If Kurdistan's an awkward fit in Iraq, how well does Pornostan fit in the Islamic Republic of Holland?

Sure, Western decadence has an appeal, even for children of Algerian immigrants in the banlieux of Paris. But restless young people may well combine the worst aspects of Western decadence with the worst impulses of Islamist extremism: "Whether in turbans or gangsta threads, just as Communism was in its day, so Islam is today's identity of choice for the world's disaffected."

A reform of Islam? "What if the reform has already taken place and jihadism is it?" Steyn puts the challenge very sharply: "Those who call for a Muslim reformation in the spirit of the Christian Reformation ignore the obvious flaw in the analogy--that Muslims have the advantage of knowing (unlike Luther and Calvin) where reform in Europe ultimately led: the banishment of God to the margins of society."

In some places, gradual but relentless accommodation to the new culture will steer societies along a path where "there's very little difference between living under Exquisitely Refined Multicultural Sensitivity and sharia." Elsewhere, there may be resistance, triggering street violence or political upheaval. Amidst worsening economic trends and increasing instability, more and more educated young people will seek their futures in more promising countries--hastening the dissolution of the old society. So Steyn foresees "societal collapse, fascist revivalism, and then the long Eurabian night, not over the entire Continent but over significant parts of it. And those countries that manage to escape the darkness will do so only after violent convulsions of their own."

Even if that nightmarish vision is too extreme, the strategic point remains: No matter what rhetoric our State Department adopts, European nations are not going to be confident, capable partners for American international aims. Would France help us thwart the nuclear plans of the mullahs in Tehran? The "quai d'Orsay can live with Iran becoming the second Muslim nuclear power. As things stand, France is on course to be the third."