Reflections on the Revolution in Europe

October 6th, 2009 at 5:09 am David Frum | 10 Comments |

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Chris Caldwell’s Reflections on the Revolution in Europe is at once urgent and subtle, drugstore alarming and profound. It takes a subject on which you might have thought everything has been said, troche and makes that subject new again. Written with elegant restraint, it still shimmers with generous passion. Although its thesis is depressing, the book itself is a rare pleasure: an intelligent book by an avowed conservative.

Caldwell’s subject is of course Muslim immigration to Europe. But is it really immigration? Immigration implies a departure from one society and acceptance of another. But what if the immigrant refuses to accept his new society’s norms and ways? What if he insists on carrying the ways of his old society with him? What if the new host society submits to that insistence out of weakness or fear? Caldwell suggests that the process we are seeing might be more aptly called, not immigration, but colonization.

Muslims remain a small minority within Europe. As Caldwell points out, however, the British accounted for an even smaller minority during their rule over India. Majorities have often yielded to more disciplined, more determined minorities.

The yielding is a familiar story.  The great originality of Caldwell’s book, however, is his close attention to what happens when the majority does not yield. Caldwell tells the story of Denmark’s attempt to curb chain migration through marriage. Denmark imposed waiting periods for citizenship and other restrictions on Danes seeking to marry non-Danes.

What makes the measure defensible against EU human rights laws is that it is race-, religion-, and ethnicity-blind. It achieves this race blindness by stripping rights wantonly from all citizens, rather than targeting the problem it seeks to address…

Thus, when the French government banned Islamic headscarves from the public schools, French Jews were equally deprived of the right to wear yarmulkes.

Over the long term, the price of managing immigration is paid by the broader society in the form of rights.

French Jews lose the right to wear yarmulkes to school when the government bans the hijab. American evangelical ministers wishing to preach in Britain will have to face the same licensing rules as imams from Yemen. If the Dutch government acts against Islamic independent schools, Calvinist schools will lose privileges to the same extent. Repression is balanced by appeasement.

It took fifty years of mass immigration for Europeans to grow frightened of their minorities. When people start doing out of fear what they previously did out of conviction or generosity, they often do not notice the transition.

Yet the transition has been made, through a series of stages. Caldwell acknowledges that it is still only a minority of European Muslims who endorse violence against those who say things to which they object. But – one of Caldwell’s best lines – “it does not take a majority to murder someone.”

Through murder and the threat of murder, new norms have been enforced on an escalating schedule:

1) Muslims must respect Muslim law. [EG: The woman and girls who are harassed or worse in Muslim-majority banlieus if they do not conform to standards of dress and deportment.

2) Members of the Muslim “community,” even if they are nonbelievers or if their allegiances lie with the larger national culture, must respect Muslim law. [EG: Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.]

3) Non-Muslims must respect Muslim law. [EG: The Danish cartoonists.]

4) Non-Muslims must be above even the suspicion of not respecting Muslim law. [EG The self-censorship and self-concealment of European scholars of Islam, like the pseudonymous Christoph Luxenberg, who have traced the pre-Islamic origins of the Koran.]

Caldwell analyzes Europe’s migration challenges with no trace of Schadenfreude. He knows Europe well, admires it, and can appreciate the charms of the pacifist welfarism that has left the continent so economically and socially vulnerable. He does not demand that Europe become America. And yet, he poignantly observes a European predicament:

It is an increasingly anti-American continent facing dire problems to which the only proven solution is to become more like America. Because the United States shows, at least, that one can receive great masses of immigrants from all over the world and retain a culture that is still open, free, and Western. American society appears to many Europeans, whether they like the United States or not, as their continent’s consolation prize.

Americans have argued fiercely this year over domestic issues. Have the bailouts and healthcare reform proposals put their freedom at risk? Caldwell reminds us at this preoccupied moment that the future of western freedom is being decided on the other shore of the Atlantic. About this future, he can offer many perceptions, but little optimism. His book concludes with this grim warning:

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.

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10 Comments so far ↓


    Nice to see Frum’s bigotory documented by his own hand. If he is the supposed alternative to the Palins and Limbaughs then the conservative movment in the US is doomed.

  • DFL

    Although Caldwell’s book is useful, better writers have made the same warnings years ago, from Mark Steyn to Pat Buchanan.

  • sinz54

    I have read some things about the British government’s efforts at outreach to their Muslim community.

    What’s different about reaching out to the Muslims is that their interest is transnational rather than local. The Brits will try to offer jobs, better housing, etc. And what they hear from the Muslims is “But what we really want the British government to do is change its policy on Israel.”

    The Jewish community has that particular transnationalist interest too. The difference is that Jews don’t periodically riot, burning cars and smashing storefront windows.

    But anyway, that’s not our problem. For most of my lifetime, the Europeans have looked down their noses at my country. I will shed no tears at Europe’s difficulties with immigration or anything else. It’s about time this continent of spoiled, effete, pacifistic, pseudo-intellectuals, who existed for years sucking at either the American teat or the Soviet teat, finally got a taste of the real world–and had to make its own decisions for a change.

    In other words, SCREW THEM.

  • Raider1

    Gee now THERE is an insightful book. If only someone else had written this earlier. Oh right they did. His name is MARK STEYN and the book three years ago is called “AMERICA ALONE”! Steyn’s arguments are about the demographics as well as the ideology. He views Europe as weak and aging with an unsustainable welfare state that assumed population growth, not contraction, and is falling under its own weight.

    Euroep is what happens when you take God away. You are left with a spiritual void that the Islamonuts are now filling. And it isn’t your grandfathers “peaceful” Islam. Rather it is hardcore Wahabiist insanity, fueld by Saudi Arabia whose chief export is radical Islam…not oil. Oil just pays for the former.

    Europe is dead. Gone. It’s decline is unrecoverable, and its welfare state (that Obama wishes to emulate!) is unsustainable.

    The most common newborn boy’s name in Belgium now? Mohammed.

  • EscapeVelocity

    Its called colonization.

  • EscapeVelocity

    Bundesbank official under police investigation after blasting Turks for ‘conquering Germany’

    Even the upperclasses with lots more to lose (as this fellow will) are now starting to speak out. The New Left zeitgeist is going to be smashed, and Conservatism, especially Social Conservatism will be on the ascendance in the West.

    Institutions will be retaken by the concerted effort and those mouthing vapid Leftwing tropes will be disempowered….or have to move to Third and Second World cesspools to attack Western Civilization from their allies homelands.

  • EscapeVelocity

    The Turkish Prime Minister has said that it is a “crime against humanity” to promote and expect assimilation of Turks in Germany.

  • Raider1

    Yeah, they are colonizing Europe the way a virus “colonizes” its host. They are the first wave of immigrants to the west that has demandiong that the host country assimilate to THIER values and not the other way around. In 50 years Germany’s “Germanic” population will be half what it is now. Same with Greece, Spain, Italy, etc. (The only country to not face negative pop. growth in Europe is Albania. Anyone care to guess why??)

    Oh, the maps will still have squggly lines that read “Spain” or “France” but in reality they will be Espanidan and Frankistan. Obama is cow-towing to a Europe that NO LONGER EXISTS! By 2015 half the Russian Army will be Muslim! 20% of France will be. In lOndon more Londoners (people who live in London, not to be confused with “British”) go to Mosque than Church every weekend now.

    As Steyn put it (again, not sure why Frum feels this book that re-invents the wheel is so earth-shattering or even novel) the Muslims that Europe imports are the children that the Europeans — who suffering from the self-absorbed and ompotent ennui that only the faux Utopia of secularist cradle-to-grave socialism can induce–never bothered to have. It is as if one day the people in Massachussettes colony one day looked up and discovered that though the people 50 and older are named Smith, Jones, Standish, Miller, etc., all the children and young adults are named Mohammed and Ahmed!

    It is not multiculturalism. It is BI-Culturalism. Ask Bosnia, Rwanda, Northern Ireleand, etc how it works out when two distinct cultures, beliefs, etc. vie for the same territory to which they both have a claim.

    Good luck Europe. In 50 years, as Steyn already said, America will be standing alone.

  • EscapeVelocity

    I think Frum is promoting this book, because its tone is more intellectual and staid, while covering the same ground as Steyn, Bawer, Berlinski, Fjordman and Bat Yeor.

    This is Frums biggest gripe, not that those people are wrong, but that they arent polite enough to be acceptable on the New England Elite Snob Circuit. Defending truth is more difficult when truth is raw and visceral. When its couched in the passive voice and has a better pedigree behind it, then its defendable on the dinner circuit.

  • Reason60

    I am left wondering why Europe has this peculiar problem assimilating immigrants we don’t. Much of what is being said about the European Muslims is exactly what was said about the Irish, the Chinese, the Jews, and so on. Yet all of them have successfully been assimilated into mainstream American culture.
    I work with many Arabic and Persian Muslims (in the engineering field, Asians, Souoth Asians, and Arabic cultures are highly Dominant). Yet they seem to be perfectly adapted to the secular American culture.
    I don’t disagree with some of the comments made- that a full-throated defense of secular culture and tolerance should be made, that the ideals of individual liberty and freedom of conscience be made loudly and forcefully defended.

    However, it is also worth noting that here in America, the agenda of the Christian Right seems eerily parallel with the Muslims- that secular culture is bad (Didn’t Bill O’Reilly coin “Secular-Progressive” as an epithet?), that individual liberties are suspect (e.g., homosexuality and feminism) and that the wall of separation should be erased.
    (For a look at what Christianist Sharia looks like, check out this painting via Andrew Sullivan: )

    If we say that secularism is worth defending, we should probably behave as if it were. Otherwise it just becomes a battle of “Christianist Sharia is good, Muslim Sharia is bad”.