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, alarming and profound. It takes a subject on which you might have thought everything has been said, 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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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Johnnnymac66

    I’ve lived all of my 51 years in Chicago. I learned world politics by reading Gigi Geyer, Evans & Novak, George Will, and many, many others. I learned Chicago politics by reading Mike Royko, Studs Terkel, and many others.
    For me, the tipping point with Evans came when he “outted” Valerie Plame, a crime I believe was treasonous. I wrote him and told him exactly that, and was not surprised when I received no response.
    From that point on, I’d glance at his columns, but never again believed anything in them.
    When Hunter Thompson would inject himself into the stories he was writing, it was funny. Outting an undercover CIA operative because of a personal grudge wasn’t at all funny.
    I still believe Robert Evans committed treason against the United States.

  • WaStateUrbanGOPer

    Novak comes off as a sort of American, Jewish-cum-Catholic verson of Evelyn Waugh: nasty, vindictive and palpably self loathing. But he wasn’t unpatriotic. Moreover, he was correct about the War on Terror and Iraq. Compare his foreign policy views to David Frum’s, and then tell me: who comes out looking better on the geopolitics of the past decade?

  • WaStateUrbanGOPer

    Oh, and by the way Frum, you’d fail your mother-in-law’s course, too: it’s ABC 20/20, not “NBC 20/20.”

  • lolapowers

    Mr Frum, I so wholeheartedly agree with you, Novak was indeed a dark soul !

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