Friday, May 22, 2009

Christopher Caldwell - Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West

Revolution in Europe?
'There Will Be Blood'
(Image from

John Vinocur, who writes the "Politicus" column for The New York Times, has written a timely article, "Downturn Draws a Veil Over Islam," alerting his readers to the imminent publication of a new book by Christopher Caldwell that I'll definitely have to read: Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West.

Here's what Vinocur reports on Caldwell's book:
Christopher Caldwell has written a dense and important book about whether Europe's identity (itself an uncertain issue) can absorb or survive a fast growing Muslim population, in part deeply engaged in Islam. It is called "Reflections on the Revolution in Europe" and is published in London by Allen Lane and by Doubleday in New York.

Its most cutting insights, rather than on Muslim immigrants' capacity or motivations to assimilate -- I'd say they turn on Europe's will to establish more demanding standards for their integration -- deal with the Europeans themselves.

Mr. Caldwell, who is an editor at The Weekly Standard in Washington and writes a weekend column for The London Financial Times, says Europe's "writers, academics and politicians act as if it is only some quirk or accident or epiphenomenon (and never immigration itself) that has left their country with intractable problems."

All European countries, he writes, pursue the same strategy: "elevating Muslim pressure groups to pseudo-governmental status and declaring that doing so will produce an Islam that reflects the values of Europe than vice versa."

But because Europe was unsure of what those values are, and accepted a "neutrality of cultures," Mr. Caldwell finds "declaring immigration a success and an enrichment became the only acceptable opinion to hold."

As a result, he concludes, "Europe finds itself in a contest with Islam for the allegiance of its newcomers. For now, Islam is the stronger party in that contest."
Strong words, too, and rather bitter for the Europeans to hear, but neither can they ignore Caldwell's words. Here's what's editorial review of the books says:
Christopher Caldwell has been reporting on the politics and culture of Islam in Europe for more than a decade. His deeply researched and insightful new book reveals a paradox. Since World War II, mass immigration has been made possible by Europe's enforcement of secularism, tolerance, and equality. But when immigrants arrive, they are not required to adopt those values. And they are disinclined to, since they already have values of their own. Muslims dominate or nearly dominate important European cities, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Strasbourg and Marseille, the Paris suburbs and East London. Islam has challenged the European way of life at every turn, becoming, in effect, an "adversary culture."

The result? In Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, Caldwell reveals the anger of natives and newcomers alike. He describes guest worker programs that far outlasted their economic justifications, and asylum policies that have served illegal immigrants better than refugees. He exposes the strange ways in which welfare states interact with Third World customs, the anti-Americanism that brings European natives and Muslim newcomers together, and the arguments over women and sex that drive them apart. He considers the appeal of sharia, "resistance," and jihad to a second generation that is more alienated from Europe than the first, and addresses a crisis of faith among native Europeans that leaves them with a weak hand as they confront the claims of newcomers.
As some readers know, I taught a course at Yonsei last fall -- "Multiculturalism and the European Union" -- that focused partly on this very issue. The Europeans face a dilemma. If they want an EU to work, then they must accept multiculturalism, for the EU is a union of different cultures. However, if they accept multiculturalism, then the growing Muslim enclaves within Europe can legitimately demand the right to practice their own Islamic culture in the urban areas where they increasingly dominate.

One solution to this problem is to go between the horns of the dilemma.

Reject a radical multiculturalism predicated upon radical cultural relativism and insist upon a moderate multiculturalism defending human rights and requiring immigrants to accept European values and assimilate into the countries where they settle.

This solution will not come without a struggle. Vinocur tells us to consider the Dutch Labor Party, which put forward a position paper in December 2008 suggesting that the Dutch reject the unsuccessful system of Dutch "tolerance':
Considering the long Dutch experience with multicultural laissez-faire involving Muslim immigration, it said some extraordinary things. Notably, that government and politicians had too often ignored the feelings of "loss and estrangement" in Dutch society in the face of newcomers who disregarded its language, laws and customs.

Lilianne Ploumen, the party chairwoman, insisted that attempts to stifle Dutch criticism of religions (read Islam) and cultures had to stop; double nationalities had to disappear; punishment for troublemakers had to be of such severity that it could no longer serve as a badge of honor for them.

"The street is mine, too," she said.
As Vinocur notes, this "new line seemed like a path-finding change of course inside Europe’s left." But he adds: "Almost." And explains:
Up for approval at a party congress in March, the double-nationality ban disappeared. The text didn't say, as Ms. Ploumen had, "Let go of where you come from." It no longer contained a call to newcomers to abandon "self-designated victimization." Nor did it refer to "bringing our (Dutch) values into confrontation with people who think otherwise."

And the notion of "unconditional" engagement by immigrants in Dutch life was gone.
The Dutch Labor Party, the Euro-Left generally, and indeed all of Europe has yet to put forward a proper, civilized but firm demand that Muslim immigrants assimilate and adopt European values.

If this is not done soon in a civilized manner using the language of common European values, then we could very well see within European nations a resurgent ethnic nationalism that will turn in violence not only against Muslim immigrants but also against the very EU itself.

In that case, as European history has often proven, there will be blood.

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At 12:01 AM, Anonymous Sid S. Davisson said...

This book is too important to ignore.Mr.Caldwell belongs on Bill Moyers'Journal,Charlie Rose,60 Minutes,Larry King,and even Oprah.American civil liberties are more sacred than any faith/religion,starting with Islam.

At 3:56 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Mr. Davisson, for visiting and leaving a comment.

I agree on the importance of the book, which deserves to be part of a national conversation about Islam and immigration.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:02 AM, Blogger Fucius said...

"[...] insist upon a moderate multiculturalism defending human rights and requiring immigrants to accept European values and assimilate into the countries where they settle"
This assumes that the imported values that so challenge the european values are not deeply rooted in the written islamic references.
If they are, the islamic written references being immuable unlike the european secular values, the islamist conquest of europe would only be delayed.
The only hope would be an end to the islamization of the continent, either by a forceful end to immigration and muslim proselytism, or by the muslim massively leaving islam as it is now.
The second possibility is what the natives wish, but can only be decided by the muslims - and it does not seem likely to happen at this point.
The first possibility is the only way for the natives to take action and try to regain control of their land before it is too late.
In my opinion neither will happen, Europe will be islamized, sharia will be applied, and America will see a wave of european immigration.

At 6:18 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Fucius, in my darker moments, I fear that you are correct, namely, that assimilation is impossible.

Nevertheless, assimilation ought to be insisted upon. If immigrants come to Europe for a better life, then they should be required to fit in rather than insist on their own customs and laws when these violate European mores and its legal system.

Thanks for the comment.

Jeffery Hodges

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