In light of cultural crises such as the Danish cartoon controversy and the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris, Christopher Caldwell’s incisive perspective has never been more timely or indispensible. Reflections on the Revolution in Europe is destined to become the classic work on how Muslim immigration permanently reshaped the West.
This provocative and unflinching analysis of Europe’s unexpected influx of immigrants investigates the increasingly prominent Muslim populations actively shaping the future of the continent. Muslims dominate or nearly dominate many important European cities, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Strasbourg and Marseille, the Paris suburbs and East London, and in those cities Islam has challenged the European way of life at every turn, becoming, in effect, an “adversary culture.” In Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, Caldwell examines the anger of natives and newcomers alike. 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.
Caldwell frames the issue of Muslim immigration to Europe as a question of whether you can have the same Europe with different people. The author, a columnist for the Financial Times and a senior editor at the Weekly Standard, answers this question unequivocally in the negative. He offers a brief demographic analysis of the potential impact of Muslim immigration estimating that between 20% and 32% of the populations of most European countries will be foreign-born by the middle of the century and traces the origins of this mass immigration to a postwar labor crisis. He considers the social, political and cultural implications of this sea change, from the banlieue riots and the ban on the veil in French public schools to terrorism across Europe and the question of Turkey's accession to the E.U. Caldwell sees immigration as a particular problem for Europe because he believes Muslim immigrants retain a Muslim identity, which he defines monolithically and unsympathetically, rather than assimilating to their new homelands. This thorough, big-thinking book, which tackles its controversial subject with a conviction that is alternately powerful and narrow-minded, will likely challenge some readers while alienating others.
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Fascinating, fair, and timely
Caldwell suggests that when European nations began guest worker programs in the post-World War II era, they situated themselves, unknowingly, to become “a continent of migrants.” At the time of its writing, the book claims that of 375 million residents of Western Europe, approximately 40 million non-natives are domiciled in the region. Many of these migrants come from Islamic cultures. This is notable, in that “the Islamic and the Christian worlds have opposed one another, violently at times,” for more than a millennium. The book considers whether Europeans and Islamic immigrants can live together peacefully in the years to come, as well as contemporary socio-political circumstances.
According to Caldwell, less than one-fifth of Europeans believe immigration has had positive results for their nations. Before the reader write Caldwell and his fellow Europeans off as racist, xenophobic, or Islamophobic, it is enlightening to objectively consider immigration’s net effects. Caldwell’s book offers that objective analysis.
Indeed, civil liberties have been restricted for all Europeans in the wake of mass immigration. As authorities have placed radical mosques under surveillance, governing bodies have rolled back privacy rights for all Europeans so as not to viewed as singling out those of a particular religion. (Again, no one wants to be considered a “hater” or “Islamophobe.”) To keep from being overwhelmed by the outcome of family reunification programs (noting that practitioners of the Islamic faith traditionally have far, far higher birth rates than those of generally-secular Europeans), Denmark made it increasingly difficult to gain Danish citizenship, making it tough for even for a native Dane to get citizenship for a foreign spouse.
Although some – Caldwell cites European elites, and I’d cite Hillary Clinton in her latest attempt at becoming president – argue that immigrants bring benefits, particularly in economic form, to their home countries, this has been questionable – at least in Europe’s case. Caldwell writes: “Instead of using their benefits to pay for say, food, [immigrants] may use them to pay for, say, Islam. Two-thirds of French imams are on welfare.” Eventually, Europeans determined that immigrants were threatening the sustainability of their welfare economies.
The result was that elites began couching immigration in terms of moral imperatives. We hear something similar in the United States when people claim we have a moral obligation to admit Syrian refugees. The trouble with arguing that the admission of refugees is a moral imperative means that one cannot pick and choose among those asylum-seekers with the best credentials; one is morally obligated to accept all in need, or at least those in the greatest need (i.e., those worst off). It also means that many of the refugees admitted into Western countries are Islamic. “For Europe, the biggest nearby humanitarian catastrophes and the bloodiest nearby wars were either in the Muslim world (Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Eastern Turkey) or on its borders (the former Yugoslavia).” Further, these people are moving to their new land not to do, but to be. This dynamic has created a situation in which immigrants are coming in great numbers – in entire communities. Rather than assimilation, these many communities coexist within their own subculture.
The next two sections of the book – which I won’t spoil for you here – address Islamic and Western culture. Caldwell tackles difficult questions that make Westerners squeamish, including: Is Islam a peaceful religion? Is tolerance beneficial for its practitioners? Is Western culture in decline? Is Islam more sustainable and attractive than Western culture? I found Caldwell’s analysis truly helpful and balanced. Given that “the clash of cultures” is likely to be a hot topic in 2017, I highly recommend this book!