Feature:Opinion
FILE - This May 18 2010 file photo shows a woman, who gave her name as Najat, holding her passport during a press conference in Montreuil, east of Paris.  A proposed law to ban wearing the burqa-style Islamic veil in public, in France, goes before parliament Tuesday July 6, 2010.  President Nicolas Sarkozy FILE - This May 18 2010 file photo shows a woman, who gave her name as Najat, holding her passport during a press conference in Montreuil, east of Paris. A proposed law to ban wearing the burqa-style Islamic veil in public, in France, goes before parliament Tuesday July 6, 2010. President Nicolas Sarkozy's government has cast the measure as a way to promote equality between the sexes and protect oppressed women, despite concerns of many French Muslims, and scholars who argue that it is not constitutional. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere, FILE)  

How Muslim immigration has transformed European politics

Photo of Bruce Bawer
Bruce Bawer
Author of While Europe Slept

The mass immigration of Muslims into Western Europe over the last four decades or so was a project of elite mainstream politicians, most of them left-wing, who never consulted the electorate on whether they thought this project was a good idea or not. Motivated by a multicultural sensibility (and, in most cases, an invincible ignorance about Islam), these politicians felt compelled not to try to integrate these newcomers, but encouraged them, rather, to preserve their cultural values, however at odds they might be with Western ideas of freedom and equality. For many years there was little organized public resistance to the increasing Islamization of Europe. But then, around a decade ago, things reached a breaking point.

There were several factors. The enthusiastic response to 9/11 by European Muslims who cheered in the streets that day underscored just how foreign many of these people’s values were, and just how hostile they were to the societies in which they lived. The terrorist attacks in Madrid and London, the Danish cartoon riots, the brutal murder of Islam critic Theo van Gogh in Holland, the riots in French and Belgian cities, all raised red flags. European economies suffered increasingly owing to the burden of Muslim families on the welfare state. The growth to adulthood of a generation of European-born Muslims, who had been expected to be fully assimilated, but who, in an extraordinary number of cases, actually proved to be more alienated from mainstream European society than their immigrant parents, was a wake-up call. So were the rising crime rates by these youths, whose religion taught them that unveiled women were legitimate targets for rape and that it was not only acceptable but virtuous to assault Jews, gays, and infidels generally. Furthermore, Europeans became increasingly aware of appalling practices within European Muslim communities, such as forced marriages, female genital mutilation, and honor killings; aware of the vicious anti-Western preaching of these communities’ imams; and aware that these communities, as they grew, were becoming insular no-go zones governed not by Western law but by Sharia.

Yet while ordinary Europeans — many of whose lives were strongly affected by these developments — became more concerned about them, government leaders (whose own lives were largely insulated from these grim realities) dragged their heels, loath to criticize Islam, to make demands of immigrants, or to admit the failure of the multicultural project. The result was a rise in the popularity of organizations, politicians, and parties (some of them newly minted parties) that dared to question the wisdom of existing immigration and integration policies. Some of these new movements had their roots, at least in part, in traditional European fascism and nativism, and were, to say the least, not entirely positive developments; others stood up to Islamization in the name of secular society and individual liberty. Generally speaking, the consequence was a clear rightward shift in European politics. A dramatic example of the way in which concern about European Islam led to a political upheaval was in Denmark, where a sensational 2001 report predicting catastrophic long-term effects of Muslim immigration in that country led voters to replace the socialists who had dominated Danish politics for decades with a conservative coalition led by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who proceeded (as promised) to institute the most revolutionary immigration and integration reforms in Western Europe. (Alas, in the recent Danish election the socialists were returned to power; they plan to water down Fogh’s reforms.)