Feature:Opinion

How Muslim immigration has transformed European politics

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.)

Concerns about European Islam played at least some role in the installation of conservative governments in Britain, France, and Germany, where over the last couple of years the heads of government, David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Angela Merkel respectively, have pronounced multiculturalism a failure — something one could not have imagined happening just a few years ago. In Norway, concern about Islam was a key factor in the rise of the Progress Party, which at its peak a couple of years ago rivaled the long-dominant Labor Party as the largest of the country’s seven or eight major parties (though in the wake of the July 22 murder spree by an anti-immigrant lunatic its clout has slipped significantly). Concern about Islam has fueled the rise of the far-right, anti-immigrant Vlaams Bloc, now Vlaams Belang, in Belgium and the Sweden Democrats in Sweden, and has helped keep Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia in power. Perhaps most spectacularly, it has also fed the immense popularity of the valiant Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has placed the curbing of his country’s Islamization at the center of his political platform and whose very considerable influence extends far beyond his tiny country.

A major outlier in all this is Spain, where the 2004 Madrid bombings, supposedly motivated by the presence of Spanish troops in Iraq, actually tipped the elections a couple of days later toward the Socialists, who promised to withdraw those troops (and did). But that exception aside, the development across Europe has been striking. A decade ago, America had a conservative president and Western Europe was governed mostly by left-wing parties; today the opposite is the case. Less striking, alas, have been the policy repercussions of this political sea change. While there have been positive reforms in immigration and integration policies in Denmark and the Netherlands, and scattered policy changes elsewhere (the burqa ban in France, the minaret ban in Switzerland), these new governments have fallen short of taking the kind of action that is necessary to ensure the survival of European freedom and equality in the face of an Islamization that is still proceeding apace. The recent news that there are hundreds of would-be terrorists in the U.K. waiting in line to wreak havoc at the forthcoming London Olympics only underscored just how far Europe has to go to protect itself from homegrown jihad — whether of the violent or of the stealth variety.

Bruce Bawer is the author of While Europe Slept and Surrender.