Accept his analysis or not, Bawer and his details startle, since American tourists rarely visit the Muslim communities that now ring many European cities, and American journalists rarely cover them. Apart from the heinous killings by angry Muslims of prominent Europeans such as Dutch professor and politician Pim Fortuyn (after publication of his book Against the Islamicization of Our Culture) and Dutch artist and filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who dared to question Islamic brutalization of women, Bawer describes a landscape of dysfunction.
Seventy percent of the inmates in French prisons, Bawer reports, are Muslim. Four out of five residents at Oslo's main women's shelter are non-Norwegian women seeking protection from male family members. In Denmark, "Muslims make up 5 percent of the population but receive 40 percent of welfare outlays." Ninety-four percent of asylum seekers who come to Norway arrive with no identification, a well-known subterfuge around Europe that virtually ensures asylum on humanitarian grounds.
Bawer's book also highlights the ironies of current global politics and immigration. Radical Islamists, for instance, focus their fury on the United States even though it, unlike Europe, experienced little antagonism with Islam until the creation of Israel, and in fact most resembles the traditional Islamic "umma" (universal Muslim community), in the generosity with which it welcomes foreign residents (though it differs in offering equality rather than second-class dhimmi citizenship).
Similarly, while Islamists explode with fury at the very idea that non-Muslims should occupy or live in Islamic countries, Bawer observes and amply documents that many employ every legal and illegal stratagem imaginable under the doctrine of "family reunification" to bring more relatives into their European countries. They then insist they have a right to be there and apply for the seemingly endless forms of European welfare: "unemployment benefits, relief payments, child benefits, disability, cash support, and rent allowance."
Bawer apportions blame for the "mess" he sees. Muslim immigrants insist on Islam's traditionally imperialist principles, which presume that no Muslim properly lives under the sovereignty of a non-Muslim state. Europeans maintain a "romantic view of Muslim immigrants" as "colorful" unfortunates worthy of assistance, but steadfastly resist their entry into elite professions and neighborhoods. Bawer beautifully capsulizes this European mind-set as "millions in aid, but not a penny in salary."
Ultimately, his book, like the cartoon controversy, raises profound challenges to standard ideas of democracy, authority, and free expression.
To whom does any country's physical territory belong? Those who have been there longest? A simple majority? The best-educated?
Must the cultural rules of longtime societies last forever? Or might it make perfect democratic sense for officially secular France to change should its Muslim population reach 50 percent, just as the English-speaking United States might need to accept Spanish as an equal language if Spanish speakers reach that mark?
Bawer's must-read book, in tandem with others, opens our eyes to an inescapable truth: Christians and Muslims fought wars for more than 1,000 years, with each at times conquering the other's territory by force. Non-Muslims need to know far more about Islam if they're going to take positions they can justify, whether that leads to cooperating with various Islamic world views or ultimately confronting them.
Islam, we're often reminded these days, means "submission" in Arabic. Enlightenment, we should equally remember, means replacing half-baked notions and myths with facts.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Carlin Romano reviews Bruce Bawer's new book about the Clash of Civilizations (ht Roger L. Simon):