by Grant Reid | How Islam threatens to wipe away European culture.
Europe is no stranger to conflict and religious controversy. Over the centuries, the religious makeup of the continent has changed, leaving behind the battle scars to prove it.
But today’s Europe seems strikingly free from full-scale war. The horrors of the early twentieth century have given way to decades of peace and relative prosperity. But increasingly, the continent is finding itself nearing a cultural tipping point. As Islam penetrates modern European society in every country, governments are finding it increasingly difficult to balance distinct European cultures with Islam’s cultural norms and desires. Recent developments demonstrate the depths of this crisis and Europe’s inadequate response to actively protect its future.
Muslim immigration to Europe is not a new phenomenon. But large and growing Muslim populations in major cities across the continent mean their voices and influence are greater than any time in recent memory. Official population statistics show that 24% of Amsterdam, 20% of Stockholm, 17% of London, at least 20% of Brussels is Muslim. With birthrates in Western Europe nearing an abysmal one child per woman, Islam’s higher birthrates and rates of immigration mean Muslims are the fastest growing population and religion across Europe, poised to single-handedly reverse Europe’s population decline.
Accordingly, Islamic dominance of certain areas is growing. Michael Nazir-Ali, the Anglican Bishop of Rochester, is receiving death threats for commenting that certain areas of his country are “no go” areas for Christians and other non-Muslims because of the threat of violence from militant Islamic gangs.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the highest-ranking official of his faith, recently came under fire for suggesting that Britain allow elements of Sharia law in judicial disputes in some areas. While these isolated anecdotes do not apply to the entire continent, they are emblematic of a Europe that has yet to find a way to integrate Muslims into secular society.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Muslim-turned-atheist colleague of murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh (creator of the short film Submission which chronicles Islam’s poor treatment of women), warns that Islam presents a fundamental threat to freedoms taken for granted in Europe.
She raises the central dilemma of European culture when she tells Reason, “western civilization is a celebration of life—everybody’s life, even your enemy’s life. So how can you be true to that morality and at the same time defend yourself against a very powerful enemy that seeks to destroy you?” Europe and the rest of the West have yet to answer this fundamental question. In the absence of a strategy to protect Western, liberal freedoms, Islam continues to grow unabated in Europe and more forcefully rejects Western society.
But as Europe searches for a competing ideology to counter the dogmatic spread of Islam across the continent, some wonder if Europe has anything of value left to offer. Syndicated columnist Spengler argues that “secular liberalism, the official ideology of almost all the nations of Western Europe, offers hedonism, sexual license, anomie, demoralization and gradual depopulation.”
Faced with this culture, dogmatic Islam becomes appealing to those parents and families who do not wish to raise their children in the hedonistic, decadent culture most of Western Europe offers.
Moreover, the decline and decay of Christian churches in Europe, the force that used to define the continent’s historical and religious past, means there is little in the way of competing religious views to act as an alternative for moderate and open-minded Muslims. Spengler argues that the “war with Islam…is being won in parts of the world where Christians wage it on spiritual grounds (e.g: Africa)…Europe, meanwhile, is losing ground to Islam because it declines to fight.”
Instead, European Christianity’s message is mixed. The Dutch Catholic charity Vastenaktie has rebranded Lent as “Christian Ramadan” because “Ramadan is a better-known concept among young people than Lent.” Bishop Tiny Muskens believes Catholics ought to pray to “Allah.” On the other hand, Pope Benedict XVI has attempted to create a pan-European Christian civil religion that capitalizes on Enlightenment ideas and Europe’s spiritual past in his book Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam.
Ultimately, Europe’s greatest problem is that its culture and institutions have ossified in the face of a vibrant and growing Islamic culture. The tradition of European philosophers who advocated an open and free society where boundaries and self-expression were respected has been rendered useless by a European culture that refuses to pass judgment on ideologies that reject these basic ideals. The continent’s demographic death spiral compels the need of more immigrants, but this population infusion has its price: the death of Western culture.
Italian social scientist and Senate President Marcello Pera comments in his dialogues with the Pope, “in the age of relativism and silent apostasy, belief in the true no longer exists; the mission of the true is considered fundamentalism, and the very affirmation of the true creates or raises fears.” Europe’s silence in the face of one type of fundamentalism has grave consequences that are only beginning to emerge.
Mr. Reid is a junior majoring in History.