Political allegiance to the constitution of your country is the minimum requirement. It is this state of affairs that makes Christopher Caldwell's book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration and the West [forthcoming in the U.S.], which opens with the sentence, "Western Europe became a multi-ethnic society in a fit of absence of mind," a chilling read.(via Doug Ross)
This absence of mind, which Caldwell lays bare, is reflected in Europe's immigration policies and especially in its response to Islam. No debate today is more explosive, more sensitive, more confusing and more frightening than the debate on the future of Islam in Europe. . .
Caldwell discusses this theme in an interesting light: he does not overlook the Europeans who feel that Islam is a danger to European values but asks, "How can you fight for something you cannot define?" And this is Europe's problem -- insecurity about who we are, what our various flags mean, why, with every turn, we spend less and less on the military.
Europe has become a place for new religions, new creeds, multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism, transnationalism. Everything is thus relative. This is an uncertainty that the Muslim does not share. The Muslim ethic and tribal spirit are far more resilient and fierce in war than the protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism.
The numbers and insights that Caldwell has collected in his book are visible to many Europeans. During my life in Holland, and in my trips back, I have spoken to European intellectuals who see the revolution that Caldwell describes so well in his book. They may not call it a revolution, they may also not see it as complete, but they see the identity crisis in Europe.
Take the debate on freedom of expression. In 1989 and afterwards, the provocations in the name of Islam were greeted with a confident, "No way! This is Europe, and you can say what you like, write what you like," and so on.
Two decades later, Europeans are not so sure about the values of freedom of expression. Most members of the media engage in self-censorship. Textbooks in schools and universities have been adapted in such a way as not to offend Muslim sentiment. And legislation to punish 'blasphemy', if not passed, has been considered in most countries - or old laws that were never used are being revived.
Today, in the name of Islam, synagogues are vandalised . . .
The terrifying paradox about these developments is that Muslim immigrants were admitted into European borders on the basis of universal rights and freedoms that a large number of them now trample on, while others perhaps watch passively, or seek to defend only the image of Islam.
Even worse, those who lobby to abolish freedom of expression and to discriminate against Jews, women and gays do so while using the vocabulary of freedom and through the institutions of parliament and the courts that were designed to protect the rights of all.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book review in the May 5th First Post: