The Rise of Islam in Europe By Eric Conan and Christian Makarian

Source: FSSPX News


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(The titles are those of DICI’s editors)

Difficult integration

(…) In 1989, Europe thought it had escaped the tensions of history with the fall of the Soviet hydra. The eruption of the Balkans, reviving an ancient history, was the first sign to the contrary. Today, it’s the Spanish who are feeling like they are being thrust back into ancient history, seeing the massacre of Madrid vaunted in the name of the “reconquest of Al-Andalus”, which the infidels usurped from the Muslims five centuries ago, but which remains definitively classified as the “land of Islam”, since it was conquered by Tariq ben Ziad in the 8th century…

As if, in the long history of the continent, the closed parenthesis of the short East-West confrontation of the 20th century again made way for the face-off between Islam and the West, marked by several immemorial dates in the history of Europe and the Muslim world: 732, the victory of Poitiers; 1492, the reconquista of the Iberian peninsula; 1571, the battle of Lepanto; 1683, the siege of Vienna, and 1918, the fall of the Ottoman Empire.  A history which has left profound traces in the daily life of Europeans, many of whom daily dip a “croissant” in their coffee without realizing that this rite dates from the defeat of the “horde” (the Turkish army) before the ramparts of Vienna.

But, if history can be pursued beyond the human memory, it will not be repeated. If Bin Laden and his confederates seek to rekindle this murderous confrontation of the past, the current landscape is different: today there exists a Muslim presence in Europe, but it is mostly a peaceful one. Olivier Roy explained in Globalized Islam (Seuil publishing) what is so unprecedented about this new “Western Islam”, both for Europe and for Islam. Indeed, it results from recent migratory movements, set in motion in the 1960’s: out of the 379 million people living in the European Union, 12 million have come from countries of Islamic culture, mainly Maghreb, Turkey and the Indian subcontinent. For several decades, the European nations have thought that their respective models would permit these new populations to find their place, betting on the integrating force of peaceful countries and guided by the market and individual initiative.

Today, most of the European countries are revising this optimistic vision, all of them recognizing that they ignored two phenomena more powerful than they realized. On the one hand is the intensity of the crisis of the Muslim world faced with modernity: the violent internal conflicts this religion is experiencing, to the increasing benefit of the extremists, whose first victims are the thousands of Muslims in the world, are spreading on European soil; on the other, the rediscovery of religious resonance in a Europe that has thrown it off to the point of not even wanting to leave a trace of it in the preamble of its constitution. The average European mindlessly flipping through a free paper in the metro is astonished to see his neighbor singing the Koran with a fervor that has been forgotten, even in Spain or Italy. The statistics from Brussels [capital of the E.U.] confirm this religious disparity: more than one third of Northern Europeans say they have no religion, as opposed to only one percent of those from Turkey, and among believing Western Europeans, only 25% of Catholics, Jews and Protestants consider themselves “practicing”, against 72% of Muslims.

The discrepancy between secularized European society and the Muslim population

This discrepancy between secularized societies and populations for whom religion remains an argument from authority has become problematic because of a peculiarity of Islam: its strong prescriptive role. Strict adherents consider the Koran as the source of rules transcending national identities. But it is above all the content of these commandments which ended up defeating the “multicultural” solution so trumpeted in Europe, including France in the 1980’s. Multiculturalism exploded on the central and essential question of women’s rights and homosexual rights, which offered an effective pedagogy, showing that the dogma of the “respect of cultures” in the name of their equality clashes with the equality of individuals. The difference is not “always an enrichment”. Imported into the Old Continent, the juridical inferiority and the relegation of women, which constitute the rule in most Muslim countries, are less and less tolerated in Frankfurt, Barcelona or Turin. This sudden awareness owes much to the feminists among the immigrants, who want to emancipate themselves from the Muslim machismo they see growing in Europe lately. This sad paradox is illustrated in France: it’s not the Human Rights League, but Fadela Amara who is worried by an “Islamization of minds”, observing that, in “the space of a decade, activities for the youth have become sexual past-times for the sole benefit of the boys” in these ever more vast territories where the girls have less and less freedom to move about, alone or wearing a skirt. The first “Study of citizens of Maghreban, African and Turkish origin”, recently published by the Center for the Study of French Political Life (CEVIPOF) confirms this failure: “Whether naturalized immigrants or first or second generations, the effect of Islam on sexual tolerance does not diminish”.

The “control by immigrant families of the sexuality of their daughters”, summed up, for Francis Fukuyama, by the issue of the veil in Europe, grows stronger, as another recent study confirms, this one commissioned by the Socialist Party. It reveals a decline in intermarriage provoked by a dogmatic isolation of young girls of Maghreban immigrant families. This control sometimes takes tragic turns with forced marriages or the archaic sacrifices of the “crimes of honor”, which have recently deeply affected the Germans. As a result, France has decided to raise the minimum age for the marriage of girls by three years to fight against forced marriages. As the National Union of Family Associations remarked, this amounts to “adjusting our juridical traditions to the morals of the newly arrived populations” instead of “adjusting their behavior to our morals, as the law on religious symbols in school did”.

These freedom-killing effects of the measures demanded in the name of Islam are not limited to women’s concerns. Freedom of expression is more and more challenged, as shown by the impossibility of presenting the play by Voltaire on Mohammed in Geneva or the death threats received by the cartoonists of several newspapers in Copenhagen, who took the liberty of poking fun at the Prophet as they have done without restraint with Jesus or with Benedict XVI. This “Islamization” of minds has hit the schools, where the teaching of violent episodes in the history of Islam has become the object of censorship, which the Catholic Church has never managed to obtain with regard to the Inquisition or the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacres.  And, to end the harassment and pressure, certain school cafeterias, after banning pork, impose halal meat [i.e., meat permitted by Islamic law] on everyone. This generalized Islamophilia is, in the final analysis, hardly worth it and is often counter-productive: this is the current assessment of many policy-makers in Europe, which has been aptly summed up by Jack Lang who recognized, at the time of his spectacular about-face regarding the veil in schools, that he had been “naïve” to believe that “the blending of differences would be so fruitful that we must tolerate certain peculiarities”.

The most serious error was the failure to see that these peculiarities are actually power plays in the heart of very diverse populations, divided between the silent majority, who wants to integrate and the influence a vocal minority, and this minority who sees in these peculiarities a massive operation it wants to control by subjecting it to a “personal status” exempting it from the common law. For it is no longer only the extreme right who thinks Islam cannot be assimilated to European societies.  The Muslims themselves say it is impossible to apply common law in an egalitarian fashion.

Islam between “aggiornamento” and proselytism

Gilles Kepel, who has studied it for twenty years, explains that this “Western Islam”, internally divided, has not yet chosen between two destinies: either an “aggiornamento of exemplary value for the rest of the world”, or to become “the beach-head of a proselytism which, to take it from the most exalted authorities, would ensure the third – and victorious – expansion of Islam on European soil”. Gilles Kepel sees the progress of this expansion in certain French quarters, where “people sometimes have a hard time recalling that they are in the Hexagon [i.e., France], so vivid is the moral order, to the naked eye, of an Islamic rigorism seldom observed on this level in Muslim societies of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean”.

Liberal Europe has discovered that it has more often than not favored the partisans of a literal and militant Islam to the detriment of the followers of an enlightened one. The diatribes against the West by Iqbal Sacranie, President of the Muslim Council of Britain, have not kept him from being ennobled by the Queen of England. And, almost everywhere, the habit has formed of buying into the communitarian conception of the fundamentalists by officially counting as “Muslim” anyone who can trace their origin to a Muslim country. Nicolas Sarkozy summed up this attitude in his now famous formula “Islam, you see it on the face.” In 1999, France even gave up its petition to the UOIF [the Union of Islamic Organizations of France] to recognize the right to change one’s religion, which the Koran forbids. “The relative apathy of Muslims with regard to denouncing Islamo-fascism”, observed by the researcher Farhad Khosrokhavar, could be thus explained by the observation that the powers that be in the country pay attention to the extremists. However, in 2005, a poll revealed that more than 70% of Spanish, French, German and Dutch Muslims said they were worried by Islamic extremism in their countries.

This abandonment by Europe of its own values has thus left millions of individuals to the highly organized propaganda of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, created in 1997 to unite 27 continental Islamic organizations. This supranational authority, headquartered in Leicester (United Kingdom), has as its goal to direct the behavior of the Muslims of a Europe rebaptized as “House of the Promise” in areas concerning national sovereignty (school, family, taxation, etc.). It is headed by Youssouf al-Qaradawi, a citizen of Qatar, who appoints its 32 members. This nebula, of which Tariq Ramadan was a part – in 2002 he introduced the first Collection of Fatwas, Guide to the Licit and the Illicit in Europe (Tawhid publishing) - is very embarrassed by September 11th and attacks in Europe, which oppose their policy centered on peaceful proselytism. It is in the name of the rights of man and multiculturalism, with its facilitation of historical amnesia, that these militants think they can move ahead in a Europe they see as exhausted and in decline. Tariq Ramadan, who now officiates before Tony Blair, expresses with the utmost eloquence this rhetoric regarding French secularism, explaining that it was only one “stage of the French tradition” and, as it belongs to a “history in which Muslims have not participated”, they do not have to recognize it. But he adds that this multicultural society where the secular European can no longer, according to him, advance any particular cultural heritage, must nevertheless respect the “essence of Islam”, which unites “the public and private spheres”. CQFD.

Many radical Muslims also count on what Martine Gozlan qualified as the Desire of Islam (Grasset publishing): the attraction for the reassuring and “paternal” side of a rigorism that makes of the Koran the necessary and sufficient guide for every occasion for Europeans depressed by an individualistic society where cynicism and competition reign. This is a theme one could find echoed in certain arguments in favor of the entrance of Turkey into the European Union, like that of Islamologue Bruno Etienne entitled Sick Old Lady Europe and the Young Turkish Man.

The “modernists” of European Islam

If old Europe is sick, it is primarily from forgetting the price of the values her history has forged. She seems to be tired of them or ashamed to the point of not hearing those who, in the midst of this convulsive Islam, remind her to what extent this treasure should be protected and preserved from the extremists who want to destroy it. Certain Muslim thinkers even see a chance for the evolution of Islam in the European environment: “That is where we enjoy the precious freedom of thought, expression, of challenging and being challenged – all this without fear of State reprisals”, explains Canadian historian Irshad Manjii, author of Muslim, but Free (Grasset). Feeling that it’s time to trace out the “principles of a unique European Muslim identity”, the philosopher Abennour Bidar, author of An Islam for Our Times (Seuil), adds: “We have not yet given our fellow citizens the proof of our true and sincere adherence to European modernity.” He was the only one, with a few others such as the Mufti of Marseille Soheib Bencheikh, to request the abandonment of the verses of the Koran “incompatible with the rights of man”.

European Islam does not lack modernists who have the courage not to ignore the significant problem of the contradiction between the literal text of the Koran and Western values. Asserting a right to interpret the sacred text, they lobby for the equality of women and a separation of religion and politics, based on verse 38 of sura 42 (“and their rule is to take counsel among themselves”). Islam can progress, because it has already progressed. “To abolish slavery amounts to something almost inconceivable”, writes the great Islamologue Bernard Lewis. To forbid what God permits is a crime almost as serious as permitting what He forbids.” What Islam has done with regard to slavery, some, like Abdennour Bidar, think it is possible to do with the rest, creating an “Islam completely reconstituted according to the values of our European home: liberty of conscience, equality of the sexes and tolerance”. And he thinks, as does Cherine Ebadi, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner, that “democratization will come about through women”.

But all that is not a foregone conclusion. Who defended Amar Saïdi, dismissed from the Rouen mosque for having celebrated mixed marriages and preached in French? In Germany, it was Necla Kelek, an intellectual of Turkish origin, who addresses the “alternatives” in the struggle for homosexual marriage, but was “struck with blindness” when the subject turned to forced marriages. And the European outcry against Islamic tribunals in Canada, made in September 2005 in France at the initiative of Fadela Amara and Leïla Babès, and signed “in a personal capacity” by two Socialist deputies, was not supported by either the Socialist Party or the League of the Rights of Man.

For radical Islam, as was the case formerly for communism, has its blind men and its “useful idiots” among the European elite. Their ideological war machine is “Islamophobia”, a term used by the Iranian mullahs to denounce women who refuse the veil, and introduced in Europe, in 1998, by Tariq Ramadan. Designed to exempt Islam from the criticism that other religions in Europe have had to put up with for centuries, the word serves first and foremost as an indictment of anyone who desires to reform Islam or to liberate themselves from it.  In France, Soheib Bencheikh, Abdelwahab Meddeb and Malek Boutih have thus been denounced as “facilitators of Islamophobia” or “Muslim Islamophobes”! The paradox appears when one sees the irritation that is stirred up in Europe by personalities like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a liberal Dutch deputy of Somalian origin, or Magdi Allam, an editorialist at Corriere della sera, who strictly adhere to European values. As if, according to a new version of Maurrasianism*, these voices were out of place.

* A reference to Charles Maurras, founder of Action Française, who said the Catholic Church was part of the native genius of France.

The Liberal Answer to Islam

So the outcome of the internal war of Islam depends a lot on the hesitations of Europe with regard to its own values. These hesitations have a disintegrating effect as shown in France by a recent inquiry by Sofres [a French polling company]: although, in 1993, 71% of the children of parents of Maghreban origin “felt closer to the lifestyle and culture of the French than to that of their family, this figure fell to only 45% in 2003. Germany realized that 21% of Muslims living there felt that “the German Constitution was not compatible with the Koran”. Great Britain learned that 6% of its Muslims approved the July 2005 attacks perpetrated by local terrorists who played cricket. And Spain discovered, after the attacks on Madrid, that the two principal Iberian Muslim organizations debated in public about whether or not Bin Laden should be declared “outside of Islam”… Europe, which ought to know that ignoring evil won’t make it go away, is finding itself at a new crossroads in its history. The optimists want to believe in the coming of this “Muslim democratic modernity” that Alexandre Adler wished for in his last book, Rendez-vous with Islam (Grasset). The pessimists fear that social exclusion and cultural dissidence are setting the stage for the worst. For example, Lucette Valensi, who, in Islam in Dissent (Seuil), thinks that in the cities of Europe, “radical Islam is stretched out between the Koran and the concrete, between its Bedouin origins and the rap music of the suburbs, as Nazism was between the Saxon industrial smokestacks and the great Germanic forests from the dawn of the race”.

The European nations, who at first reacted according to their own histories and traditions, are coming together in the adoption of ever more similar behaviors. They are at last rediscovering the classic dilemma of A Society Open to its Enemies, by Karl Popper: the vital need for liberal societies to have a minimum of firmness with those who make use of their own rules to undo them. The assassination of Theo Van Gogh in Amersterdam and the attacks in London and Madrid have thus stopped dead in their tracks the appeal issued by the Green and labor deputies for the European Commission to condemn the French law against religious symbols in school. A Catalan court recently condemned a sexist Imam to one year of formation on the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man. Since January 1, the state of Baden-Wurtenburg in Germany has submitted candidates for citizenship to an examination of 30 questions on sexual equality, the rights of man and crimes of honor. And the Netherlands wants to require Imams to take courses introducing them to the Dutch language and to the benefits of homosexual marriage.

The European Court of Human Rights has recently gotten in tune by thumbing its nose at the Turkish radical Muslims who were asking to be admitted into the European Union in order to escape from Turkish secularism: some days ago, it refused a Turkish student who protested against the ban on the veil at the university of Istanbul and had taken refuge with an Austrian university where she could wear it, as in all the European universities.