Magazine article Foreign Policy

Eurabian Follies: The Shoddy and Just Plain Wrong Genre That Refuses to Die

Magazine article Foreign Policy

Eurabian Follies: The Shoddy and Just Plain Wrong Genre That Refuses to Die

Article excerpt

By 2050, Europe will be unrecognizable. Instead of romantic cafes, Paris's Boulevard Saint-Germain will be lined with halal butcheries and hookah bars; the street signs in Berlin will be written in Turkish. Schoolchildren from Oslo to Naples will read Quranic verses in class, and women will be veiled.

At least, that's what the authors of the strange new genre of "Eurabia" literature want you to believe. Not all books of this alarmist Europe-is-dying category, which received its most intellectually hefty treatment yet with the recent release of Christopher Caldwell's Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, offer such dire and colorful predictions. But they all make the case that low fertility rates among natives, massive immigration from Muslim countries, and the fateful encounter between an assertive Islamic culture and a self-effacing European one will lead to a Europe devoid of all Western identity.

Despite their Europe-focused content, these books are a largely North American phenomenon. Bat Ye'or (or Gisele Littman), an Egyptian-born British author, wrote one of the first of the genre in 2005, with Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, which argued that political subservience to a Muslim agenda was turning Europe into an appendage of the Arab world. But most of her recent followers, including Caldwell, the jocular and hyperbolic Mark Steyn, the shallow Bruce Thornton, the more serious Walter Laqueur, and the high-pitched Claire Berlinski and Bruce Bawer, write from the other side of the Atlantic.

It's not that Europeans don't produce books in the same vein. Consider Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci's The Rage and the Pride, a rabid attack on Muslim immigrants, or British columnist Melanie Phillips's Londonistan, castigating the British left for handing over the country to the Muslim Brotherhood. Still, there is no real European version of the Eurabia panic, and the books that do exist tend to be country-specific, and part of a fringe far right. They do not dominate the market, while works by a range of serious scholars, including Italian sociologist Stefano Allievi's work on European Muslims, German cultural anthropologist Werner Schiffauer's studies of political Islam among Turkish immigrants, British sociologist Tariq Modood's Multicultural Politics, and French political scientist Olivier Roy's Globalized Islam, have offered important, data-driven analyses that undermine the facile dichotomies of the Eurabia myth.

But in the United States, the Eurabia books continue to proliferate even today, close to a decade after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which triggered the genre. Part of the explanation lies in the post-9/11 narrative of America besieged by militant Islam--a clash of civilizations in which Europe is the front line, threatened by internal subversion. "If Europe is unable to assimilate its immigrants, if Europe is a breeding ground for anti-Americanism and Islamic radicalism--and it is--this is our problem," Berlinski warns in Menace in Europe (2006). "The threat of the radical Islamists taking over Europe is every bit as great to the United States as was the threat of the Nazis taking over Europe in the 1940s," Tony Blankley writes in The West's Last Chance (2005). "We cannot afford to lose Europe."

In this sense, many of these books offer a variation on the conservative Cold War vision of Europe as vulnerable to the spread of communism--only now, Muslims have replaced Soviets and Euro-communists as the enemies. The continuity in cliches with the Europhobic literature of the 1970s and 1980s is striking: In both periods Europe is described with terms like appeasing, impotent, asexual, feminine, post-nationalistic, irreligious, apologetic, self-loathing, naive, decadent, and so forth.

Cliches are not the only reason why the foundations of the Eurabia literature are shaky. By relying chiefly on anecdotes rather than data, these books misrepresent the complex evolving picture of Islam in Europe. …

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