Many Americans remain unaware of the demographic changes that are rapidly altering European countries. Nearly every country on the continent has a birthrate below population replacement levels. In the last 40 years, nearly ever country on the continent has also seen the arrival of massive numbers of immigrants, most of them non-European, the majority of them practitioners of Islam.
Bruce Bawer, author of While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West From Within (Doubleday, 2006, $23.95), left New York City to live permanently in Amsterdam. Though he loved the city and his descriptions are beautiful and complimentary, he gradually came to appreciate virtues he‘d left behind in the States — openness, curiosity, and friendly informality. More importantly, he began to comprehend the enormous gulf that exists in Europe between the native population and the immigrants.
Bawer shows us how this divide is created both by the Europeans and by the Middle Eastern immigrants. Unlike Americans, Europeans have no tradition of accepting immigrants on an equal footing. Bawer remarks that he himself always felt separate from the Dutch, partly from certain anti-American prejudices, but mostly because he wasn’t Dutch. On the other hand, the immigrants themselves, Bawer found, displayed little interest in integration. They lived in their own neighborhoods, operated their own clubs, and in many cases, administered their own laws.
As Bawer shares his knowledge of these same problems in other European nations, he offers fascinating insights into the European mind. He shows us how deeply entrenched anti-Americanism is among European elites. He shows us as well how those elites, largely lacking religious belief themselves, simply cannot grasp how important Islam is to its adherents. Drawing from both personal experience and from his research, he pictures for us a Europe moving uneasily but inexorably toward confrontation and possible conflagration.
Bawer, who now lives in Norway, has a personal stake in this conflict of cultures. Jewish and openly homosexual, Bawer experienced first-hand the prejudices and open contempt of Muslims and, in the case of his heritage, of some Europeans. Simply for being homosexual, Bawer’s partner is beaten by a Muslim, and Bawer recounts scores of incidents involving attacks on synagogues, gays, and Christians.
Bawer brings us this information with verve and a strong sense of irony. In the chapter titled “9/11 and After,” he writes,
Americans are supposed to be ignorant of history, Europeans drenched in it. A 2005 survey showed that half of Germans under the age of twenty-four don’t know what the Holocaust was.
In one of the more amusing passages of While Europe Slept, Bauer sits with Dutch friends in a bar and listens to them insulting America. When he asks them why “Dutch people routinely insult Americans to their face, when an American would never do that to a Dutch person,” they begin telling him of American political wrongs — Vietnam, the CIA — and then tell him how loud and swaggering American tourists are and how they behave this way to show off in front of Europeans. Bawer responds by saying:
“You’re totally mistaken to think that American men act this way in order to reinforce their image among Europeans ... They couldn’t care less. Rightly or wrongly, most Americans live their entire lives without ever thinking or caring for one moment what Europeans think of them or their country.”
Both Nick and Tom reacted visibly. For them, as for many Europeans, America was a virtual obsession. The idea that the fascination wasn’t mutual was incomprehensible and traumatizing — it was too much for them to take.
Though this incident will bring a smile to the faces of Bawer’s American readers, the overall tone of this book is foreboding, its predictions bleak. A recent survey reveals that every third Dutchman wants to leave his country. Emigrants from the Netherlands to countries like Australia and Canada cite fear of radical Islam as the main reason for their move.
In addition to the real threat posed by radical Islam, Europeans also seem bent on committing cultural suicide. Bawer demonstrates that many Europeans, particularly the politicos and intellectuals, either despise their own culture or are soft in its defense. Politicians try to cover up immigration problems rather than solve them; they label as hate speech pointed questions or remarks involving immigration even while turning a deaf ear to the anti-Semitic slurs routinely heard in school hallways and on street corners.
Near the end of While Europe Slept, Bawer pits Winston Churchill against Johann Galtung, who is the head of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo:
In the contrast between these two stout, white-haired, well-tailored men — Churchill then, Galtung now — is encapsulated the stark difference between the unwavering moral conviction that led to Allied victory in World War II and the unprincipled spirit of compromise and capitulation that is guiding today’s Europe, step by step, to the gallows.