Thursday,23 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1427, (24 - 30 January 2019)
Thursday,23 May, 2019
Issue 1427, (24 - 30 January 2019)

Ahram Weekly

The demise of Europe

The Strange Death of Europe
The Strange Death of Europe

What an alarming prospect. Yet the idea seems to have caught fire and you are bound to find it in essays, commentaries, reports, articles and books, all intent to assure us of the death of Europe, the bulwark of Western civilisation. 

The book that has caused the greatest stir is the best-selling account by British neo-conservative writer and commentator Douglas Murray The Strange Death of Europe. With such a dramatic title you are seized with fright, dread even horror, but did Murray go too far?

A number one international best-seller in 2017, it is enjoying its second printing and maybe many more. It is even being taught at Harvard’s Business school, what on earth is he prophesying?

The premise of the book is the pessimistic view that Europe is caught in the act of committing suicide, because of the migrants that have descended upon it from strange, far-away places. He criticises liberals for their act of humanity, denying or diminishing the problems of the influx of other cultures.

By other “cultures”, he clearly means Muslims. Other writers have cited the same problems. Murray believes that the encounter is nothing more than a guilt-ridden act of a faithless Europe. The consequence would be the Islamisation of the continent and the end of European civilisation.

Murray is greatly influenced by the French novelist Michel Houllebecq, who in his 2015 novel Submission has his protagonist convert to Islam: “He will be part of a community of meaning for the first time”. Is that bad? In fact, it sounds rather complimentary, but it struck terror in the heart o Murray, and he saw his whole continent, culture, and creed become transformed. He fears that the logic of Islam is practical and in a society ripe for admission, irrefutable. Is that the fault of Islam?

The very word Islam, or “submission” as Houllebecq called it, scares him, and not without justification. He has watched the number of Muslim migrants committing crime after crime, rape of women and children, theft, acts of terrorism, mass murder; he realised that many were economic not political refugees, Salafis, Jihadists, Islamists disturbing the environment he grew up in. Would we not have felt similarly?

However, what disturbs him most is not the racial background of the incomers “alongside the far greater issue of creed”. In other words, he fears the Islamisation of the Western civilisation.

Would you revolt against the invasion of a different culture? Egypt has been invaded by migrants from several countries experiencing hardships, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Libya and Yemen among others. True, we share some traditions but we are certainly not committing suicide.

The atrocious acts perpetrated by some, in the name of Islam, are simply criminals. We refrain from calling them Muslims. The problems Europe is experiencing cannot be blamed totally on migrants.

If the government of Theresa May falls because of the Brexit conflict, it is for purely national and economic reasons. The violent revolt against the government of President Macron of France, who narrowly won election over conservative Marine Le Pen is not related to Islam.

A conservative wave is sweeping over this great continent and it is contagious. They have been at war with each other for over 1,000 years. Bound by Christianity, they have different languages, currencies, traditions, costumes, customs, etc. The idea of the EU was headed for failure because of the innumerable differences between them.

Have we forgotten the 100-year war between England and France over Normandy (1337-1453)? With the help of a young girl, Joan of Arc, the French defeated the British, but Calais was only returned to France in 1558. 

Another notable war lasted 30 years between Catholics and Protestants after Martin Luther denied the papacy (1618-1648). Divided between two sects, they remained fearful of each other. 

European countries have a taste for conflict. The Great War, WWI (1914-1918), involved Britain, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Hungary and Russia among others.

It seems that 1914 may have been the last year that the world was more at peace than at any other time. At the end of the war came the plague, fascism, communism and other ills to the continent.

Two decades later WWII took the lives of 70 to 85 million. No Muslims were involved.

In his Memories of Yesterday, Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig handed his last work to his publisher in 1942 and in February of the same year, he and his wife Lotte committed suicide. In his memoirs he writes: “Before 1914 the world belonged to all. People went were they wished and stayed as long as they pleased”. His greatest lamentations were permits, fences, frontiers, passports: “Thanks to the pathological suspicion of everybody, against everybody else”.

It was a century ago that the world has drastically changed. Europe has committed many evils in the name of colonialism, but the continent, as much as it is in love with war, it has given the Western civilisation its eternal glory: Guttenberg, Galileo, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Christopher Columbus, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Napoleon, Churchill, Edison and on and on and on. 

The continent has offered an eternal legacy in the arts, sciences, technology and industry. It shall not suffer its demise at the arrival of a few immigrants even if they espouse a different religion.

Freedom of religion is the main pillar of any civilisation.

“The human race has improved everything except the human race.”

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965)

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