One day last month, I gave a talk in Rome about how the supposedly liberal ideology of multiculturalism has made possible the spread in Europe of the highly illiberal ideology of fundamentalist Islam, with all its brutality and — among other things — violent homophobia. When I returned to my hotel, I phoned my partner back home in Oslo only to learn that moments earlier he had been confronted at a bus stop by two Muslim youths, one of whom had asked if he was gay, started to pull out a knife, then kicked him as he got on the bus, which had pulled up at just the right moment. If the bus hadn’t come when it did, the encounter could have been much worse.
Not very long ago, Oslo was an icy Shangri-la of Scandinavian self-discipline, governability, and respect for the law. But in recent years, there have been grim changes, including a rise in gay-bashings. The summer of 2006 saw an unprecedented wave of them. The culprits, very disproportionately, are young Muslim men.
It’s not just Oslo, of course. The problem afflicts most of Western Europe. And anecdotal evidence suggests that such crimes are dramatically underreported. My own partner chose not to report his assault. I urged him to, but he protested that it wouldn’t make any difference. He was probably right.
The reason for the rise in gay bashings in Europe is clear — and it’s the same reason for the rise in rape. As the number of Muslims in Europe grows, and as the proportion of those Muslims who were born and bred in Europe also grows, many Muslim men are more inclined to see Europe as a part of the umma (or Muslim world), to believe that they have the right and duty to enforce sharia law in the cities where they live, and to recognize that any aggression on their part will likely go unpunished. Such men need not be actively religious in order to feel that they have carte blanche to assault openly gay men and non-submissive women, whose freedom to live their lives as they wish is among the most conspicuous symbols of the West’s defiance of holy law.
Multiculturalists can’t face all this. So it is that even when there are brutal gay-bashings, few journalists write about them; of those who do, few mention that the perpetrators are Muslims; and those who do mention it take the line that these perpetrators are lashing out in desperate response to their own oppression.
Never mind that Europe, far from oppressing Muslims, offers personal freedoms and welfare-state benefits far beyond those available in any Muslim country. Never mind that few if any Europeans — certainly not gay people — are doing any Muslim-bashing. Never mind that Hindu and Buddhist immigrants, or immigrants from South America or China, feel no compulsion to react violently against their “oppression.” No, assaults by Muslims always have to be construed as defensive — as expressions not of power but of weakness, not of aggression but of helplessness. To suggest that the culprits, far from being fragile, sensitive flowers who’ve been pushed over the line by something we did, are in fact bullies driven by an overweening sense of superiority and a deep-seated malice — both of which they’ve been carefully taught at home, at school, and, yes, in the mosque — is verboten.
One familiar response is: “Well, non-Muslims beat up gays, too!” Yep — indeed they do. Yet for a while there, in much of Western Europe, homosexuality was on its way to being a non-issue. In Amsterdam in the late 1990s, I was delightfully surprised to discover that when groups of straight teenage boys passed gay couples in the streets, they just walked past without any reaction whatsoever. The sight of gay people didn’t upset, threaten, amuse, or confuse them; the familiar, insecure urge to respond to open homosexuality with some kind of distancing, disdainful word or gesture — and thereby affirm to one another, and to themselves, their own heterosexual credentials — was simply not part of those kids’ makeup. For me, it was a remarkable experience. Amsterdam then seemed to me the leading edge of a new wave in the progress of human civilization.
Alas, it is now very clearly the opposite. The number of reported gay-bashings in Amsterdam now climbs steadily year by year. Nearly half Muslim, the city is a front in the struggle between democracy and sharia, under which, lest it be forgotten, homosexuality can be a capital offense. Things have gotten so bad there that even on the part of the exceedingly politically correct, there has been a degree of acknowledgment that something has changed, and is still changing. After a group of Amsterdam Muslims beat up Chris Crain, the six-foot-five editor of the gay newspaper The Washington Blade, in May 2005, the head of the Netherlands’ leading gay-rights organization admitted that tolerance of gay people in that city was “slipping away like sand through the fingers” and that “gays and lesbians are less willing to walk hand-in-hand because they might be beaten up.”
I can testify that this is true. Yet politicians, journalists, activists, and others who cling to the multicultural mindset can’t bring themselves to acknowledge the Islamic foundations of all this bullying. Instead, they offer the same kind of nonsense that was served up by a Human Rights Watch spokesman after the Chris Crain incident. “There’s still an extraordinary degree of racism in Dutch society,” that spokesman said. “Gays often become the victims of this when immigrants retaliate for the inequities they have to suffer.”
So powerful is the determination to turn away from the plain and simple truth that Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen recently commissioned a study by the University of Amsterdam. Its purpose? To try to figure out what motives underlie the increase in attacks on gay men and lesbians by Dutch-Moroccan men in Amsterdam. “Some researchers,” wrote a reporter for UPI, “believe they [Muslim gay-bashers] lashed out at local gays after feeling stigmatized by Dutch society.” In other words, as the straight-talking Norwegian immigration expert Inger-Lise Lien put it sardonically when I showed her the article, “it’s the assailant who’s the real victim.”
As for Cohen, he would appear to be operating out of pure cynicism. This is the same mayor, after all, who has called for the Netherlands to reach some “accommodation” with its male Muslim residents that would allow them to oppress their wives, sisters, and daughters — though he hasn’t been entirely clear as to just where he would draw the line. (Beatings? Rape? Forced marriage? Genital mutilation? Honor killing?) Given such an extraordinary record of pragmatism, it seems safe to assume that Cohen would also be more than willing, in the name of peace in our time, to turn away with respectful discretion when Muslim gangs beat the living daylights out of the occasional flikker.
In any event, another mayor, London’s Ken Livingstone, has already blazed that trail. In 2004, playing host to Sunni scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has supported the execution of gay people, Livingstone hailed him as a “progressive.” When gay activists called him on this ridiculous assertion, Livingstone retaliated by putting out a dissertation-length report whitewashing Qaradawi and smearing his critics as racists.
Even as Europeans in positions of authority persist in denying the plain facts about Muslim attitudes toward gay people, leading European Muslims keep reminding us what those attitudes are. Take Norway’s Asghar Ali, deputy chairman of Norway’s Islamic Council. Ali, who also holds high-ranking positions in Norway’s ruling Labor Party and in the powerful Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, and has worked in an advisory capacity on the government’s Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud, would seem to be a model of successful assimilation. Yet at a November 2007 debate arranged by the gay student organization at the University of Oslo, he refused to reject the death penalty for gays. When asked about this issue, the head of the Islamic Council, Senaid Kobilica, said that Norwegian Muslims needed to discuss it and consult religious authorities. “While this process is underway,” Kobilica said, “I ask for understanding and respect for the fact that I am unable to comment, either about my personal position or about the position of the Islamic Council of Norway.” Understanding and respect, that is, for his unwillingness to say flat out that he did not believe gay people should be murdered.
Perhaps younger, well educated Muslims are more enlightened? Another participant in the University of Oslo debate, Muslim Student Association head Usman Rana, said that he personally didn’t support making homosexuality a capital crime, but that he would not criticize other countries’ practices. “There is unfortunately a tendency in Norway to degrade religious people,” Rana told Universitas, the college newspaper. “It is due to an extreme secularism among the Norwegian public. I fervently hope that our participation [in the debate on the death penalty for gays] helps to create a more nuanced view of Islam. The Norwegian public needs to become more liberal.” Once again, it’s the assailants — or, in this case, the would-be executioners — who are the real victims.
The Norwegian public may not yet be “liberal” enough to suit Rana, but the European establishment has been exceedingly so. Though Kobilica’s refusal to condemn the execution of gays caused a brief stir in the media, the Norwegian government has made no move to withdraw the Islamic Council’s annual subsidy of half a million kroner (about $100,000). Government officials and journalists continue to treat the council with deference, to view it as the Voice of Muslims, and to pretend that it is a voice of moderation. Once the flap over executing gays died down, moreover, politicians and others returned soon enough to the mantra about Islam being a religion of peace.
It’s very clear what’s going on here — and where it’s all headed. Europe is on its way down the road of Islamization, and it’s reached a point along that road at which gay people’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is being directly challenged, both by knife-wielding bullies on the street and by taxpayer-funded thugs whose organizations already enjoy quasi-governmental authority. Sharia law may still be an alien concept to some Westerners, but it’s staring gay Europeans right in the face – and pointing toward a chilling future for all free people. Pim Fortuyn saw all this coming years ago; most of today’s European leaders still refuse to see it even though it’s right before their eyes.
Bruce Bawer’s book While Europe Slept is now in paperback. His website is at www.brucebawer.com.