Finding Comedy in the Collapse of Europe
Ayaan Hirsi Ali's description of 21st century Europe elicited roars of laughter at the American Freedom Alliance's June 10th conference titled "The Collapse of Europe?" The all-day event was held at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, which columnist Mark Steyn called "one of the most agreeable places to contemplate the end of the world." Indeed, humor was not in short supply at a conference many critics predicted would be all gloom and doom. Not one of the distinguished panelists wanted to write off or dismiss Europe. Instead, they all hoped that the imperiled Continent could be saved.
Steyn, the first keynote speaker, said that laughter is our trump card. Here he told the audience that Ayatollah Khomeini once said, "There are no jokes in Islam." There were plenty of jokes from Steyn, who worked the auditorium like a stand-up comic without sacrificing any of the insightful analysis found in his book America Alone. He warned that the things Western Civilization takes for granted can easily fade from the scene and that permanence is an illusion of every age. After all, the Hagia Sophia is now a museum -- just a "designation for a piece of real estate."
According to Steyn, it is a simple fact that Europe will become more Muslim because of massive immigration and the divergent demographic trends of Muslims and native Europeans. Malmo, Rotterdam, and cities in Britain already have proven that the future is determined by those you outsource your future to. How can Europeans hope to share their land with an implacable and intolerant minority? Steyn expressed frustration with State Department officials who complain that Iraq is an artificial state but who overlook the unsustainable situation in Europe. Honor killings and Sharia law are incompatible with pre-marital sex and gay marriage. As Steyn put it, if Kurdistan can't be part of Iraq then "Pornostan" can't be in the Netherlands.
Steyn was the moderator of the first panel session titled "What has been the role of Islam and the EU bureaucracy in fostering collapse?" Introducing Hirsi Ali, the former member of the Dutch parliament who now works for the American Enterprise Institute, Steyn said, "Europe's loss is America's gain." Hirsi Ali explained that for jihad to succeed, a sense of victimization is necessary. Muslims have mastered the art of creating enemies and conspiracy theories which results in group solidarity at the expense of assimilation. Meanwhile, EU bureaucrats make it all too easy for Islamists to fulfill their political projects. It surely made Islamists smile last year when former Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner said, "If two thirds of all Netherlanders tomorrow would want to introduce Sharia, then this possibility must exist."
It is the vibrancy of America's civil society that has most impressed Hirsi Ali during her eight months in the country. She contrasted this with the Europeans' reliance on the government to solve their problems. Another cause of exasperation for her is the tendency of Europeans to always apologize for their inefficiencies, uncritically romanticize the exotic and declare that all religions are equal. The end result is that the Islamic enterprise -- which is made possible by the spread of Saudi money -- is facilitated by European schools, media and politics. Hirsi Ali recommends imposing the values of Western society -- the ones that were so appealing to her -- on immigrants.
Philippe Karsenty, a French journalist and media critic, opened his remarks by apologizing for the leading role France has played in the collapse of Europe. He said that in Paris if you quote Bat'Yeor (the author of Eurabia) people will look at you crazy and ask if you also believe in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Their unwillingness to believe in that anti-Semitic forgery doesn't mean the French are big fans of the Jews. In fact, Karsenty referred to his compatriots as "Paristinians." While they're quite willing to send money to the Palestinians in their struggle against Israel, most of them completely avoid the Arabs who actually live in France. Karsenty shocked many in the audience when he told them that former President Jacques Chirac once said the values of Europe are more Muslim than Christian. Karsenty thinks it is possible that current President Nicolas Sarkozy could improve the situation in France, but he is disturbed by his Eurocentrism.
Gregory M. Davis was the most pessimistic panelist at the event. The director of the feature documentary Islam: What the West Needs to Know repeatedly reminded the audience that Islam has seen off many civilizations. He believes that it is impossible to reform Islam, which he describes as a totalitarian ideology 14 centuries old. The most disturbing aspect of the 2005 riots in France was the fact that they were committed by French citizens. Davis offered this as evidence of the failure of Europe to affirm its identity, a necessary thing when you want people to assimilate. He added that it shouldn't surprise people that Muslims are returning to an Islamic identity when Christian leaders in Europe only appear on television to apologize for offending Islam. The author of Why I am Not a Muslim, Ibn Warraq, claimed that the West faces a serious challenge trying to get Muslims to assimilate since they are taught to shun Western values and swear allegiance to the Umma.
The conference was not devoid of disagreement. During the panel discussion "Eurabia: Is Muslim domination of Europe inevitable?" Dutch writer Leon de Winter said there is a sea change taking place in Europe: people are becoming fed up with radical Muslims. He described as ludicrous the idea that the Netherlands is in the process of being taken over by Muslims. While he acknowledged that there are no-go zones for Jews in his country, he said that the general public is as Calvinist as ever. He also took comfort in the fact that most Muslims in the Netherlands don't worship in mosques. Perhaps it's because they don't need to: journalist Henryk Broder said that the Protestant churches in Germany are now celebrating Mohammed's birthday.
Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes took the idea of Europeans becoming fed up to its possible conclusion: internecine warfare on the Continent. Pipes backed up his claim that the anti-Islamist side is gaining ground in Europe by citing the rise of the British National Party and Jean-Marie LePen's solid showing in France's 2002 election. He said these one-time fascist movements are shedding their historic antisemitism but that a possibility for violence exists in the future. Pipes also suggested that Europe should become less passive about its immigration polices and overhaul its welfare state. Indeed, Hirsi Ali called the welfare state an "inhuman policy instigated by compassion" which leads to radicalism.
Mark Steyn reappeared at an afternoon panel on "Multiculturalism and its impact on democratic society." He called multiculturalism an elusive enemy because one of its very tenets is that there is no point in ever having an argument. The quest to never be culturally insensitive has led to some pretty horrible things. In Britain, for example, many honor killings now go uninvestigated. He could have added that last year a German judge cited the Koran when he rejected a woman's request for a quick divorce because her husband beat her. Steyn pointed out that multiculturalism is a unicultural phenomenon: only Western countries have signed up for the project. As he once explained to a caller on a radio show, there are very few free Muslims countries. Steyn got plenty of laughs when he said that after he presented the caller with objective statistics showing the lack of freedom in the Muslim world, the man responded, "Well, that's just your opinion."
It was nice to hear laughter during discussions of such a serious issue as the survival of Europe. But the significance of Khomeini's words weren't forgotten: there won't be any laughing at all if one day Europe becomes Eurabia.
Aaron Hanscom is a freelance writer in Los Angeles. Previously from Aaron Hanscom @ PJM: Terror War on Campus, A Threat to Their own Campus?, FBI on School Buses: Don't Worry. Be Happy., Intifada Comes to the University of California, Irvine, and The Islamification of Europe's Cathedrals.