Christopher Caldwell’s Reflections On The Revolution In Europe

There are subjects about which you cannot write without suffering some measure of abuse and calumny and misrepresentation, no matter how careful your phrasings or well marshalled your facts. Historically, these subjects have included crime, poverty, race and racism, and gender and sexuality, but in recent years immigration has been added to the list, with the press and politicians on both sides of the aisle complicit in the crackdown. The New York Times, following the example of The Associated Press, made an editorial decision in 2013 to prefer the phrase “undocumented immigrant” to the commonplace (and commonsensical) “illegal immigrant.” What is this, if not a rhetorical sleight of hand that carries with it an implicit repudiation of the legal distinction – drawn by countries across the world – between lawful and unlawful immigration? Politicians have done even more damage, substituting paeans to diversity and tolerance for the more difficult conversation about immigration’s very real burdens and benefits. Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, master prestidigitator, went so far as to claim that immigrants, because they choose their country of residence, have a greater claim on it than natives, who merely take it for granted. Immigration, because it invites permanent changes, is perhaps the most consequential of government policies, and if you’d like a shorthand explanation for the political turmoil of 2016, you could do worse than “voters across Europe and the United States, grown tired of being lied to and talked down to on the subject of immigration and national identity, sought alternatives.” Author and journalist Christopher Caldwell, whose bylines can regularly be found in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, The Weekly Standard and Slate, cut through the pieties and the misdirections with the publication of his 2009 work Reflections On The Revolution In Europe, which takes a sober look at a disturbing development in Europe: the growing influence of Islam on the continent, and the challenges it presents to Europe’s identity and principles.

Much as Douglass Murray would argue, eight years later, in The Strange Death of Europe, Caldwell contends that it was economic need, not compassion or openness to new cultures, that drove Europe to open its borders. After the Second World War, with much of the continent in ruin, and many of its men dead, labor shortages prompted governments to react with increased immigration quotas and work visas. The working presumption – so foolish in hindsight – was that, once these visas expired, the migrant workers would head home, to their countries of origin; instead, they brought their families with them. It’s important to understand the scale of the changes, since so much of what separates a successful immigration policy from an unsuccessful one boils down to the numbers: Europe might be able to successfully assimilate x-number of immigrants per year or per decade, but 10x or 100x would prove overwhelming.

Europe is now, for the first time in its modern history, a continent of migrants. Of the 375 million people in Western Europe, 40 million are living outside their countries of birth. In almost all Western European countries, the population of immigrants and their children approaches or surpasses 10 percent. Even the historically poor and backward countries of peripheral Catholic Europe, such as Ireland (14.1 percent immigrant) and Spain (11.1 percent), have become crossroads. Between 2000 and 2005, Ireland’s foreign-born population was increasing at an average annual rate of 8.4 percent and Spain’s at (what follows is not a typographical error) 21.6 percent a year.

This is not the slow, irregular trickle that characterized immigration into Europe prior to World War II, but a never-ending deluge. When Europe’s labor shortages were solved, when manufacturing jobs were automated or shipped overseas – in other words, when the argument for the economic necessity of migrant workers lost all credibility, the influx did not cease or even abate; it swelled to historically unprecedented numbers. “As natives began to doubt that mass immigration was to their economic advantage,” writes Caldwell, “they were informed that sometimes economic advantage had nothing to do with it. Admitting immigrants changed from an economic program to a moral duty. As such, it became less amenable to democratic decision-making.” Caldwell devotes an entire chapter to the question of “Who is immigration for?” The tacit response of the European Union, together with large sections of the media and the political classes, has been that immigration into Europe is a human right, a pathway to a better life for anyone, anywhere on the planet. But the response of the European public, registered in polling data or voting patterns, has been a consistent, explicit repudiation of this stance.

Not coincidentally, both Murray’s Strange Death of Europe and Caldwell’s Reflections cite Islam in their subtitles. It would be difficult to imagine two more contrasting cultures than 21st century Europe’s laissez-faire secularism and the resurgent orthodox Islam preached in mosques across Europe. At the very moment that Western women, the daughters of Christian Europe, are being encouraged to pursue a political and economic life on par with men, the daughters of Islam are returning to the veil and even the niqab, physically removing their identities from public life. Their numbers are staggering:

There are about 20 million Muslims on the continent, if you count the millions of native Muslims in the Balkans. As noted earlier, there are around 5 million Muslims in France, 4 million in Germany, and 2 million in Britain. Pakistanis and Bengalis predominate in England, Arabs in France, Belgium, and Spain, and Turks in Germany; but Islam in all Western European countries is to some extent a mix of people from all over the Islamic world. The heavy concentration of these populations has the potential to multiply their influence. A million Muslims now live in London, where they make up an eighth of the population. In Amsterdam, Muslims account for more than a third of religious believers, outnumbering Catholics, as well as al the Protestant orders combined.

Nor do these numbers even convey the rate at which the Islamification of Europe will proceed, because they do not take into account the low birth rates of native Europeans and the extraordinarily high birthrates of the Muslim newcomers. Secular, progressive Europe has proven depressingly fallow, while Muslim fecundity is something of a marvel. Consider:

Austria is a good country in which to study the variance in population growth between natives and newcomers. Its immigration has been heavily non-European and it is one of the few countries that includes religion in its census. There, the total fertility rate of Catholics is 1.32 children per woman. It is 1.21 for Protestants and 0.86 for the nonreligious. The total fertility rate for Muslims is 2.34. This divergence may sound unspectacular – after all, American women had higher total fertility rates than that as recently as the Baby Boom – but the effects of such a divergence increase rapidly. According to four demographers from the Vienna Institute of Demography, Islam could be the majority religion among Austrians under fifteen by midcentury; it is probably that Austria as a whole, which was 90 percent Catholic in the twentieth century, will be under 50 percent Catholic by the middle of the twenty-first.

And Austria will not be an exception: every European country shares some variation on this demographic forecast.

There are those that are indifferent to this transformation, believing that the change will not be consequential and that, consequently, anyone overly concerned with the spread of Islam in Europe is a bigot, cloaking their prejudice in a false concern. Caldwell devotes a large section of his book to discussing the cultural clash made inevitable by the rise of Islam, from the rights of women and homosexuals to the fate of a democratic society under the Islamic faith. He points out, quite rightly, that we need not speculate as to what a Muslim Europe might look like, since the sections of Europe already under the thrall of Islam provide a window into the future. Whatever might be said of these Muslim areas of Europe, whether positive or negative, they cannot properly be called European.

In the early 2000s, the Princeton professor Bernard Lewis, esteemed as the West’s most knowledgeable historian of Islam and the Middle East, was asked by a German newspaper whether he thought Germany, left in ruins by the middle of the 20th century, might not end the 21st century as a global power. Lewis laughed at the question, and responded – to the outrage of Europeans everywhere – that the entire continent would be Islamic by that time. When future generations wonder how the world’s oldest and most powerful cultures could succumb so rapidly, they will turn to Christopher Caldwell.