French police watch Muslims praying in the street during a protest in March 2017. (AFP)
One week back in 2007, I was paid a not inconsiderable sum of money to fly first class from Oslo to Washington, D.C., on the Tuesday and to fly back on the Thursday, so that I could give a hour-long lunchtime talk on the Wednesday to an audience of American and international diplomats. Given that I had been compensated so well and given, as it was explained to me, that I had been accorded the star spot, the sole solo turn, in the middle of a day-long conference consisting otherwise of panel discussions about Western Europe, I foolishly expected a friendly reception.
My first doubts in this respect began to arise only moments after the event kicked off. Sitting through the morning's panels, I heard one highly credentialed individual after another – professors, politicians, and retired and active diplomats from various countries – join in predicting a glowing future for Western Europe. Socially and economically, they all agreed, prospects looked a lot brighter for Western Europe than for America. Not a single one of the dozen or so panelists diverged from this consensus.
After three or four hours of sunny prophesizing, everybody lined up for the buffet. When they were all back in their seats, I was introduced and, from a lectern up front, proceeded to serve up a condensed version of the argument of my 2006 book While Europe Slept. I described the rise of Islam in Western Europe, the failure of Muslims to integrate, and the consequent increase in gang crime, welfare dependency, forced marriage, sharia-run enclaves, and numerous other ills – the usual litany. Western Europe, I maintained, was undergoing a radical metamorphosis that, unless drastic action were taken, would ultimately bring its liberal democracies crashing down.
It's easy to read an audience. As I spoke, I could feel the snappily dressed, self-impressed-looking crowd growing restive. When I was done and they were invited to ask questions, I didn't get questions but incredibly condescending razzes, remonstrations, and reproaches. A German envoy reacted angrily to my account of some recent incident – I don't remember what – that had taken place in her country. Her colleagues from a couple of other countries had similar bones to pick. “These are just anecdotes!” one diplomat thundered dismissively. I tried to engage them in a reasonable give-and-take, but they weren't having it.
What made the experience especially striking was that over the course of the previous year or so I'd given a number of talks about the same subject in Europe and North America. The audiences had been composed not of credentialed foreign-policy experts but of ordinary citizens. All of them had recognized that what I was saying was true. During the Q&A sessions, they'd been eager to express their gratitude that someone was talking about these matters, eager to recount their own horrific experiences with the consequences of mass Muslim immigration, and eager to vent their frustration at political leaders who refused to listen to them, to care about their sufferings, or even to acknowledge the plain objective facts.
On that day in Washington, after my lunchtime talk was over, I thought that despite the reception I had received, it would only be polite to stay for the rest of the day's proceedings. I sat there in the audience, then, as the first of the afternoon panel discussions got underway. It began with all of the panelists voicing outrage over my remarks and basically calling me an idiot. One of them, while professing to be astonished at my incomprehensibly buffoonish and offensive views, noted that, remarkably enough, Walter Laqueur – the distinguished elder historian, world-class Europe expert, and sometime professor at places like Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Chicago – had just published a book (The Last Days of Europe) in which he made arguments that were essentially identical to my own. It didn't occur to that panelist to wonder why, if I was so wrongheaded, Walter Laqueur actually agreed with me.
In any case, once I heard myself being bad-mouthed from the stage, I got up and bolted. I've never been sorry that I went, however. For one thing, it was a nice payday. For another, it opened my eyes big time. This was supposed to be a gathering of some of the world's most knowledgeable people on the subject of contemporary Europe. Yet they were either ignorant of, or in deep denial about, things that ordinary people all over Europe – people whom they would surely dismiss as lowbrows – knew all about. That event sent my opinion of diplomats plummeting to rock bottom. It made me even more cynical than I already was about persons who were considered experts simply because of institutional credentials. Years later, when people started talking about the Deep State, I knew what they were talking about, because I'd been in the room with it that day.
I mention that event in Washington not because it was an outlier in my experience of public discussions about Islam but because it was thoroughly consistent with what was, at the time, the reigning attitude of the Western cultural establishment toward any expression of concern about the topic. I recall, for instance, an omnibus review in the Financial Times of While Europe Slept, Bat Ye’or’s Eurabia, Melanie Phillips’s Londonistan, and Walter Laqueur’sThe Last Days of Europe – four books by authors with very different backgrounds but making very similar arguments. How to explain this? Were we all part of some cabal? The reviewer wasn't troubled by that question. Indeed, he wasn't troubled by any of the hundreds of exceedingly troubling anecdotes in any of our books. No, as far as he was concerned, our books were just dystopic jeremiads written by hysterical bigots. Western Europe was in great shape. Islam wasn't about to take over anything.
One more example. In March 2007, Newsweek ran a “special report” on “Europe at 50.” That piece, too, cited a handful of recent books about the rise of Islam in Europe, my own included. Like the Financial Times reviewer, the Newsweek writer was thoroughly dismissive. Citing our worries about Western Europe's Islamization, he wrote: “To most who live in Europe – or have visited lately – all this seems wrong, even absurd.” Far from being in peril of Muslim domination, he asserted, Europe was moving from strength to strength: “50 years after the EU’s march to unity began, it is now Europe, not the United States, that’s held up as a new lamp unto the nations.”
Cut to 2018. As it turns out, it's not Europe but Islam in Europe that's been moving from strength to strength. As the number of terrorist atrocities, mass car burnings, and gang riots and rapes across Western Europe climbs relentlessly, it's harder and harder to hold up Europe as “a new lamp unto the nations.” Consequently, the elite's message about Islam in Europe has begun to shift. Only the day before yesterday, it seemed, they were telling us – and many of them, to be sure, are still telling us – that it's preposterous to suggest that Western Europe's present order is on the verge of being undone. But now at least some of them are starting to sing a different tune. Yes, they admit, Islam is taking over Western Europe – but hey, there's no reason to worry about it!
Case in point: on March 28 of last year, the Dutch newspaper Trouw ran an interview with Maurice Crul, a professor at the Free University of Amsterdam who “has been conducting research on migration and integration for twenty-five years.” Since only every third Amsterdammer under age fifteen is of Dutch descent, noted Crul, ethnic Dutch people will soon be a minority in that city. The same holds for other major Western European burgs. For Crul, the lesson here is obvious: integration “now works in two directions.” Meaning what? Meaning that Western European natives who have been complaining for years about the failure of immigrants to integrate will themselves henceforth be obliged to integrate into the new, multicultural urban landscapes.
“White Dutch people have to get used to this idea,” Crul insisted. Trouw's interviewer neglected to ask him exactly how much of Muslim culture the ethnic Dutch, as part of their integration process, should be expected to accept as majoritarian norms. Forced marriage? Imam-approved school curricula? Honor killing? Should Dutch women who don't want to be raped start wearing hijab? Does Crul, who's been studying this stuff for a quarter century, have any clue that what he's talking about is gradually accepting and accommodating Islamic strictures until all of Western Europe is under sharia law?
Crul isn't alone. This past August 6, the German newspaper Tagesspiegel published a column by Barbara John, a retired 80-year-old politician who belongs to Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union Party. John noted that in some major German cities, people with foreign backgrounds already outnumber native Germans. In Frankfurt, for example, 51.2 percent of the population is non-German. This trend, John pronounced, “is irreversible.” It “awakens fears,” she added. “But they are unfounded.” She held up Rotterdam and Amsterdam as examples of immigrant-heavy cities that are doing just dandy. “After all,” she stated, the new majorities in those cities consist of “many immigrant groups, which differ enormously in education, ethnicity, religion, culture and finances,” and are thus divided from one another, and from ethnic Dutch people, in many ways.
Yes, there are people from all kinds of backgrounds in Western Europe's largest cities. But only one of those backgrounds is problematic. At this point, no one needs to be told why. At present, Muslims make up about 17% of the population of Antwerp and Brussels, 22% of Birmingham, 25% of Marseille, 11% of Amsterdam, 13% of Rotterdam, and 13% of Frankfurt. Immigration patterns and demographic trends indicate that those numbers will increase steadily in the years to come, and eventually, I repeat, all of Western Europe will be under sharia law. Or, as John puts it so prettily, “many things will be different and some things will be better.”
Well, she'll be dead and it won't matter to her. But to the children and grandchildren of today's Western European adults – people who never voted to have their countries turned over to foreigners and, ultimately, governed by Islamic law – it will matter. To read these blithe reassurances from the likes of Maurice Crul and Barbara John is to recognize them as precisely the kind of people who, at that 2007 conference in Washington, mocked those of us who warned that Western Europe was in for an impending transformation of colossal proportions. Now our warnings are beginning to be treated as received truths, even as those of us who issued the warnings continue to be treated as pariahs. For the nature of our perceived offense is starting to shift, too. These days, more and more, the crime isn't predicting a Muslim takeover of Western Europe. The crime is complaining about it instead of humbly and obediently adapting to it.
Bruce Bawer is the author of “While Europe Slept,” “Surrender,” and "The Victims' Revolution." His novel "The Alhambra" has just been published.