Below is the most recent opinion piece by the Austrian writer Andreas Unterberger, as published last Friday at the author’s website. Many thanks to JLH for the translation:
Islam: The Good News and the Bad News for Europe
by Andreas Unterberger
January 9, 2015
The new book by the bestselling French author Michel Houellebecq is on everyone’s mind, because of the Paris attacks. It envisions a Muslim president of France in eight years, and the elimination of all “infidels” from the “Islamic University of the Sorbonne.” Actually, the demographic development makes that most likely a few years later. But, in fact, the triumph of Islam over what was once the West could take place in eight years. Indeed, the tendency of most leftist parties is to prefer voting for Muslim candidates than for those from anti-Islamic parties.
That is the logical result of their intensive efforts in recent years to label all Islam critics as neo-Nazis. It was ostensibly a strategy to retain power, but with no factual basis. This characterization has become an unquestioned axiom and, therefore, a self-made trap.
Something similar is happening in Germany, where there has been increasing support for Islam-critical demonstrations. Where, however, all the Bundestag parties (excepting only the CSU*) have made the mistake of denouncing as rightist-radical the rapidly growing concerns of that portion of the population that is still in the majority. Even as partisan tactics, that is stupid. It is to be expected that Muslim-qua-Muslim parties will be forming everywhere in Europe in coming years. And as that happens, the present membership of Muslims in red and green parties will be a thing of the past.
The SPD parliamentary leader Opperman had a particularly dramatic reaction after the Paris attacks. “These are killers, not Muslims,” he decreed, without explaining why these two terms should be mutually exclusive, And, as a reaction to this attack on freedom of expression, he actually demanded that PEGIDA stop its demonstrations. With no understanding of the fact that this is what the Islamists want — for any further peaceful exercise of freedom of expression to be made impossible. Some Europeans believe that prognoses about an Islamic majority are like predictions of economic cycles — just reading tea leaves. But that is wrong, because demography — even in reference to the future — is based on hard facts. The mothers of the next generations are already born. Or not born. And the tendency to be prolific is an amazingly firm constant. The more educated, the more cosmopolitan, the more non-Muslim women are, the fewer children they have. That has been true for decades now. And in every country in Europe. It is therefore almost inevitable that several European countries will have Muslim majorities sometime in this century.
A Religion Like Any Other?
Now this does not mean that we can just await Europe’s future with resignation. There are a number of factors that can still be influenced (by, for instance: emphatically liberal-democratic education, stopping any further immigration, firm action against preachers hostile to women and the constitution, etc.). Of course, that will only happen if Europe’s governments, the EU and the media finally recognize the ominous developments. If they do not continue across-the-board to prefer repression and concentration on the teeny-tiny pseudo-problems of the real world.
Others are soothing, saying: Islam is a religion like many others. That’s not bothering anybody. It doesn’t matter, in present-day Europe, whether you live in a country with a Catholic or an Anglican or a lay majority, or a Nordic national church. Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu — it’s all the same.
Some conservative Christians even find the rapid growth of Islam in Europe a good thing. In Islam, people do at least believe in a God. Abortions, homosexuality, drugs and alcohol are banned. Full concealment for women is seen as a necessary counterweight to extreme exhibitionism. And no more pork? Well that’s sad, but bearable. Their analysis of Islam probes no deeper.
Militant atheists, on the other hand, are so engrossed with their struggle against the hegemony of the Catholic Church, that they fail to notice they are fighting against something that no longer exists (or is expressed scarcely anywhere except in crosses on mountaintops.). They certainly do not notice that they are opening the door to a far greater threat. To say nothing of the (actual) neo-Nazis — they are for Islam solely because it is anti-Semitic. And neo-Nazis have no time for Christianity and liberalism.
The History of Islam
Historically, Islam has been the great threat to the Christian West for far more than a millennium.
- It killed, forcibly converted or enslaved millions of Christians (=Europeans).
- It conquered and Islamized the entire Byzantine Empire (to be sure with Catholic rulers from Venice to France as accomplices).
- It brought science and research to an almost total standstill in its countries. Even the erstwhile medical and cultural achievements of the Arab world stemmed almost completely from Christian or Jewish roots (despite contemporary propaganda films to the contrary).
- It first Islamized Christian Palestine and then undertook countless wars against the Christian countries of Europe (compared to which the Crusades seem downright petty).
- Even where it is portrayed as tolerant by some tunnel-vision historians, it treated Christians and Jews as second-class citizens who had to pay a head tax.
- And in recent months, those bloodthirsty monsters Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have revealed with great clarity what so many Muslims living in Europe as well as elsewhere regard as the true content of their religion. They can base their opinion on seventeen calls for murder in the Koran.
And yet, it is not simply Christianity and Judaism that are most at risk from Islam today. It is all of Western civilization, humanity’s progress — what the Enlightenment made possible.
The most significant element of which is the separation of religion and state. To be sure, this separation can be found in the New Testament (“Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”). It was brought to an end by Constantine, and during the Enlightenment caused problems for many Christians. Yet it has now been a matter of course for generations almost all over the world.
Except in the Islamic world. From Nigeria’s northern provinces to Malaysia, states are at least in part instruments of power for religion. There are far too many statements by Islamic exponents to the effect that they will only accept the church-state separation so long as Islam is in the minority.
This perspective is all the more depressing, considering that for many Muslims Islam is a religion based exclusively on the text of the Koran. And this text, 1,400 years later, is to be taken literally. Any interpretation, any doctrine, any theological progression, any attention to knowledge of the natural sciences, any pluralism, is forbidden. Since there is no single authoritative figure in Islam, even the most uneducated preachers have an equal right to function as imams. Each one can look for and use whatever in the Koran suits his muddled thinking.
What May Be Reason to Hope
Will the European political system face up to this challenge? Will it at least recognize it? The almost greater hope that it will not turn out so bad is more likely to occur among the Muslims themselves.
For they are at seriously at odds with one another. This is evident not only from the many wars between them in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya. Not only from the great differences between the medieval Wahhabi Saudi Arabians and the apparently quite tolerant Kurdish Muslims. This is evident above all in the fact that, of all the Muslims living in Europe, only about half of them are Muslim, strictly speaking. That can be seen in the attendance at Islamic religious instruction. Or in opinion polls where only about half of Muslims place sharia before the laws of the state. This also shows in the welcome — if small — initiatives to develop a liberal, European, enlightened, intellectual Islam. On the other hand, the fact that circa one half of the Muslims living in Europe are thoroughly fundamentalist is cause for real anxiety.
This anxiety is not alleviated by the fact that, for many Turkish, Chechen and Arabic immigrants, Islam means an emotional tie to their old homeland. One which they have revived for that very reason.
|*||The (essentially Bavarian) component of Merkel’s CDU-CSU “conservative” party.