Book Review: While Europe Slept

While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, by Bruce Bawer

I had bought this book on the assumption that it would be filled with half-baked statistics and doomsday scenarios about how Islam is going to take over Europe. It is, partially, but most of the book actually deals with how Europe prevents its immigrants from really integrating, how it channels its feelings of impotence into a consuming hatred of America, how it pretends to be sophisticated when it actually can't see beyond its own provincial borders. If it would have been up to me, I would have named this book something like "How xenophobic and hypocritical Europe is encouraging its immigrants to turn against it".

Bawer, an American, had lived in both The Netherlands and Norway. He had learned the local languages, gone through his own integration story and in this book he shares his experiences of the people and their attitudes. Much like my blog, he focuses mostly on what he knows - The Netherlands and Scandinavia - but he also forays into other parts of Europe, bringing stories of things he'd seen in trips and in the media.

Many of the immigrants who come to Europe come from backwards areas of the world, live in a tribal mentality and never really make the necessary mental transition to their new homeland. But as Bawer points out in his book, for the nations-states of Europe this is an optimal condition. Why would they want immigrants who actually expect to be seen as Dutch or Swedish? The tragedy of mass immigration to Europe is that no matter how much an immigrant would try, he, his children, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren would always be seen as strangers. Holding a European passport, but not possessing the needed ethnicity. This is true for Western immigrants as well - as Bawer notes from his own experience as an immigrant - though the chances that they'll intermarry and their children will acquire the needed ethnicity are much higher.

Bawer mentions Prof. Wikan, which he both praises and criticizes ( my review of her book here). He praises her for being one of the first to realize that 'protecting' the 'culture' of immigrants who are born in Europe comes only by denying the civil rights of immigrant women and children, but he criticizes her for her refusal to see Islam as the main problem. He brings her 'famous' quote that Norwegian women should adapt to living in a multi-cultural society - a quote I think has been misunderstood and misquoted. Bawer does agree with Wikan, however, that throwing money at people and expecting them to be thankful doesn't work. Not when you're not giving them the dignity of being truly accepted. Bawer favors the American model of immigration - the melting pot where everybody can become a true American, over the European model, where unless you're ethnic Swede, you'll never be truly Swedish.

Europe favors multiculturalism, since it is much easier than allowing the immigrants to actually integrate. It keeps the 'us' vs. 'them' lines quite clear and distinct. And if a few Muslim women must pay the price by being beaten or murdered, then that's just the way things are. As one Norwegian culture worker told a Muslim interested in integrating: "If you become Norwegian, we will not see you as you are. You must be yourself." Apartheid, anyone?

An interesting point Bawer brings up is that many radical Muslims are actually well-integrated (in fact many of them are converts). Maybe they simply give up on the Europeans when they reach that glass ceiling, when they realize that no matter what they do, they'll never truly belong.

Bawer analyzes the anti-American sentiments of the European establishment - the politicians, the media, and academics. I will not bring all his points here, but it does make for quite interesting reading. It also explains some points I've found extremely strange in the past, such as the readiness of top European politicians to voice an opinion on the American elections. Do the Americans really care who the Swedish prime minister wants them to vote for? Would the Swedes react as kindly if the American president would tell the Swedes who *he* wants them to vote for?

In fact, this book just strengthened my opinion that Muslims in Europe mirror their surroundings. If the average European denies that he has any culture and sees the American culture as nothing more than crass consumerism - why does he expect the average European Muslim to think any differently? If he doesn't see liberal values as his cultural inheritance, and doesn't recognize the American contribution to the development of those same values - why is he surprised when Muslims don't accept those values?

Bawer goes on further to emphasize how much the Europeans admire the Communist tyranny - seeing Castro as a role model and idolizing Che Guevara, for example. Is it any surprise, then, that young ethnic Europeans seek meaning in their lives by turning to the radical communist ideology of Islam? Europeans until today don't accept the Jews among them as equals, so why do they expect the Muslims to do so?

Europeans, Bawer says, have rewritten history, casting America as the 'bad guy' in the Cold War. They do not feel grateful to America for saving them in WWII or protecting them during the Cold War. Bawer brings a discussion he's had with Dutch friends who simply refused to believe Americans had fought for them during WWII because American soldiers believed in their freedom. It must have been big business who wanted to protect their markets, his friends claimed. I agree with Bawer that this just reflects on the Dutch way of thinking. If you won't fight for your own freedom you won't understand why others would do so for you. If the only reason you would do something would be to make money, you'll assume that's how everybody else thinks too. If Europeans and Americans can't understand each other, why do they think they can understand what the Arab world wants?

No matter how much they see America as crass and morally inferior, many Europeans are raised on its popular culture. You won't find many Europeans watching TV programs made by their neighbors, and most don't know who are the artists, singers, dancers, and actors from across the border. They look up to America's universities, to its cities and freedoms, but they use every opportunity they can to complain about it.

Integration is a two way process, and there are many Muslims who do not want to integrate. What would have been if they had been fully accepted 40 or 20 years ago is by now a question for fiction writers. Bawer suggests that Europeans integrate the Muslims now, but I doubt it's possible, from both sides. A nation state based on the ethnicity of its people cannot simply change overnight, not without losing its basis for being. This point might also explain why Europeans express so many anti-Israel sentiments: They fear they themselves are racist, that they don't have a right to their own nationhood. Is there any easier way of working off that guilt than by blaming others of your own deepest fears?

The book is sprinkled with statistics, some truer than others. Switzerland is not 20% Muslim, and 12% in France is far higher than any estimate I've ever seen. Recent studies have shown that quite a few Muslim European girls are actually interested in marrying boys from their homeland, especially if the alternative is marrying Muslim Europeans. Bawer brings a lot of radical quotes from imams, but he generally doesn't say where the quotes comes from. In general one of the problems of this book is its lack of sources. The fact that Europeans newspapers constantly quote Hizb ut-Tahrir leaders and their ilk, doesn't mean that those Muslims actually represent the majority of the people. The fact that the 'moderates' quoted on the news belong to the most radical movements in Islam doesn't really prove anything about moderate Muslims. Bawer then asks, why don't the Muslims stand up to such talk? Why don't they stand up to terrorism? He partially answers the question on his own - standing up would mean endangering oneself, but it also means going against the tribal mentality, helping the infidel over your fellow Muslim, no matter how wrong they are.

I do agree with Bawer's take on Islam: Religion is whatever its individual believers understand it to be. Muslim and non-Muslims who responded to Fitna by listing all the places in the Bible that call for stonings and hangings simply ignore the reality around them. The Koran is not what is holding Muslims back, it's Muslims themselves who refuse to give it a liberal interpretation and to let go of blood-lust and tribal practices.

I did find some inner contradictions in Bawer's thesis. Bawer stresses that England is the most 'American-like' of the Europeans, but they are not really better off than their continental neighbors when it comes to integrating their Muslim immigrants, and they are quite bad when it comes to accepting radicalism. Britain already had to deal with home grown Jihad. France is brought as an example of the country which most grovels to the Arab and Muslim powers, but is later listed as the country which really fight terrorism. America itself, even though it has integrated Muslims as fully as they were willing, is facing problems with Islamism. In that sense, so are Muslim countries - Morocco, Egypt and Turkey are still battling the Islamist movement. America still hasn't found the golden path between ensuring its citizen of their human rights and civil liberties and preventing the use of those same rights and liberties to undermine them.

I sometimes had the feeling that this book was written by two people: A significant portion of the book blames the Europeans for their hypocrisy and rejection of immigrants, for their love of Communism and tyranny and for their hatred of anything American. The rest of the book blames the Muslims for radicalizing, rejecting the West and for their rising Antisemitism. Both portions of the book seem to ignore points made the other. It is not easy to give straight answers on why Muslims radicalize across Europe, why there is such a growing movement of rejecting the West. Bawer focuses only on Europe, mostly on North-Western Europe, but some of these trends are the result of worldwide movements and events.

Europe likes to pretend that it's humanistic, liberal, peaceful. Towards the end of the book Bawer brings part of a Norwegian song by Arne Kristian Gansmo called 'I want to be your friend': You stone your mothers, whip your sisters, mutilate your daughters behind the veil, but I want to be your friend. As I'm sure many Muslim women in Europe ask themselves, with such friends, who needs enemies?


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Bawer.
Reading the review of your book I agree with most of your observations, however your statement that europeans have rewritten history and deny or have forgotten the sacrifices and efforts of the people of United States, Great Brittain, Canada and all others in WW2 to free Europe is in my opinion "a bridge too far". I'm dutch and in my environment I don't know anyone who will agree with this vision.

your sincerely,
Piet Westerhof

Humaniterian said...

Thank you Mr. IIE for this brilliant and enlightening review of this Pre-mediated or Pre-Engineered book.

You are right when saying "I sometimes feel it is 2 books in one…". It is engineered to blame the real victims of the mess, while the real aggressor are presented as victims of anti-Americanism and anti-Israel..
Typical of the history.

Thank you again and God bless you

Unknown said...

Spot on review, first of all. Secondly, as a European transplant in America, I have seen firsthand the hypocrisy of the governnments of both in regards to race relations. As a child of an interracial relationship, I was never fully accepted into Spanish culture, and Spaniards would rush to call me "Americano" because of my dark features, reflecting the European tribalism the author speaks of. In America, I never had that problem, as long as you speak English fluently, without an accent, I find Americans don't care.
However, the author's suggestion of America being a "melting pot" scenario is naive. America historically seperated residential zones by race, just as they seperated manufacturing from residential areas. This still plays out today, with gentrification and suburbanization effectively shifting America's poor and brown around, instead of "melting" them in. Take one look at your Government Leaders (Senate, not local), top company CEO's, and the reality portrayed by Hollywood of White America, and you get a different view. You know what, just ask a Native American about a melting pot, see what he says.

Not to rant about the book, which I thought had some illuminating points, but it made it hard to take some parts seriously when the generalizations were so biased. (Fox News and Limbaugh, setting the record straight? Really?)

Again, kudos on the review