Quote: Europe is making concessions to Islam

Quote: Europe is making concessions to Islam

An interview with Christopher Caldwell. One example he gives of such concessions is actually an anti-immigration law, which, as he notes, is also anti-democratic. It's not a concession to anything, but it does show that no matter where Europe goes from here, it cannot do so without giving up something.


Immigration is changing Europe and not for the better, says US author Christopher Caldwell. "You can't argue that immigration is necessary on economic grounds and then not look at the economic effects."


Another theme in your book are the social and cultural aspects of immigration. You write: "In no country in Europe does the bulk of the population aspire to live in a bazaar of world cultures".

"People in Europe have been far too reluctant to look at the cultural factors. There had been so much violence, so much misery in the [second world] war. For this reason people didn't want or didn't dare tell the immigrants: this is how we do things over here and if you don't like it you can leave."

Isn't work the best way to integrate, to overcome cultural differences?

"I don't think people become less assertive culturally once they find their place in the economy. And there is another essential element to the problems Europe is having with immigrants. Developments in mass media have changed the dynamics behind immigration. Twenty years ago an immigrant in England watched the BBC and Monty Python. Now he watches Al Jazeera. That has big consequences for the way immigrants deal with cultural differences and how they participate in society.

"European countries would have more success integrating immigrants if they had more politicians like Sarah Palin [the Republican running mate in the 2008 US presidential election]. Someone who comes to Los Angeles from a traditional village in El Salvador brings along traditional ideas about the position of women, homosexuality, abortion. If he turns towards national politics he will see his traditional values reflected, however imperfectly, in people like Sarah Palin. Most immigrants in Europe today are Muslims. But the Muslims who come to Europe don't find see anything there that reflects their traditional values."

You warn against the influence of Islam in Europe. "Immigration doesn't strengthen or affirm European culture; it is taking it place. Europe doesn't welcome its new residents; it gives way to them," you write.

"I'm not suggesting that all European countries will be ruled by a council of Muslim clerics, or that Islam will become the dominant culture. It's not about radical scenarios like that. What I'm talking about is deep changes to Europe's core values, in order to accommodate Islam. A good example is the discussion in the Netherlands about criminalising blasphemy. Or the French court that agreed with a Muslim man who wanted to have his marriage annulled because his wife wasn't a virgin.

"Some countries are changing their laws, from laws that are deeply rooted in European culture to laws that try to mediate between cultures. Look at Denmark. If you had told a Dane a few years back that there would be a law banning young Danish citizens who marry foreigners from outside the European Union from living in Denmark for a number of years, he would have called you crazy. But there is a law now doing exactly that, and people don't just accept it on a pragmatic level; they actively support it."

Isn't that part of the dynamics of society?

"I see it as making concessions. The natural dynamic of a society should be towards more democracy, more freedom of speech. Now it is going the other way. Of course respecting someone else's religion is an ideal too. But the traditional European approach has been to give priority to freedom of expression over respect for someone else's religion. The fact that is changing is not because Europeans have become more religious, but because they are afraid of a conflict with the Muslim minority."

You don't see it as respect for the other?

"It is a sign of respect if you take people's convictions seriously and you recognise that is not obvious for different cultures to integrate. Europa has to choose for a more restrictive immigration policy. It also needs to make a more realistic assessment of how open European culture can be towards other cultures. Europe today lacks large, metaphysical ideals, self-confidence and a vision for the future. When an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture meets a culture that is anchored, confident and strengthened by common doctrines, it is generally the former that changes to suit the latter."


Source: NRC (Dutch)

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