The New York Sun, July 2007
A review of The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent.
Last month, en route to the British Library, I strolled past the Tiger Tiger nightclub in Piccadilly. I was on foot because it was a beautiful day and because there is a distinctly creepy mood, these days, on London’s tubes and busses. Signs everywhere remind passengers that they are on CCTV. The police presence is heavy and visible. To be sure, the odds of any one bus blowing up are tiny, but the ubiquitous security prompts the unwelcome thought that there are people about who seek to better those odds. Days later, I flew out of Heathrow airport, where the mood was creepier still.
Lines snaked for hours through claustrophobic security screening pens, and passengers stared balefully at the earnest sniffer dogs, wondering how much confidence to place in that goofy spaniel’s nose.
Then the British government awarded Salman Rushdie a knighthood. Pakistan’s minister of religious affairs, Mohammed Ijaz ul Haq, suggested suicide bombings would be a justified response. Muslim protestors outside London’s Regent’s Park mosque chanted “Death to Rushdie, Death to the Queen.” In a letter to the Guardian, the leaders of 12 British Muslim groups called the award (but not those protests) “a deliberate provocation and insult to the 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.” Shortly thereafter, Islamic terrorists doctors, no less left two car bombs packedwith gasoline and nails on the streets of London’s theater district, one of them outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub. When those failed to explode, they rammed a Jeep Cherokee into the arrival hall of Glasgow airport, crashing through the windows only yards from passengers at the check-in counters.
Britain’s new prime minister, Gordon Brown, ordered his ministers to refrain from using the words “Muslim” and “Islam” in connection with these outrages. I shall not follow suit. It is a simple fact that Muslim immigrants in Europe tried, once again, to kill people like me, and it is another simple fact that no one was even much surprised. It is part of a pattern and everyone knows it. I don’t feel sober and measured about that. And why should I? Why should anyone else?
But sober and measured, apparently, is precisely what we are supposed to feel. Walter Laqueur’s The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent (Thomas Dunne, 226 pages, $25.95) has been received with sighs of gratitude by critics who approve of its sober and measured tone. Mr. Laqueur calmly describes a Europe that is “bound to change, probably out of recognition.” Its dominant role in world affairs is “a thing of the past.” Many Muslims (and yes, that word is “many,” not “a tiny minority”) sympathize not only with the goals of the terrorists, but with their means. As Mr. Laqueur correctly notes, “26 percent of [British] Muslims interviewed felt no loyalty to Britain; 40 percent opted for introducing the laws of sharia in certain parts of Britain 13 percent justified terrorist attacks Al Qaeda style and 47% supported suicide attacks such as in Israel.”
In the face of this data, Mr. Laqueur remarks, “One could only hope that the newcomers indifferent to European values or even hostile to them would gradually show more tolerance, if not enthusiasm, toward them or that multiculturalism, which had been such a disappointment, would perhaps work after all in the long run.” The use of the pronoun “one” and the adoption of the conditional voice are presumably intended to suggest his laudable sobriety, or at least lofty academic detachment. But why, exactly, is it considered a virtue for to be sober and measured when considering this data? And is it not curious to find such a tone in a man whose own life has been so profoundly marked by precisely the kind of exterminationist anti-Semitism such radicals promulgate?
Born in 1921 in Breslau, Germany, Mr. Laqueur emigrated in 1938 to the then-British Mandate of Palestine. He escaped the Holocaust. His parents did not. If anyone knows what Europe looks like when the lamps are going out, it is Mr. Laqueur; if anyone would recognize hysteria and exaggeration among those who say they are flickering again, it is also Mr. Laqueur.
A giant even among his remarkable generation of German-Jewish intellectuals, he has earned deference to his authority. The Center for Strategic and International Studies has published a 66-page bibliography of his writings about Europe, the Soviet Union, the Middle East, and terrorism. His celebrated achievements include ” Europe Since Hitler”; “Out of the Ruins of Europe”; “Weimar, a Cultural History, 1918-1933” and “A History of Zionism” the latter the undisputed seminal text. There is no modern historian alive who is not in Walter Laqueur’s debt.
With the publication of The Last Days of Europe, some may consider that debt repaid. For the book says, precisely, what a number of us have been saying for years. Bruce Bawer warned of the Islamist threat to Europe in his excellent “While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West From Within.” Mr. Laqueur makes only a single reference to it.
Mark Steyn elaborated the demographic case for pessimism about Europe’s future in his bestselling “America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It.” His arguments appeal to the same data used by Mr. Laqueur and are no less convincing. There is not one reference to Mr. Steyn in Mr. Laqueur’s book.
There is scant reference to Melanie Phillips’s “Londonistan,” none at all to Tony Blankley’s “The West’s Last Chance,” and none, again, to Bat Ye’Or’s “Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis.” Nor is there reference to Oriana Fallaci’s “The Rage and the Pride.” Whatever one may think of Ms. Fallaci’s tone, which is neither sober nor measured in the least, it is only fair to acknowledge that she anticipated us all.
Thus it is galling to hear from Mr. Laqueur that important questions about Muslim immigrants in Europe have “hardly been articulated, much less investigated,” and I must say it is particularly vexing to learn that” [t]herehave been cities and regions in France in which ethnic coexistence has somehow worked, such as, for instance, Marseille, a model that ought to be studied.” I did study it, at great length. I concluded that Marseille’s success was owed to strong police work, the city’s atypical geography and housing policy, and the recognition and organization of Marseille’s constituent ethnicities by means of a formal system called Marseille Esp rance. I suggested that other European cities might wish to emulate these programs.
Mr. Laqueur’s book may not be original or lively but it is thorough, competent, and well-organized. More importantly, it is right. His discussions of various immigrant groups in Britain and Germany are particularly detailed and well-informed; he is to be commended for carefully noting the differences among Europe’s nations and its immigrant groups, rather than treating them as homogenous entities. His care with detail is marred, alas, by the book’s lamentable copy editing; the prime minister of Turkey’s name, for example, is rendered both as Erdogan and Erdo an in the same paragraph, and there are numerous other mistakes in Turkish spelling.
Indeed, Turkish and Arabic names are mangled throughout the book; Hizb al Tahrir should be Hizb ut Tahrir; Abu Hamza al-Mizri should be Abu Hamza al-Masri, and however you spell them, the system of transliteration should be consistent. This is not an entirely trivial quibble; the book is apt to be taken less seriously by those among whom it most needs to be taken seriously if it appears that Mr. Laqueur has insufficient familiarity with these names and these organizations to know how they are conventionally spelled.
Nonetheless, this is an important book, written by someone sufficiently familiar with Europe, if not the spellings of the names of its various newcomers, to merit very serious attention. Will it receive that attention, or will Mr. Laqueur be dismissed despite his reputation as another nattering nabob of negativity? So far the signs are mixed, but pointing nabob-wards. ” Mr. Laqueur is too gloomy,” writes the Economist, “about the prospects of Muslims playing a more constructive role. In truth, European cities such as London and Berlin have acquired a new zip thanks to immigrants from around the world, including those from Muslim countries. It is a shame that the tone of Mr. Laqueur’s book is so hostile that it slips into outright intolerance.”
A new zip, indeed. Let’s check the news reports, shall we? “Allah, Allah!” “4X4 BOMB: Jeep rams into Glasgow Terminal…” “WE ARE ENTERING THE ERA OF THE CAR BOMB …” “UK-wide hunt for al-Qaida cell …” ” London mayor defends Muslims … ” Hell, if it gets any zippier than this, we’ll all have to throw out our Prozac.
“Future historians,” Mr. Laqueur concludes, “may well be at a loss to understand why the sorry state of affairs was realized only late in the day, despite the fact that all the major trends mentioned in this brief study demography, the stalling of the movement toward European unity, and the crisis of the welfare state had appeared well before the turn of the century.”
Future historians please note: Not everyone was late.