[This book review was published in the Winter 2007 issue of The Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, pp. 519-522.]

 

Book Review 

 

The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent

Walter Laqueur

St. Martin’s Press, 2007 

 

            This book deals with a subject of inestimable importance: the on-going demographic swamping of Europe caused by the massive Muslim immigration and the now century-and-a-half-old below-reproduction birthrate among Europeans themselves.  Laqueur calls it “an existential crisis,” with the demographic changes now seemingly “irreversible.”  His conclusion, as the book’s title suggests, is that Europe’s “predominant place in the world… is a thing of the past.”

            Walter Laqueur is one of Europe’s more prominent historians.  He has written at least 21 previous books which have covered a number of facets of modern history, with perhaps a primary emphasis on fascism, terrorism and anti-Semitism.   One would think that this long immersement in ideology and conflict would give him an ideal background to discuss on the most profound level the intellectual and cultural roots of Europe’s self-immolation.

            It is a surprise, then, that although he gives a detailed recitation of the facts about the immigration and the low native birthrate (all of which makes the book well worth reading for its own sake), Laqueur brings little intellectual depth to the subject.  With rare exceptions, he ignores prior authors who have dealt with the crisis.  There is no mention, for example, of Patrick Buchanan’s The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization, a book that (as is apparent from the title) covers the same ground and that preceded his by five years.  Most strikingly, he shows no awareness of Jean Raspail’s haunting 1973 novel, The Camp of the Saints, which described so eloquently the moral and intellectual collapse that was making possible the demographic swamping that was then already underway.  This vacuum in Laqueur’s thinking allows him to say something quite incredible: “There were perhaps no immediate reasons in the 1990s to suspect anything untoward concerning the future of Europe.”  “Future historians,” he says, “may well be at a loss to understand why the sorry state of affairs was realized only late in the day.”  There is no reflection on his part about why the voices that were sounding the alarm were ignored; or, more deeply, about the self-delusions that made up so much a part of the modern European mentality as depicted by Raspail.

            We may conjecture that this long-existing intellectual insouciance arises out of the mind-set of what Laqueur calls “Europe’s political class,” to which he would seem to belong.  The Left has almost never recognized the existence of any intellectuality outside its own.  Raspail would not be mentioned, or even thought of, much less Buchanan.  It would seem that Laqueur wears these same blinders, since he characterizes opposition to the immigration as coming from “the far Right” or as being “populist.”  One great merit of his book, in this context, is that it will speak to a good many influential people who would not heed those other voices (i.e., it will speak to them unless they choose to treat his revelations as themselves violations of political correctness). 

            The lack of reflection leads Laqueur to a peculiar shallowness.  It is an odd assessment, for example, when he says that “the misfortune of Germany was not that it received millions of immigrants but that these came from the most backward, least educated sectors of Turkish society.”  The solution to him “is above all a question of raising the level of education of these communities.”  This is especially odd in light of his own detailed awareness of the yawning cultural divide between Islam and European secularism, illustrated by such things as honor killings, forced marriages, female circumcision, the wearing of the hijab, the opposition to centuries-old Christian art, and “the hudad—penalties imposed by the Koran and the sharia such as publicly stoning adulterers and apostates and the amputating of limbs of thieves.”  Despite all that he tells us, Laqueur fails to comprehend the fact of basic civilizational incompatibility.  His ideal would be for the Muslim mass to “assimilate,” without taking into account the insuperable obstacles that stand in its way.  (He thinks it is now too late for Muslim assimilation into traditional European life, though, since in a generation or two the Muslims will be the majority, and their expectation at that point will be that native Europeans should assimilate to them.)  

            A noteworthy aspect of the book is its lack of passion, urgency or anger.  Those emotions are, of course, for a number of reasons “outside the pale” for respectable scholarly discourse; and that may be enough to explain their absence in Laqueur’s extended essay.  It is also true, however, that such scholarly detachment in many ways renders the writing effete.  For a European, even a European scholar, to write dispassionately about the death of his own civilization is something quite remarkable, and shouldn’t be let pass without mention. 

            The Last Days of Europe gives a wealth of detail about the demographic invasion, the long-declining birthrate, the stress placed on the European welfare states, and the waning interest in European unity.  In the rest of this review, however, we will focus on certain points that are important but not often noted.

            One of these is that the Muslim immigrant population is by no means homogeneous, except in certain locales.  In Britain, for example, there is no common language among the Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Arabs.  Laqueur points out that “even in Germany within the Turkish community there is the division between Turkish Sunnis on the one hand and significant minorities such as the Kurds… and the Alawites.”  Among those who have come from Africa, there remain the sharp ethnic differences that are conducive to so much conflict within Africa itself.  It isn’t surprising that even Algerian and Moroccan immigrants are divided.  These many populations have little tolerance toward one another, and little desire to mix.  “Turks are not Arabs, and their attitude toward Arabs is anything but friendly… Nor are Pakistanis that well disposed toward Arabs.”

            A major question is whether a moderate form of Islam may take form in Europe.  Laqueur acknowledges that there are “many voices” for such moderation among educated Muslims—but he says they haven’t come from European Muslims.  The reason is that the great bulk of the Muslim immigrant population is from the poorer, least educated segments of their home countries.  The upshot is that “among the Muslim immigrants to Europe there are relatively few educated people or intellectuals open to outside ideas.”  Nor is there, in Germany, say, much interest on the part of the poorly-educated Turkish parents to see to the education of their children.  In such a setting, the strident Islamist voices hold center stage.

            And yet, an existential threat of their own looms for Islam and radical Islamism.  They are losing the younger generation—not to the best in European life, but to the culture of the street.  The Muslims are younger than Europeans in general, and Laqueur tells us that “the younger generation has developed a subculture of their own that is expressed in their songs and language,” which comprises “rapping, misogynistic and homophobic, [that is] as ugly as their language, consisting mainly of expletives and curses, the lingo of the underworld….”  He speaks of “the gang phenomenon,” which centers on “hip-hop culture and gangsta rap.”  “It has been widely reported that the young enforcers of the sharia [Islamic law] have also been dealing drugs and consuming them, engaging in sex practices not at all legitimate according to their religion, and listening constantly to rap music, which is also in contravention to strict Islam.”  Unemployment among them is at culturally destructive levels, with 30 to 40 percent in France and Germany, and almost as much in Britain and the Netherlands.  Their mental landscape is one of victimology and entitlement. 

            The fact of demographic swamping is general to all European countries, but it is interesting that each country has something of a unique situation.  The 1.6 million Muslims in Britain come “mainly from Pakistan and Bangladesh,” while 80 percent of the crime in the London subway is spawned by African immigrants.  In France, there were 260 mosques twenty years ago, and now more than 2,000.  Rape is a “rite of passage” for Muslim street gangs.  Most of the French Muslims are from Algeria and Morocco.  For Germany, three-fourths of the influx has been from Turkey.  The Turks are contemptuous of “becoming German,” and have set up a “parallel society” consisting of “ghettoization, re-Islamization, high youth unemployment, and failure in the educational system.”  Italy, with its 7,600 kilometers of coastline, is “the main gateway for illegal immigrants.”  Spain, however, has Europe’s highest immigration rate, with the socialist government granting amnesty to those there illegally.  In Sweden, there has been an “influx of radical anti-Western Saudi preachers.”

            All of this illustrates how rich Laqueur’s book is with important detail.  Despite the serious reservations we have mentioned, The Last Days of Europe is a worthy addition to the growing literature on a vitally important subject. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Dwight D. Murphey