"Eurabia" Phobias are Damaging Distortion about Islam in Europe, French Author Says     Print Email

For several years, the American chattering classes have boiled with feverish discussion about the rise of Islam in Europe and the terrorist threat nurtured by extremists in ghetto-like Muslim communities in European countries. Much of the tone and substance of this discussion about an ominously emerging “Eurabia” has come from books by a handful of prominent American political analysts who charge Europeans with placating the growing Muslim minorities on their soil and thus harboring and inciting Islamic extremism.

The gist of their argument is this: over-liberal, “multi-cultural” policies in Europe pander to Islamic values while curtailing traditional Western values of civic responsibility. This criticism implies a call for Europe to embrace pro-active integration policies such as U.S.-style affirmative action. But there is an even stronger implicit message: stop giving ground to Muslim demands for societal change to offer a stronger position to Muslim minorities. Prominent examples of this can be found in books by Claire Berlinski (investigative journalist, author of Menace in Europe) and Christopher Caldwell (senior editor, The Weekly Standard; author of Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West).

The rise of xenophobic (essentially anti-Muslim) political movements in European nations (including France, the Netherlands, Austria, and Switzerland) has fueled the idea that Muslim immigrants are threatening the social cohesion in these countries and fueling the international threat posed by alienated Muslim extremists in Europe. As long as a decade ago, Oriana Falacci stridently voiced such forebodings in her last book, The Rage and the Pride. It was widely described at the time as racist and politically incorrect in the extreme, but her sentiments are much more widely shared nowadays by big segments of society in most European nations.

A strongly-argued rebuttal of this view about the situation of Europe’s Muslims appears in an article by Justin Vaïsse. In his widely-read Foreign Policy review of Caldwell’s book, Vaïsse’s argument is that this principally American literary genre about “Eurabia” has created an image that fundamentally misrepresents the current overall relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in European society. Painting a different picture of the reality in Europe, Vaisse -- a French-born intellectual now based in Washington -- contends that many Muslims strive to conform to European cultural standards, only to be rebuffed by the effects of unemployment, discrimination, and police brutality. As Vaïsse explains, “leaving out poverty and racism…the Eurabia writers overemphasize culture and religion in explaining tensions and lay the blame solely on Muslims.” In other words, he says that two things are wrong: one, the dynamic in Europe needs to be improved by more tolerance, and two, some views propounded in the U.S. are projecting American paranoia on Europe in a way that distorts the reality on the ground.

He argues that the largely American fear of Eurabia, sparked by the attacks of September 11, ignores the realities of cultural integration in Europe. The cultural dichotomy expressed in such Eurabia literature is fundamentally flawed, representing a deep American fear of Muslim influence that does not reflect the reality in Europe. And, of course, recent months have seen an upsurge in terrorist plots involving Muslims born, not in Europe, but in the United States.

Vaïsse, a senior fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution and Director of Research for the Center on the United States and Europe, has recently published a book of his own on neoconservatism entitled Neoconservatism- The Biography of a Movement. His book traces the history of the neoconservative movement followed by a critique of the current neoconservative policies. He harshly criticizes the present-day neoconservative movement for its overly-hawkish foreign policy initiatives and alarmist rhetoric which he claims has contributed to global alienation and anti-American sentiments.

Perhaps not coincidentally, there is considerable political overlap between people in the neocons’ ranks and the most prominent American writers who try to keep the spotlight on Europe’s”failure” with Muslims.

Jennifer Wnuk