Bruce Bawer:
"While Europe Slept" (2006)

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
This is an excellent overview of the different attitudes that Western Europe and the USA have towards the Islamic world. Its only problem is that it fails to define the subject: is it a book about a "threat" or confrontation or conflict between West and Islam, or is it a book just about the terrorists (who might as well be Christian terrorists, as the Red Brigades were), or about the integration of Muslim immigrants in Western societies, or what? The book tends to shift from one to the other issue, and i am not sure that these issues are all the same.

The key message out of the book is that the USA is, if nothing else, serious about facing the "problem" and solving it whereas Europeans are mostly busy hiding their head in the sand. If Muslims are in denial of the many problems that they (the Muslims) caused and can't solve, Europeans are equally in denial that they (Europeans) are not doing much to keep those problems from escalating and contaminating their societies. Instead of realizing that the USA is the political, military and (yes) moral leader at this moment in time and has the ability to define the relationship with the Islamic world (one way or another), Europeans routinely accuse the USA of causing the problem (Bush did little to dispel this notion, but that is another story, as the anti-USA attitude already existed when Clinton was president). Bawer is correct in suggesting that it is much (much) easier for a European to blame the USA than to blame the Muslims: blaming the USA carries no consequences, whereas blaming Muslims carries obvious consequences, as proven by the murder of a Dutch politician to the riots caused by Danish cartoons of the founder of Islam, Mohammed (not to mention the countless death threats that all writers like me receive when they dare suggest that Mohammed was not sent by a god...). Bawer shows that Europe is pretty much committing suicide: it helps the "enemy within" that is plotting the overthrow of European values and it distances itself from the friend (that also happens to be the world's superpower) that could help defend its values and, in fact, has been protecting Europe for the last 60 years giving it the longest period of peace and prosperity in 1500 years. Bawer (not himself a right-wing apostle) is particularly bitter towards the "progressive" members of European politics, the Leftists who routinely side with the "oppressed" Muslims of the world and never speak up about the "oppressing" Muslims of the world (Pakistan may be right or not about Kashmir, but there is no doubt that the hindu population of Pakistan has declined from 20% to less than 1% whereas the Muslim population of India has never changed, and Palestinians may be right or wrong about their right to have a state, that they never had under the various Islamic empires, but there is no doubt which side routinely targets civilians, etc).

Bawer shows how Islam is already influencing politics in Europe. For example, the death threats that we all receive are clearly successful in changing the tone of the media and the politicians. Europe is much better at criticizing North Korea's leader than Osama bin Laden, and that is no wonder, given that North Korea's leader has never threatened to behead the Europeans who make fun of his ideology. Intimidation does work if the state fails to stop it.

Bawer shows how pervasively Islam has already penetrated western societies (in a way that Western societies would not even dream of doing to Islamic societies). We learned that countries like Denmark and Switzerland (that have never had a single Muslim colony) have huge Muslims minorities. But this would not be a problem in itself. After all, Europe did worse: it colonized the entire Islamic world, from Morocco to Indonesia. It is hard to blame a few million Muslims for emigrating to Europe peacefully when Europeans used to invade their countries with huge armies and pilllage them for centuries.

Bawer fails to show that "moderate Islam" is as much of a problem as "radical Islam". In fact, people like me have never understood which would be the moderates and which the radicals. Muslims who marry teenage girls in arranged marriages are often considered "moderates". I suspect that is the very way that Islam turns into a deadly weapon, because those men and those women and their children believe the letter of the Quran. Wearing a veil may not be a problem, but memorizing a book that tells you (over and over again) that your duty is to establish Islam all over the world, and that this "is" the way it is going to be, is not a good way to accept, admire and contribute to Western society, right? When you ask both radicals and moderates the same questions, you get pretty much the same answers (except that the former will end the conversation by saying "Islam means peace", after having defended all the conflicts in which Muslims are involved anywhere on the planet).

A key feature of both moderate and radical Islam is, for example, the "asabiyya" (brotherhood) that unites all Muslims of the world. Bawer correctly points out that Muslims always defend Muslims and always think of non-Muslims as the cause of any problem. He also points out that any attack on a Muslim by a non-Muslim (no matter what the reason) has the effect of uniting the entire Islamic world against the attacker (such is the case today of the USA's decision to remove Saddam Hussein, a very bad Muslim, but nonetheless a Muslim). These are the real problems: how can we administer justice or simply help Muslims solve their problems if any attack against any Muslim is perceive as an attack on all Muslims? If i see a Muslim kidnapping a child, what am i supposed to do? The entire Islamic world would unite against me if i dare attack the kidnapper. This would not be a problem is Muslims stopped the kidnapper by themselves. But what if they don't (either because they don't want to or because they don't have the power to)? What are we (non Muslims) supposed to do? This is the metaphor that is causing a paralysis in the West: the USA thinks that it should protect the child, whereas Europe thinks we should look elsewhere.

Bawer does not tackle what is the fundamental problem, the Muslim denial of what Islam is all about (See Connecting with the Muslim majority). Whether sent by Allah (as Muslims claim) or by Satan (as the Christians saw it in those years) or by his own ego (as i believe), Mohammed was bent on establishing his own kingdom. For as long as Europeans will permit the legend that Mohammed was a man of peace, obviously there will not be "peace" because the "peace" that Muslims talk about is the peace of Islam ruling over the entire planet, not the peace of peacefully coexisting with other cultures.