While Europe Slept/commentary

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Commentary on While Europe Slept:

Sam Stutter

copied from here; Stutter is a British citizen

Part 1:

It's not true in the UK. Completely and utterly and perfectly bullshit. 10% of the population are Muslim, typically a little more in cities, and have no more control than any other citizen. It's one of those universal myths and is mainly due to people freaking out over seeing people dressed differently and speaking different languages. Personal fashion choices and linguistic ability apparently mean "taking over".

Sharia law is, like many elements of the English legal system "kinda sorta" encoded. Civil disputes - such as divorces, financial and business stuff - can be negotiated under Sharia law, provided all the relevant parties agree for judgement to be passed in this way. Essentially, it's a way to make what would otherwise be non-legal consensual agreements legally binding.

Never heard a single story of people being punished for "islamic" crimes. And we've just had our first prosecutions for FGM, thank goodness. The UK has constrains upon full freedom of speech but, hey, we're a tightly packed country and they're more like legally enforceable versions of our unwritten social reservedness :D

And we're the most tolerant country in Europe, so it must be less so in other places.

[added later]

Having read a little more, Sharia courts in the UK are, in reality, simply arbitration. They're probably legally binding, but nobody has ever tested it. It's been happening since 1996 and there are Jewish equivalents. The vast majority are for business disputes. Others deal with divorces and occasionally give out childcare advice in the form of non-binding fatwas. 

Part 2:

Having read the precis on Wikipedia, it strikes me that While Europe Slept is motivated by two things: general racism (today’s most fashionable form of racism being against Muslims) and an attempt to differentiate the USA from Europe, in the light of the ongoing collapse of the American Empire, in order to elicit false hope that the US will never fall to the same level of, say, the UK or France. The Wikipedia article is full of references to America being right versus Europe being wrong but, rather more importantly, notes a total absence of hard data or actual insight in the book. Quotes come from taxi-drivers and people in pubs (those two well renowned sources of plausible information) - if they come from anywhere at all. And I quote The Economist “he approvingly quotes a Muslim liberal ... [then] he uses wildly exaggerated statistics”. It seems that the most glowing criticism of it is that it’s “commonsensical” - which we all know is shorthand for “pure superstition”.

That’s the TLDR version.

Islam isn’t some brand new threat in Europe, it’s been here for thousands of years - from the Moors in Spain to the Ottomans in the east. Even Shakespeare wrote Muslim characters. Europe’s a big mess of interconnected identities, continually evolving and changing. There’s no immortal national identities - religions come and go, cultures change and ethnicities swish this way and that. Islam makes up 4% of the European population, in England, about 5% and, in my home town, about 16% (turns out my earlier statistic of 10% was bullshit). In comparison, Muslims constitute 0.6% of the US population. Basically, Islam is weirder to you guys because you hardly see it except on TV. It’s been a daily part of the fabric of European society pretty much since it was first founded. You look at Europe and see somewhere “Islamised”, rather than somewhere which has been Muslim all along.

The USA is a weird place, unlike anywhere except perhaps Russia. It’s a vast continental swathe, occupied by a single dominant and violently enforced monoculture. It has only one cultural land-border - Mexico - somewhere not that different when you get down to it. In comparison, all that separates Italy and Libya is a quick trip in a rubber dingy. From a European viewpoint, the USA monoculture is a strangely cold and shallow thing - saluting the flag, singing the anthem, knowing about some old dead guys and shouting “FREEDOM!” whenever someone points a TV camera at you. Like a Big Mac, it’s not a complex nuanced thing, nor is it particularly healthy.

On the other hand, Bruce Bawer discusses the idea of a Europe defined by ghettos - which is the purest form of bullshit. In the UK there’s never been a history of racial segregation, whereas the USA has something of a bad track record when it comes to the treatment of non-white people. The idea of the American melting pot is an utter falsehood. Consider New York - not so much a single city as rather a disparate collection of communities of different racial and cultural identities. Ghetto might be a German word, but it was black Americans who recognised that it defined their “apartheid-style” neighbourhoods. The way in which American news sources covered the London Riots and critics covered the film Attack the Block sums up a fundamental cultural misreading of conflict in the UK. Neither were a case of black versus white - they were poor people against rich people (an old story in our class stratified society). Many of those poor people were black, but many were also white. Many of the rich people were white, but some are also black. The reason people live in shitty places in the UK isn’t their ethnic background but the fact that they’ve all been equally shafted financially. The same’s true in Paris so, I must presume, is similar throughout Europe.

Europe has to face up to external cultures in a way America has never had to. When was the last time the CONUS was invaded by a foreign power? This is why 9/11 hit you guys so hard - you all believed you lived in the Promised Land, safe from harm, never having experienced an encroachment on such a scale. It seems that Bruce Bawer is unable to recognise a diversity in national affiliation. I’m guessing he sees “being a citizen of country X” as adhering to a very specific set of enforced beliefs and principles, rather than less obvious internalised feelings of belonging.

The idea of “integration” is another falsehood. It assumes that the home culture is immutable and perfect. If you want an immigrant to “integrate” you are essentially demanding that they give up certain identities and homogenise into the Borg-like identikit society. It’s the “duty” of an immigrant to change everything about themselves, rather than what should actually happen - that they add to and hopefully improve the home culture. To take a French example - should you be required to change the way you dress and the language you speak, simply because you need to integrate into another culture? Of course not. So long as you contribute and are able to coexist, it is everyone else’s duty to coexist with you.

I think what’s most amusing is the book’s central theme which boils down to ”I’m not racist! You’re racist!”. Bawer essentially says “Europeans accept other cultures and don’t attempt to interfere with them. What racists!”. This whole idea is pure Godwin’s Law. The idea that the (long established) Jewish communities in 1930s Germany were refusing to integrate and were taking over drove the Nazis’ hatred of them. Of course, Jews in Europe in the 30s were utterly innocent, but the belief that Europe was sleepwalking into a Judaism-run dystopia was widespread. Similarly, accusations that Muslims aren’t integrating are also levelled against pretty much every other ethnicity - whether it’s eastern europeans and Roma in the UK, north africans in France or Russians in the Baltic.

The motivation for people willing to believe all this nonsense is of course the Far Right attempting to sell a sort of “xenophobia-lite”. “I’m not racist but I don’t want foreigners anywhere near me”. By convincing people that there’s an imminent threat, an invasion or a cultural war, it’s easier to disseminate ultra-conservatism. The world changes but these are the people who refuse to. It’s also a great method of psychological control - every dictator and insane religious leader develops a myth of cultural war - whether it’s the spectre of Communism, the evils of Capitalism, anti-revolutionary ideas or whatever. Islamisation, like a fad diet, is just the latest in a long line of pseudo-emergencies.

Anyway, that’s 1,500 words now, so I’d better stop because I could do this all day. I think it all boils down to Bawer’s quote of Europe’s “uncomprehending distaste for America's pride, courage, and resolve”. In other words: “boo hoo! Europe has realised that the USA’s principles don’t work in the real world!” :D