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While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Withinby Bruce Bawer
Synopses & Reviews
The struggle for the soul of Europe today is every bit as dire and consequential as it was in the 1930s. Then, in Weimar, Germany, the center did not hold, and the light of civilization nearly went out. Today, the continent has entered yet another "Weimar moment." Will Europeans rise to the challenge posed by radical Islam, or will they cave in once again to the extremists?
As an American living in Europe since 1998, Bruce Bawer has seen this problem up close. Across the continent — in Amsterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, and Stockholm — he encountered large, rapidly expanding Muslim enclaves in which women were oppressed and abused, homosexuals persecuted and killed, "infidels" threatened and vilified, Jews demonized and attacked, barbaric traditions (such as honor killing and forced marriage) widely practiced, and freedom of speech and religion firmly repudiated.
The European political and media establishment turned a blind eye to all this, selling out women, Jews, gays, and democratic principles generally — even criminalizing free speech — in order to pacify the radical Islamists and preserve the illusion of multicultural harmony. The few heroic figures who dared to criticize Muslim extremists and speak up for true liberal values were systematically slandered as fascist bigots. Witnessing the disgraceful reaction of Europe's elites to 9/11, to the terrorist attacks on Madrid, Beslan, and London, and to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bawer concluded that Europe was heading inexorably down a path to cultural suicide.
Europe's Muslim communities are powder kegs, brimming with an alienation born of the immigrants' deep antagonism toward an infidel society that rejects them and compounded by misguided immigration policies that enforce their segregation and empower the extremists in their midst. The mounting crisis produced by these deeply perverse and irresponsible policies finally burst onto our television screens in October 2005, as Paris and other European cities erupted in flames.
While Europe Slept is the story of one American's experience in Europe before and after 9/11, and of his many arguments with Europeans about the dangers of militant Islam and America's role in combating it. This brave and invaluable book — with its riveting combination of eye-opening reportage and blunt, incisive analysis — is essential reading for anyone concerned about the fate of Europe and what it portends for the United States.
"When a right-of-center Danish newspaper published 12 cartoons in September depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist and lecher, it ultimately unleashed a storm of protest in the Arab world and South Asia. The repulsion and fury — which resulted in the torching of Danish diplomatic posts, as well as riots in Afghanistan — were predictable. But so was the underlying provocation. Many Europeans... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) are increasingly alienated by what they take to be Muslim rejection of Europe's liberal principles. It was only a matter of time before someone was going to return the favor. Bruce Bawer's 'While Europe Slept,' which castigates alleged West European complacency in the face of Muslim encroachments that threaten European values, reflects these brewing resentments. This book picks up where Bawer's 1998 'Stealing Jesus' left off. Then his target was American evangelicalism. Contemporary fundamentalism, he argued, had betrayed the more authentic religion of his Episcopal ancestors and foisted on American Christians eccentric ideas about rapture and the apocalypse. These beliefs not only corrupted the faith, he lamented, but underpinned a combination of certainty, intolerance and social conservatism that marred American society — and, in particular, penalized gays like himself. Bawer, a widely published cultural critic in the United States, did not remain here. With his partner, he moved first to the Netherlands and then to Norway, which he saw as havens of rationality, measured hedonism and respect for personal choice. But for Bawer, the seductive openness and easy sophistication of Dutch and Norwegian urban society were soon clouded by his realization that not all the inhabitants of Western Europe were secularized Christians. There were also an estimated 15 million Muslims, often ghettoized. An ugly encounter with gay-bashing Muslim youths and reports of similar incidents triggered Bawer's focus on this large and growing European minority, which in some countries makes up more than 10 percent of the population. Bawer preaches here mostly to the converted. The presence of imperfectly integrated communities of highly traditional Middle Eastern and North African Muslims in Europe, as well as the chasm that separates many European Muslims from the cultural norms of their adopted countries, were familiar well before Bawer arrived, even if Christian Europeans had no idea how to cope with them. Indeed, Bawer's complaint was vividly and conspicuously personified by the populist Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn. A proud homosexual, he was assassinated by an animal-rights activist in 2002. His right-wing, anti-immigration stance rested on the insistence that Islam was too socially retrograde to be integrated into liberal Dutch culture. So there's not much new here, and one might be tempted to rename the book 'While Bawer Slept' but for its passion and acerbity ('Europe is steadily committing suicide,' Bawer writes, 'and perhaps all we can do is look on in horror'). With not a single endnote and virtually no data other than the author's personal experiences and conversations, 'While Europe Slept' is not going to ring scholarly chimes, and the spirits of Spengler and Churchill evoked by its overwrought title will alienate many specialists. Nevertheless, the book usefully crystallizes, without undue distortion, the apprehensions of many Europeans about what has become a dire cultural predicament. Muslims came to Western Europe in large numbers after World War II to help provide the labor needed to rebuild the devastated continent. The largely South Asian Muslim population of Britain arrived even earlier. With the end of reconstruction on the continent and the collapse of the textile industry in England in the 1960s, these sizable pockets of Muslims were stranded in an alien land. The forebears of the Muslim kids who accosted Bawer, if they were already in Europe, would probably have been quietist without being assimilationist. Grateful for a paycheck, social services and housing, they would have accepted social prejudice and perhaps returned it, but without displays of open resentment or violence. The situation is now far more volatile. First, European Muslims generally have less income, education and political representation than their Christian neighbors. Second, as Bawer illustrates vividly, progressive European social-welfare policies have unintentionally perpetuated and even intensified both the growth and separateness of Euro-Muslims. Third, Muslims are now more likely than ever to see their circumstances in global terms. Younger Muslims cannot help but be swayed by the gory imagery and heated rhetoric that now ricochets around the world on the Internet and satellite television stations like al-Jazeera. Polls show that Muslims are increasingly likely to feel that they have more in common with Muslims in other parts of the world. Along with an empowering sense of shared accomplishment, however, comes a fuming sense of shared grievance. Members of this 'new umma,' as the French sociologist Olivier Roy has dubbed it, participate in a worldwide community in which a war against the perceived oppressors of Muslims in Iraq, Palestine or Chechnya can be waged in the cities of Western Europe or anywhere else that Jews and Christians can be targeted. The resulting mobilization has been reinforced by the way that Salafism — a particularly tough take on Islamic tradition that urges a return to the faith as it was supposedly practiced at the time of Muhammad — has usurped the benign village religion brought to Muslim enclaves in Europe by the economic migrants of years past. The predominance in Europe of conservative imams newly arrived from an increasingly radical Arab world has also crowded out alternative approaches to Islam and helped activate the exclusivist, misogynistic and anti-Jewish potential in Salafism. Bawer's neoconservative sensibilities are particularly disturbed by what he brands the supine, even collaborationist posture of threatened European societies. 'In the end, Europe's enemy is not Islam, or even radical Islam,' Bawer writes. 'Europe's enemy is itself — its self-destructive passivity, its softness toward tyranny, its reflexive inclination to appease, and its uncomprehending distaste for America's pride, courage, and resolve in the face of a deadly foe.' For Bawer, attempts at accommodation amount to appeasement. But the costs of confrontation are also high. At the extreme, they rise to political violence, like the jihadist bombings of the London tube in July 2005 and the Madrid commuter trains in March 2004. Those attacks were launched by terrorists who saw British and Spanish participation in the war in Iraq as an attack on Muslims everywhere; in other words, the bombers saw themselves as waging a global war in which one should not differentiate between an Iraqi battlefield and a European one. 'The Islamic Challenge,' by the respected Danish-American sociologist Jytte Klausen, should be required reading for buyers of Bawer's book. Klausen is as dispassionate and methodical as Bawer is aggrieved and impressionistic. She interviewed some 300 European Muslim community leaders. Her detailed questionnaire explored attitudes toward a range of issues, including the degree of alienation experienced by her interviewees as well as their willingness to adapt to prevailing European liberal values. These leaders felt that Muslims were indeed marginalized by West European society. But Klausen found little evidence of the 'We will bury you' stance of the bigoted, violence-prone and opportunistic Muslims of Bawer's world. She concludes — partly on the basis of the evidence, partly on account of wishful thinking — that Islam in Europe will evolve into a tolerant faith compatible with the commitment to equality that underpins the liberal West. Readers will find no way to square the respective Euro-Islams of Bawer and Klausen. The vast differences between the two portraits are probably best explained by the authors' different emphases: Klausen focuses on political elites who have bet on the system as the key to their careers, while Bawer focuses on the 'street.' When Muslim rioters swept through the bleak suburbs of Paris last November, French diplomats insisted that Marx, not Osama bin Laden, brought the youths and their firebombs into the streets. That might well be true. But it will be bin Laden and his ilk who will take a select few from those streets into the cellars, where they will be transformed into something worse than arsonists — with European documentation and technical aptitude. So it matters vitally to the United States which way events on the continent break: in the direction that Bawer fears or the one for which Klausen hopes. Steven Simon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is the co-author of 'The Age of Sacred Terror' and 'The Next Attack.'" Reviewed by Steven Simon, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"Bruce Bawer reveals how self-acclaimed European morality proves abjectly amoral in its appeasement of radical Islamic anti-Semitism, homophobia, gender apartheid, and religious intolerance. A sensitive and sober portrait of an increasingly insensitive and reckless continent." Victor Davis Hanson, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author of Carnage and Culture and An Autumn of War
"An honest and engaging account of a problem which, if left unaddressed, could engulf Europe in conflict. Europeans would do well to heed Mr. Bawer's advice and open their eyes." Abraham H. Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League; author, Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism
"Bawer paints an alarming picture of a continent in deep trouble and deeper denial — but now, perhaps, on the verge of waking up. Some books are merely important. This one is necessary." Jonathan Rauch, senior writer and columnist for National Journal magazine in Washington and a correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly
"Bruce Bawer has produced a book that is at once riveting, disturbing, fascinating, chilling, and shocking. It is required reading for anyone who wants to understand how militant Islam has insinuated itself into the heart of the West." Steven Emerson, Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism and author of American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Amongst Us
The author of A Place at the Table warns that Europe can no longer ignore the clash of civilizations raging on its own territory and around the world. Failure to recognize the problems and react quickly, he predicts, will lead to a virulent right-wing nationalism of a kind not seen since the 1930s.
About the Author
Bruce Bawer is the author of A Place at the Table, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Stealing Jesus, and Diminishing Fictions. He served as a board member of the National Book Critics Circle and has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post Book World, the Wall Street Journal, the New Republic, and other periodicals.
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