Eurabian nightmare

Front cover of the Spectator from November 2005, headlined 'Eurabian nightmare', with a crescent linking various cities and a star at LondonThe end of Eurabia - FT.com

Ths image is from the Spectator, the British political magazine, and represents what passed for journalism on the European and American right during the post-9/11 era. The occasion for this was a series of riots involving youths of Middle Eastern origin in several cities in northern Europe. As you might notice, the crescent runs from Nantes (wrongly labelled as Rennes which is inland), passes at its thickest point through southern Germany, where there were no riots, and ends somewhere near similarly unaffected Arbroath, on the Scottish east coast. “Eurabia” refers to the theory that Muslims were collaborating with “useful idiots” on the Left to somehow destroy European civilisation; some outbreaks of violence among the youth, most of them not particularly religious, was the chief evidence in this case. The editor of the magazine at this time was none other than Boris Johnson, then a Conservative MP and now mayor of London. The contributors include some of the worst contributors to this literature, including Mark Steyn and Patrick Sookhdeo.

I’ve written about the ludicrous, transparent lies peddled in that magazine here in the past. I’ve not seen Patrick Sookhdeo’s articles in the mainstream press for a few years, but he appeared regularly in the right-wing press around 2005. His accusations were baseless and in some cases ludicrous — in one case he accused the Muslim community in the UK of attempting to sacralise whole neighbourhoods, such as Birmingham, by means of marches and processions, a claim that betrays such obvious ignorance of basic British geography that it beggars belief that it got past the editor. It also has no basis in Muslim doctrine or practice: there is no ritual march of any sort in Islam (the only ritual that involves a procession takes place at the Hajj, which cannot be done in Birmingham), and no such thing as sacralising a neighbourhood. There is a custom of marches to celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad in some sections of the community, but after the march is over, the streets revert to their normal function as thoroughfares for traffic.

Mark Steyn’s thesis was that America was going to stand alone after the nations of Europe have caved in to their Arab and Muslim minorities, and that American conservatives would keep having children and thus perpetuate their civilisation, while decadent Europeans would be outnumbered in their own countries by said immigrants. The interesting thing here is that he displayed some sort of respect for Muslims’ values, claiming that Muslims were bound to triumph over Europe because we kept to our traditional values and kept having children, unlike white Europeans whose birth rates were collapsing. Muslims, of course, do not really see high birth rates as a solution in itself: there are hadeeth in which we are told that the Muslims will be many in number but powerless, and indeed Muslims do not control a single town or village anywhere in western Europe. Christopher Hitchens has noted that anti-Semitism also displays some admiration and respect for the “enemy”, portraying the Jews as guileful and clever rather than simply lowly (as with, say, anti-Gypsy or much anti-Black prejudice). Still, Eurabianism portrays Muslims as more powerful than we actually are, particularly in Europe, and makes every concession to Muslim sensibilities look like a capitulation to Muslim power even when it is a business accommodating the needs of its customers. Much of Europe is a very hostile place for Muslims, far more so than the USA even after 9/11, with anti-Muslim rhetoric common and specific anti-Muslim laws having been passed in several countries, and yet they allege that America stands alone against Islam.

The influence of the brazenly dishonest anti-terrorist public speakers and “consultants” such as Walid Shoebat, who has given lectures to police officers in some US states only very recently, persisted there long after it appears to have waned in the UK. I am not sure how much influence explicit “Eurabian” thought ever had in the UK, where the “political correctness gone mad” nonsense coming from the tabloids fills that gap; it was, after all, a “believable”, toned-down version of the same thing and levelled against a whole range of minorities (Gypsies and Travellers are another common victim). It plays much better to American audiences, which could be persuaded that Europe had let them down in their “hour of need” and had done so to curry favour with Arabs or appease Islamic fundamentalism. In the UK, where a huge section of the population opposed British participation in the post-9/11 wars, such accusations had little currency. Some of its authors were clearly playing to an American audience and relying on their ignorance of British (and general European) political realities and, again, geography. A clear example was Melanie Phillips, mentioned in the FT article above, whose book Londonistan alleged that “district after district seems to have become a distinctive Muslim neighbourhood”, a complete untruth as almost all the areas of London where there is a strong Muslim presence are actually mixed, with Muslims just a large minority. Much of it was aimed at American Jewish audiences, with it being noted in the JC (formerly Jewish Chronicle) that American Jews had formed the impression from Phillips’s writing that life was becoming extremely difficult for Jews in the UK and Europe due to Muslim and left-wing anti-Zionist agitation.

As Simon Kuper says, the popularity of Eurabianism is waning. There are factors he does not mention in that article: one is that the coalition that formed after 9/11 had already began to split even before 2008, with the libertarian and conservative wings in the blogosphere splitting over the Terri Schiavo affair. The split became irreparable when some of the former began to associate with European anti-Muslim extremists like Geert Wilders and more recently the EDL, something the likes of Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs could not entertain. Two further events have weakened the cause of anti-Muslim bigotry in the UK in particular: the massacre in Norway by someone heavily influenced by the writings of such bigots, including Melanie Phillips, causing huge embarrassment to them, and the riots in England last month in which Muslims largely distinguished themselves by not participating and by attempting to defend their neighbourhoods from it, losing three young men in the process (three of the five fatalities that occurred during the riots). Whether the last two months or so represent a serious change in popular press attitudes to Muslims or simply a lull (while they attack disabled people as bogus benefit claimants at the behest of the government) remains to be seen, but the tone of the coverage after the riots suggested that Muslims have come to be seen as law-abiding and peaceful people, at least in the UK; the unscrupulousness of the British popular press cannot be underestimated.

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