How Europe Built Its Own Funeral Pyre, Then Leapt In

Mass immigration, guilt and a continent on the brink of ‘societal catastrophe.’

The defining issue of our day is mass immigration into the nations of Western heritage. This growing inflow threatens to remake those nations and overwhelm their cultural identity. This is the issue that played the largest role in getting Donald Trump elected. It drove Britain’s Brexit vote. It is roiling the European continent, mounting tensions inside the EU and driving a wedge between the elites of those nations and their general populations.

 

The single most significant issue of our time is not North Korea’s drive to develop long-range nuclear missiles. It is not the threat posed to Europe by the Russian land power or the threat posed to America’s Asian dominance by Chinese sea power. It is not Iran’s growing Mideast influence, nor the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in U.S. elections and possible “collusion” by the Trump campaign.

No, the defining issue of our day is mass immigration into the nations of Western heritage. This growing inflow threatens to remake those nations and overwhelm their cultural identity. This is the issue that played the largest role in getting Donald Trump elected. It drove Britain’s Brexit vote. It is roiling the European continent, mounting tensions inside the EU and driving a wedge between the elites of those nations and their general populations.

Indeed, the central battlefront in the immigration wars is Europe, which accepted a trickle of immigrants in the immediate postwar era due to labor shortages. But over the years the trickle became a stream, then a growing river, and finally a torrent—to the extent that ethnic Britons are now a minority in their own capital city, refugee flows into Germany went from 48,589 in 2010 to 1.5 million in 2015, and Italy, a key entry point, received at one point an average of 6,500 new arrivals a day.

Throughout all this, the European elites celebrated the change and imposed a kind of thought enforcement regime against those who raised questions. The in-migration was initially hailed as an economic boon; then as a necessary corrective to an aging population; then as a means of spicing up society through “diversity”; and finally as a fait accompli, an unstoppable wave wrought by the world’s gathering globalization. Besides, argued the elites, the new arrivals would all become assimilated into the European culture eventually, so what’s the problem? Meanwhile, public opinion surveys over decades showed that large majorities of Europeans harbored powerful misgivings about these changes.

As British journalist and author Douglas Murray writes, “Promised throughout their lifetimes that the changes were temporary, that the changes were not real, or that the changes did not signify anything, Europeans discovered that in the lifespan of people now alive they would become minorities in their own countries.”

Murray, associate editor of the Spectator in London, is the author of a compact volume exploring this phenomenon. It is called The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, and it was published six months ago by Bloomsbury. The tone is measured but unflinching. The picture he paints of the European future is bleak.

A key point of the book, reinforced through anecdote and abundant documentation, is that Muslim immigrants have not assimilated into their European host countries to any meaningful extent. Indeed, there is a growing feeling among many of the new arrivals that these aren’t host countries at all but merely lands ripe for Islam’s inexorable expansion. An 18-year-old Syrian refugee to Germany, Aras Bacho, writing in Der Freitag and the Huffington Post Deutschland, reflected this attitude when he said German migrants were “fed up” with “angry” Germans—described as “unemployed racists”—who “insult and agitate.” He added, “We refugees…do not want to live in the same country with you. You can, and I think you should, leave Germany. Germany does not fit you, why do you live here?….Look for a new home.”

Consider also the significance of this fact: By 2015 more British Muslims were fighting for ISIS than for the British armed forces. There was nothing hidden about the resolve of many European Muslims to retain their own culture while overwhelming the European one. At a rally in Cologne in 2008, then-Turkish prime minister (later president) Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a crowd of 20,000 Turks living in Germany, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands that assimilation in Europe would constitute “a crime against humanity.” He added, “I understand very well that you are against assimilation. One cannot expect you to assimilate.” Yet he admonished the five million Turks living in Europe to pursue political influence through democratic means in order to wield a “constitutional element” in transforming the continent.

Reading Murray’s book, one gets an understanding of why he characterizes Europe’s demise as “strange.” The continent’s embrace of its own cultural death is indeed historically aberrational. Civilizations normally fight for the preservation of their cultures, unite to expel invaders, revere their identities and the fundamental elements of their heritage. But the West today is engaged in an extensive and progressive extravagance of civilizational self-abnegation. Murray calls this the “tyranny of guilt” and identifies it as a “pathology.” The concept of historical guilt, he writes, means that hereditary stains of guilt can be passed down through generations—much as Europeans themselves for generations held Jews responsible for the killing of Christ. Eventually this was seen as repugnant, and the Pope himself in 1965 formally lifted the historical burden.

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