The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Two reviews on "Eurabia"

By now a lot of people have seen Stephen Pollard's review of the neoconservative journalist Bruce Bawer's "Surrender," a book that appears to espouse some of the most alarmist and error-ridden ideas about the role Muslim immigration is playing in Europe (the "Eurabia" genre in polemical literature) and widening the scope to include America as the next place to be taken over by Islamofascism. The NYT thought it fit to include a long excerpt of "Surrender", which begins with these words:
We in the West are living in the midst of a jihad, and most of us don't even realize it — because it's a brand of jihad that's barely a generation old.

Islam divides the world into two parts. The part governed by sharia, or Islamic law, is called the Dar al-Islam, or House of Submission. Everything else is the Dar al-Harb, or House of War. It's called the House of War because it, too, according to the Koran, is destined to be governed by sharia, and it will take war — holy war, jihad — to bring it into the House of Submission.

Jihad began with Muhammed himself. When he was born, the lands that today make up the Arab world were populated mostly by Christians and Jews; within a century after his death, those areas' inhabitants had been killed, driven away, subjugated to Islam as members of the underclass known as dhimmis, or converted to the Religion of Peace at the point of a sword. The Crusades of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were not wars of conquest by Europeans but attempts to take back what had once been Christian territory. America's very first foreign conflict after the Revolutionary War was with the Barbary pirates, who, sponsored by the Muslim governments of North Africa — just as terrorist groups today enjoy the sponsorship of countries like Libya, Iran, and Syria — had for generations been preying on European ships and selling their crews and passengers into slavery.

It might be easy to dismiss this as yet another kook who takes his Islamic theology (or Orientalist reading thereof) too seriously, but then the NYT's approving review ended with:
Bawer is unquestionably correct, and that fact is quite simply terrifying.

Well except that, for instance, the stupid argument about the Barbary pirates (used by many others in recent years, include those who should know better like Christopher Hitchens) makes no sense. After all, most states in that period employed the services of pirates (called privateers) and would even distribute licenses for piracy. Slavery, likewise, is hardly an Islamo-Arab monopoly. The idea that the inhabitants of the present Islamic world were "driven away" during the Islamic conquests is largely untrue, and the inhabitants of now Islamic lands were not all Christian or Jewish (some were animist). The idea that Jerusalem is/was Christian territory assumes that Bawer accepts the Roman claim to the city, and extends it to the Roman Catholic Church. One could go on, but without reading the book (I am sorely tempted to get the ebook version to read and review... but don't want to give him money) I will stop at this.

That someone has written an alarmist, anti-immigrant, possibly racist book is one thing. It is part of a phenomena that finds a niche in the publishing industry and sells well because of the global "war on terror context). But for the NYT, supposedly THE American highbrow, liberal paper to review it so uncritically is another. To me (along with Thomas Friedman's weekly contributions) it is another sign in the mounting evidence that it is simply not a reliable newspaper when it comes to the Middle East, and this makes me doubt the rest of it. I barely read it as it is, and urge others to do likewise. You can follow American politics at or countless other publications, and look elsewhere for your foreign coverage.

Which brings us to the Guardian. I am not uncritical of the Guardian -- I wish it was less lifestyle-oriented, insular and did more long-form journalism of the classic American kind -- but it remains, for people on the center-left at least, an excellent newspaper with a superb website. On the same day as the NYT endorsed "Eurabia," the excellent investigative journalist Jason Burke reported that the frenzy about it was dying down:

The dire predictions of religious and identity-based mayhem reached their peak between 2004 and 2006, when bombs exploded in Madrid and London, a controversial film director was shot and stabbed to death in Amsterdam, and angry demonstrators marched against publication of satirical cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad.

For Bruce Bawer, author of While Europe Slept, the continent's future was to "tamely resign itself to a gradual transition to absolute sharia law". By the end of the century, warned Bernard Lewis, the famous American historian of Islam, "Europe will be Islamic". The Daily Telegraph asked: "Is France on the way to becoming an Islamic state?" The Daily Mail described the riots that shook the nation in the autumn of 2005 as a "Muslim intifada".

Yet a few years on, though a steady drumbeat of apocalyptic forecasts continues, such fears are beginning to look misplaced. The warnings focus on three elements: the terrorist threat posed by radical Muslim European populations; a cultural "invasion" due to a failure of integration; and demographic "swamping" by Muslim communities with high fertility rates.

A new poll by Gallup, one of the most comprehensive to date, shows that the feared mass radicalisation of the EU's 20-odd million Muslims has not taken place. Asked if violent attacks on civilians could be justified, 82% of French Muslims and 91% of German Muslims said no. The number who said violence could be used in a "noble cause" was broadly in line with the general population. Crucially, responses were not determined by religious practice - with no difference between devout worshippers and those for whom "religion [was] not important".

"The numbers have been pretty steady over a number of years," said Gallup's Magali Rheault. "It is important to separate the mainstream views from the actions of the fringe groups, who often receive disproportionate attention. Mainstream Muslims do not appear to exhibit extremist behaviour."

Read the rest of this thoughtful piece on Muslim emigration to Europe -- and forget about the NYT.