work in progress in social theory and cultural sociology

Islamisation of Europe? Nonsense!

09.09.2010 · Posted in Uncategorized

I’ve subscribed to daily e-mail updates from Hudson New York as they’ve got a good daily synopsis of the Turkish newspapers. What I found in today’s inbox, however, was more of a junk mail – so obviously bunk that I guess I’m involuntarily repeating what has been said by others over and over again… Soeren Kern’s post “Will Islam Become the Religion of Europe?” starts with a bit of fun:

During his recent two-day state visit to Italy, Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi declared that “Islam should become the religion of the whole of Europe.” He also said that Europe’s conversion would become a fait accompli “when Turkey becomes a member of the European Union.”

But since when do we take seriously the predictions of this eccentric dictator?  And Soeren Kern admits that much:

Europeans mostly dismissed Gaddafi’s proselytizing as “Islamic propaganda,” and as a “non-solicited provocation lacking seriousness.”

Precisely. But then Kern goes on to fully endorse the Colonel’s statement.

First there’s the age-old “Muslim immigration” argument. I summarise: Although Muslims do not make up more than roughly ten percent – in most cases much less – of the population of any EU member state, they cluster in the big cities (from which the author conjectures some uncanny kind of influence). The only actual influence he can quote is the role of British sharia courts in civil arbitration (which requires that all parties involved agree to confer the power of arbitration to that court). But that’s unavoidable because the same is allowed for Jewish Beth Din courts. This is part of the specifically British arrangement of civil society and thus not something that can be replicated in any other European country. Also: Whether these courts will have much to do remains to be seen.

And: who’s a Muslim, anyway? Kern admits problems counting – and then follows a simplistic strategy: anyone from a Muslim country or with ancestors in a Muslim country… or someone called Mehmet or Muhammad etc.. Now, I’m from a Christian country, but I’m not a Christian… I’ve got a Christian name, but am not a Christian… and the great Turkish atheists Aziz Nesin and Ahmet Altan clearly have Muslim names.  So why count everybody from Turkey as a Muslim? Even if one had the numbers of people who refer to themselves as “Muslim” it would comprise a hugely diverse group  (fundamentalist Salafis, liberal Alevis, orthodox conservatives, agnostic “cultural” Muslims).

Then there’s the “higher birth rate” argument. Again, you need to make two assumptions for that having an impact: a) those rates will continue to be high (unlikely, as Muslim families in the West live under similar constraints that led Christian families to turn to family planning) and b) Muslim offspring will be as Muslim as their parents. While we currently see a revival in Muslim religiosity and, generally, religiosity in ethnic minorities (Muslim or not) tends to be higher than in majority populations, it is by no means to be taken for granted that there won’t be a decline in religiosity here. Just remember that similar fears were voiced in Protestant dominated countries like the US, Britiain and Germany about the birth rates of Catholic Irish, Italian, and Polish immigrants. Not much of a “problem” now… (and don’t tell me it’s less of a problem due to cultural proximity – until recently Catholics and Protestants have been killing each other in Northern Ireland, keeping up an age-old European tradition)

Finally there’s the “strong religion against secularised softies” argument: They’ve got a strong sense of religious belonging while Europeans have lost their Christian ways, tolerate everything, don’t reproduce etc etc. Two points:

a) As with birth rates, we know nothing about future developments. So whether future generations of European Muslims will be strong believers or as secularised or watered-down as the rest of us remains to be seen (and there are strong arguments on the “watering-down” side – cf. Varul 2008)

b) While many Europeans have turned their backs on Christianity (or at least don’t practice and belief very much), not only are there strongholds of cultural Christianity (e.g. incorporated in the various Christian Democrat parties), but also a revival of a more vocal atheism and humanism that opposes any religious influence – be it Christian, Islamic or other. In fact, the archbishop of Canterbury’s approval of sharia courts was most disapproved of by British atheists! Also, if the British sharia courts and the handful of cases they handle are quoted, the anti-Muslim legislations in France and Switzerland should be mentioned (Kern mentions the ban on minarets – but oddly enough only as proof of a coming Muslim dominance… strange thinking)

Soeren Kern finally introduces us to his main witness – the German author Thilo Sarrazin (no particular expertise regarding immigration or Islam – he’s a banker)

In his book, Sarrazin criticizes Islam as a source of violence, and blames Muslim immigrants for refusing to integrate. “No other religion in Europe is so demanding and no other migration group depends so much on the social welfare state and is so much connected to criminality,” he writes. Sarrazin, who is long-time member of the center-left Social Democrats, predictably has infuriated the uppity guardians of German political correctness. They have asked German President Christian Wulff to dismiss Sarrazin from the board of the German central bank, the Bundesbank.

But it’s not just uppities of political correctness who take issue with Sarrazin – he’s at odds with the statistics as well. His numbers were shown plainly wrong – Turks do not stand out from non-Muslim immigrants in terms of welfare payments – the whole thing is a problem of class rather than religion. Similarly, the high crime rates among young Turkish males in Germany easily dissolve into effects of social position, as Christian Pfeiffer and Peter Wetzels clearly show. What Sarrazin also would need to show, by the way, is that young Turkish offenders actually care about Islam in any meaningful way – i.e. whether higher crime rates have anything to do with religion at all.

Sarrazin is a key witness for Kern – presumably because he shares one core assumption: the immutability of collective characteristics of ethnic and religious groups. This is what he’s got to say on the topic:

Alle Juden teilen ein bestimmtes Gen, Basken haben bestimmte Gene, die sie von anderen unterscheiden” my translation: “All Jews share a specific gene, Basques have specific genes that distinguish them from others“

Now, before anyone goes: “well but Judaism is matrilineal, of course there’s a genetic similarity in some way or other then” – I don’t care: I just wonder why, even if it were true, it’s worth mentioning unless you conjecture that it means relevant characteristics are hard wired, inherited and hence immutable?


Apparently Kern fell into a trap set up by the Colonel who according to the BBC wants “European cash to stop African migrants” and in order to underline the urgency of him receiving some European money he repeats a common claim of the European extreme Right:

Speaking on a visit to Italy, Col Gaddafi said Europe “could turn into Africa” as “there are millions of Africans who want to come in”.

No wonder he’s been endorsed by the late Joerg Haider

Update 15th September 2010

Kern now fully endorses Sarrazin in a new post. Still no mention of his “Jewish gene” statement. What he does is appropriate the ludicrous claim that Sarrazin is a “martyr of freedom of opinion” he found in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung… in the very same post in which he highlights the broad debate of his book in the media left right and centre: Sarrazin has not been censored, his opinion is free, published and debated.

I’ve submitted a comment a few days ago pointing out how Kern fell into Gaddafi’s trap – I didn’t use any offensive language (or content…) – but for some reason Hudson don’t publish comments (not just mine – I couldn’t find any comments on any of the recent posts)

update 21st september 2010

Edmund Standing has a new report out on the myth of the “Islamisation of Britain”. Apart from some pretty unnecessary speculations on the health impact of Islamic lifestyles it not only underlines the points about the lack of evidence for the claims about a “Muslim population time bomb”, it also quite nicely traces how this myth is perpetuated by dodgy media reports and how it fits into the ideological outlook of cultural pessimism once promoted by the likes of Oswald Spengler

2 Responses to “Islamisation of Europe? Nonsense!”

  1. Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel hat die Bedeutung von Meinungsfreiheit hervorgehoben. Sie würdigte den dänischen Karikaturisten Kurt Westergaard. Kurt Westergaard ist bekannt fürs seine Mohammed Karikaturen. Zu Sarrazins Buch sagte Merkel, dass dieses ausgrenzend wirke und ähnliche Äusserungen. Das verstehe ich nicht. Ist das nicht ein absoluter Widerspruch.

  2. I don’t see what’s prizeworthy about these caricatures (apart from being deliberately offensive they lack that crucial excuse of being funny) – but any threats and intimidations (or worse) against Westergaard are deplorable and need to be solidly rejected. I suspected the leader of the Christian Democrats probably wouldn’t hand out prizes to Gerhard Haderer who’s been dished up a six month prison sentence by a Greek court a couple of years ago (according to Der Spiegel,1518,337758,00.html) … but checking as I was typing I noticed that he was actually deemed worth a prize by the Federal Chamber of Lawyers and the Federal Minister for Justice – back then a social democrat, but one serving under Merkel in a coalition government – was present to congratulate)

    So it may well be about the freedom of expression as you say it should be – and there is a difference: nobody is censoring Sarazin’s book and he gets plenty of space in the media to voice his alleged insights (you could say the coverage is the opposite of censorship)

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