November 10, 2007
Infidel Review: Packaged Phobias
Yes, in in breaking news, the long-awaited mysterious review of Hirsi Magan/Ali has been sighted.
It is perhaps not off to share as well, The Financial Times very able critical review of a related genre of Islamophobic literature, that of the statistically illiterate "Eurabia" genre to which in many ways Hirsi Magan/Ali belongs.
In fact it may be worthwhile to highlight some key parts.
Kuper's "Books Essay" covers a nice range of the Eurabia literature:
A wave of polemics argues that Europe is sleepwalking towards Muslim domination ' or actively conspiring in it. Simon Kuper discovers the strange world of 'Eurabia'
While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within
by Bruce Bawer
Doubleday $23.95, 256 pages
The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent
by Walter Laqueur
Thomas Dunne £12.99, 256 pages
Londonistan: How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within
by Melanie Phillips
Gibson Square £8.99, 384 pages
Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis
by Bat Ye'or
Farleigh Dickinson University Press £15.50, 384 pages
The Bat Ye'or loon has long fascinated me (in a superficial way which perhaps contradicts the meaning of fascinated - perhaps remotely intrigued me - and I very much found Kuper's characterisation of this literature spot on:
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was written in the 1890s, possibly by the Russian-French journalist Matthieu Golovinski, and spread by the Tsarist secret police. A forgery, it claimed to be the manual of a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world.
Bat Ye'or, author of the little-read but influential book Eurabia, repeatedly mentions the Protocols. Well she might, because Eurabia has been described as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in reverse. Bat Ye'or is Hebrew for ''daughter of the Nile'', the pseudonym of a woman who fled Egypt as a Jew in 1957 and now lives in Switzerland. In Eurabia, she purports to reveal an Arab-European conspiracy to rule the world.
Protocols in reverse, quite apt really.
Summary as it were:
Though ludicrous, Eurabia became the spiritual mother of a genre. Ye'or's genius was to bridge two waves of anti-European books: those of 2002-03, which said Europe had gone anti-Semitic again, and those of 2006-07, which say Europe is being conquered by Muslims.
The four books here provide a fair summary of the ''Eurabia'' genre. False as they are, their existence reveals something about the geopolitical moment.
Amusingly highlighted also is the faux fighter against oppression (dhimmitude I think is the phrase) while engaging in gross ethnoreligious stereotyping:
A fixed trope of ''Eurabia'' books is the writer behaving as though only he or she and a few other resistance heroes see Europe's impending doom. ...
All these authors start with disclaimers that not all Muslims support terrorist jihad. This is then swiftly forgotten as the plans for jihad in Europe are outlined. Ye'or, for whom Muslims are always the same, describes jihad as a 1,400-year-old strategy. Like Bawer, she explains that ''they'' never got over losing Andalusia in 1492.
Equally, the illiteracy in demographic statistics mixed in with the gross ethnoreligious scaremongering:
About 16 million nominal Muslims live in the European Union, less than 4 per cent of the EU population. A tiny minority are terrorists. Nobody sane denies that. But the ''Eurabia'' theorists - with the partial exception of Walter Laqueur, the most judicious of them - seem to regard the mass of Muslims as the enemy. ...
A favourite rhetorical trick of these writers is the pars pro toto: isolated examples of Islamic extremism come to stand for a vast Muslim movement. .... But in these books, the Islamic notion of the global umma (community) becomes reality: all Muslims, wherever they are born, Sunni or Shia, doctor and dock-worker, march behind the same green banner. ... Because Muslims are united, it's possible to generalise about them in ways that we sleeping Europeans might consider deeply questionable. Bawer writes: ''For these beurs - the universal term of the French-born progeny of North African immigrants - the meaning of life is derived from their hatred for French society.'' Bawer, incidentally, is even-handed in his ethnic jibes: a white Frenchman's remarks are dismissed as ''Gallic jibber-jabber''. .... According to the ''Eurabia'' thesis, these youths will inherit Europe. They pump out babies while white Europeans are barren. Laqueur portrays a future Europe in which some countries have Muslim majorities.
He does grant that birth rates are likely significantly to decrease ''eventually in the Middle East and North Africa''. In fact, they already have. In 1970 Algerian and Moroccan women averaged about seven children each. Today the Moroccan figure is below three, while the CIA World Factbook estimates the Algerian, Turkish and Tunisian figures at below two, lower than France's. No serious demographer expects an Islamic takeover.
But well, serious is not the frame of scaremongering bigots.
Much to enjoy but in closing this observation is spot on:
These are polemics, not reports. Any source will do: ...But the many factual errors in most of these books may be beside the point. The ''Eurabia'' genre does not belong to the ''reality-based community''. Rather, it exists to meet emotional needs. Its anti-Europeanism is a satisfying retort to European anti-Americanism. It also has a political message: if the Europeans, America's traditional allies, have folded before Islam, then the US must go it alone.
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"Today the Moroccan figure is below three, while the CIA World Factbook estimates the Algerian, Turkish and Tunisian figures at below two, lower than France's. No serious demographer expects an Islamic takeover."
In fairness, even with the low birth rate, I do expect Muslims to predominate in Algeria, Turkey, and Tunisia any time now.:-)
Posted by: matthew hogan at November 10, 2007 07:01 PM
Not if the Tunisian government has a say in the matter.
Posted by: alle at November 10, 2007 07:54 PM
I totally agree with the point about how all of these "Eurabia" theorists - and I include in that category the likes of Hirsi Magan, as well as non-Euros like our friend Manji, or even Sam Harris and Salman Rushdie - have this ludicrous self-image as lone crusaders against political correctness. When, in fact, books which slag off Islam - however poorly written - have a good chance of becoming bestsellers, and any nobody who bleats about how Islam is "taking over Europe" and "nobody is listening to us" is in fact instantly guaranteed a hearing. Who among us would have heard of Irshad Manji if she had stuck to her rad-fem dyke show?
Hopefully, in the not too distant future people will look back on the Eurabia hysteria with much the same contempt as we now look back on the reds under the beds scare.
Posted by: SideshowMurph at November 11, 2007 12:32 PM
Interesting review by Kuper, whose book about the Ajax football team is a must - he manages to mix football and politics effortlessly. There are local equivalents of the Eurabia loonies in each European country - you have Alain Finkielkraut, Maurice G. Dantec, and a raft of editorialists in France, and a burgeoning filial in Sweden - to say nothing of the Netherlands or Italy (remember Oriana Fallaci, anyone?). The rhetoric is of course quite similar to the mccarthyist hysteria, but also to the antisemitic litterature of the 30's - the Jews were poised to take over then, according to many debaters then...
Funny too how their rhetoric fits well, except for the religious vocabulary, with the takfiri and jihadi gang...
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at November 12, 2007 08:26 AM
Problem is that the likes of Eurabia writer are more popular than one can think. FT is not popular as other paper can be and the likes of Oriana Fallaci write on them.
@Ibn Kafka I think that the tone may be similar but it's a bit different. Antisemitic literature was using ancient stereothypes in this case it's something different. It does not relates to historical lies and urban legend, they do not the Turks at the door of Wien, they use a single fact or an impression to represent the big picture. But they do it on the main newspapers.
What happens is this: if I go to a veggie restaurant with a veggie friend, it's modern and cultured and blah blah. If I go to a veggie restaurant with a muslim friend, it's the muslim that is imposing the cultural view and blah blah.
As most of the people who say these never talk to one in they own life, that kind of culture is spreading and is dangerous.
Unfortunately people does not read the FT, they read the likes of the Fallaci on the main paper.
Posted by: Annarella at November 12, 2007 05:31 PM
annarella -- ...I think that the tone may be similar but it's a bit different. Antisemitic literature was using ancient stereothypes in this case it's something different. It does not relates to historical lies and urban legend, they do not the Turks at the door of Wien, they use a single fact or an impression to represent the big picture. But they do it on the main newspapers.
I do agree with you that modern Islamphobia is not the same as 1930s anti-Semitism, and that that was much more connected to historical/religious stereotype. The social setting was also vastly different, with European Jews being totally indigenous, but (depending on the region) only recently emancipated or still effectively ghettoized, and with little or no contact with foreign Jewish communities (or even awareness of these communities among Jew-haters). In contrast, modern anti-Islam sentiment is driven very much by factors relating to globalization, that may seem external to society: anti-immigration sentiment, post-colonial "Orientalism", the growing pains of economic liberalization and international politics like Israel-Palestine or 9/11. (Of course, many of those factors are in reality not "external" at all. For example, the scares -- and real problems -- raised by mass immigration are quite similar to how the Jewish entry into Western/Central European society created new competition and provided a scapegoat for the unpleasantries of economic transformation.)
But, all that said, there are a lot of old stereotypes current in the Phillips/Fallaci-variety of anti-Muslim xenophobia, too. Quite a few of the old medieval anti-Islam arguments are coming back: Muslim fanaticism, Oriental lethargy, a religion spread by the sword, Muhammad-as-child-molestor, and -- on the US radical Christian side of the moon -- the Islamic God being a "false God". One shouldn't overstate it, since mainstream Islamophobia is clearly modern and cultural-economic, but there are these kinds of historical echoes also.
As for the gates of Vienna, they seem to pop up again and again, as the Eurabian takeover nonsense is gaining force. But, as the FT article pointed out, mostly on the US rightwing fringe. I doubt the average European Islamophobe would even understand the reference, much less think it's a cause for concern today. Over here, racists are more worried that swarthy Muslims will make off with their jobs and women, or knock them down and steal their cell-phones in a suburb somewhere.
Posted by: alle at November 12, 2007 07:58 PM
Well, I suppose that different people have different reasons to be islamophobic as they have to be antisemitic or anti-Western. I think that islamophobia is in most cases a subspecies of xenophobia (see for example Dansk Folkeparti in Denmark or Front National in France), but there are examples of islamophobic movements that are not wenophobic (if I'm not mistaken, this would seem to have been the case of Pim Fortuyn's short-lived movement, which was lead after his assassination by a coloured person).
Countries where religious feelings are still pervasive, such as the US or Italy, will have a streak of islamophobia more reminescent of the orientalist clichés.
Then you have France, where you have a "laïc" version of islamophobia which might indeed be opposed to xenophobia and even progressive in general terms but in favor of special restrictive measures against Muslims - as for instance the headscarf ban, even though all its supporters are not islamophobic - and with a conspirationist and very shrill view on anything islamic - the militant lesbian feminist Fiammetta venner would be a good example of that very special French touch...
Gates of Vienna? Not only a US phenomenon: Poitiers, 732 and Charles Martel are well-known concepts in French extreme right-wing & islamophobic circles, and I suppose there are other examples in other countries. And I do not think, generally speaking, that the average US person would be able to locate Vienna on a map, and even less to have heard about the Gates of Vienna as a historical concept...
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at November 14, 2007 07:29 AM
You have no idea how many otherwise intelligent friends of mine drag up the "Caliphate of Europe" demographic argument.
Well, now that I think about it, only two, and a third who quotes his father quoting Mark Steyn. But that still seems far too many.
Something I have experienced from time to time is anti-Islamic Christians slagging off Islam to me and expecting me to sympathize because I am a Jew. My favorite was a Catholic priest explaining to me that Moslems were just heretical Christians. They seem surprised when I get upset with them.
Posted by: Antiquated Tory at November 15, 2007 07:50 PM
From a christian point of view muslims are just heretical christians, though.
Posted by: Roger at November 17, 2007 02:30 PM
From a Christian point of view, Muslims are believers of a different religion.
Posted by: matthew hogan at November 17, 2007 03:02 PM
"Something I have experienced from time to time is anti-Islamic Christians slagging off Islam to me and expecting me to sympathize because I am a Jew."
Interesting. I've had similar experiences in my travels in the Arab world, where Arab Christians would slag off Muslims in really crass terms, assuming that I, nominally also a Christian, would share their views.. They would then be mildly shocked when I didn't agree with them.
Posted by: SideshowMurphy at November 22, 2007 12:57 PM