Thursday, August 13, 2009

Immigration and Islam

August 13, 2009

Christopher Caldwell, who writes for the Financial Times among other journals, has written Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West (Doubleday, 2009). I don’t know the terrain enough to know whether or not this is an ‘important book’ in its field. I do know that it is and will be an important book for me as I try and digest its implications. He addresses, without polemic or drama, many of the threads that have changed the face of Europe through immigration. He points out things such as the idea that people from the third world may immigrate to Europe because “they want a better life” but that does not mean that they want a European life. He believes that many want a third world life and culture with a European standard of living.

Caldwell points out the lack of a coherent philosophy and therefore coherent policy or set of policies for immigration in Europe. (He contrasts the issues in Europe with those of the U.S. which he sees as being around whether immigrants are ‘legal or not; and Canada whose policies are that highly educated people who “have seen the inside of a church” may immigrate and others may not.)

He points out the inherent potential weakness of a liberal and rather libertarian society whose non negotiable norms include liberated womankind for example, but who welcome (more or less) people who are shaped by fundamentally different cultural norms and expectations and who, for a variety of reasons, some but not all of their own making, live separately within their host countries. Once granted citizenship they are no longer ‘guests’, but that does not mean that their first allegiance is to the country in which they live. This is particularly true, says Caldwell, of Muslim immigrants, who are largely critical of what they perceive as ‘moral laxity’ in the West, and who are participants in a religion which has been the enemy of all things European for centuries.

The book is full of statistics and anecdote which somehow manages to make for compelling reading. His concluding words are these:

“…all cant to the contrary, (Islam) is in no sense Europe’s religion and it is in no sense Europe’s culture. It is certain that Europe will emerge changed from its confrontation with Islam. It is far less certain that Islam will prove assimilable. Europe finds itself in a contest with Islam for the allegiance of its newcomers. For now, Islam is the stronger party in that contest, in an obvious demographic way and in a less obvious philosophical way. In such circumstances words like ‘majority and ‘minority’ mean little. When an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture meets a culture that is anchored, confident and strengthened by common doctrines, it is generally the former that changes to suit the latter.”

It will take me a while to sort out all of my responses to this book in regard to immigration policy; the strength of Islam; fundamental values I hold, (such as how wrong is the subjugation of women by men, however dressed up as leading to ‘independence’, ‘modesty’ and the like); the vulnerability of flabby liberalism to any movement that exhibits strength (the dynamic that in a power vacuum, there will be many wiling to fill it); and the implications of all this for our own conflicts within the Anglican Communion which are part of a much greater set of issues and challenges in the world. Those responses will have to come over time in future posts.

1 comment:

Hank Harris said...

your continued examination of the cites on immigration and islam will be interesting to follow - if you can square some of the tenets of Christianity such as grace, love and forgiveness and the Western concepts of tolerance, women's rights and freedom of religion with the encroachment of fundamental Islam into Western Europe and the US you will surely win a prize of some kind.

this will not be easy stuff - much as squaring the current healthcare debate with Christian principles - let me know sometime the answer: if you are a Christian and someone arrives at your door sick (or in today's world, the emergency room) and you have the power (i.e. the money) to heal that person, doesn't Christian teaching tell us that we should heal that person? it is hard to figure how Christianity and anything other than universal healthcare coverage (other than for Muslims, of course) can be compatible