Will Islam Dominate the Future?
November 11th, 2006
In his compelling new book, America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, conservative commentator extraordinaire Mark Steyn analyzes the current state of the “clash of civilizations” (in Samuel P. Huntington’s much-used phrase) between Islam and the West. Steyn focuses on the demographic, cultural, and political forces that are rapidly moving Europe towards an Islamified future, and the United States towards a lonely position as the only western country with the size and strength to withstand the Islamic onslaught.
It is a stark and sobering vision. Steyn’s writing, as the readers of his columns have come to expect, is informed, witty, and full of insight. I highly recommend America Alone.
Unfortunately, like so many other conservative commentators who take a hard line in the present “war on terror,” Steyn does not come out and say what he surely must mean – which is that Islam itself is the enemy. Islam is the world’s second largest religion, and claims to be growing faster than Christianity, Hinduism, or Buddhism.
But Islam also is a totalitarian political ideology, akin to communism, that is fundamentally inconsistent with Western understandings of individual freedom, sexual equality, material prosperity, and representative government, not to mention our Judeo-Christian heritage. Since 9/11, just five short years ago, the conflict between the West and Islam (especially in Europe) has become much more pronounced, and much more violent.
Granted, most Muslims are not terrorists. Nevertheless, it is clear that many Muslims, including some portion of those living in the West, sympathize with terrorists and support the global jihad. As Robert Spencer, Andrew Bostom, David Yerushalmi, and many others have explained, the jihadist impulse is found throughout Islamic theology, history, and culture.
Islam divides the world into the House of Islam (dar al-Islam), where Islamic law (sharia) reigns supreme, and the House of War (dar al-harb), where sharia does not yet prevail. Muslims are enjoined by Allah and Muhammad to wage war upon the House of War until it is brought within the House of Islam. This religious-political project – and not the P.C. troika of poverty, tyranny, and discrimination – is the root of jihad. (For an excellent introduction to the theology and history of Islam, see here.)
It should not be surprising, then, as Steyn emphasized in a recent column, that the vast majority of Muslims worldwide feel primary loyalty to their religion (“Pan-Islamism”), instead of to the particular nations in which they live. For example, according to a recent poll (cited by Steyn), only 8 percent of Muslims living in Great Britain consider themselves British first, whereas 81 percent consider themselves Muslim first. Given the stark differences between what it means to be British and what it means to be Muslim, these poll results portend a disastrous future for the British nation. Indeed, given the gulf that exists between Western culture and Islamic culture, the growing size and influence of the Muslim world portends a disastrous future for us all.
The main focus of Steyn’s book is on the underlying demographic trends, including low native birth rates and rising Muslim immigration, that are steadily transforming Europe into an Islamic stronghold (what Bat Ye’or calls “Eurabia”). In Steyn’s view,
“demography doesn’t explain everything, but it accounts for a good 90 percent.”
Steyn emphasizes that, with birth rates among native Europeans well below “replacement level” (2.1 children per woman), the Western populations in these countries will shrink with each new generation. At the same time, millions of Muslims are moving into Europe (naively welcomed by the existing governments as a source of labor to maintain their lavish welfare states), and are having many more children than their neighbors. Steyn reports that Western women in Europe have an average of 1.4 children, whereas Muslim women have an average of 3.5 children. The result is a “baby boom” among Muslims that, within our lifetimes, will completely change the European countries in which they live. Steyn’s analysis (though not original) strikes me as right on the mark (no pun intended).
Yet after spending page after page highlighting the demographic disaster that awaits Europe (and to a much lesser extent the United States), Steyn fails to state the logical conclusion, which is that Muslim immigration must be stopped. Period.
If one believes, as Steyn clearly does (with strong support from the evidence), that Muslims as a group not only are not assimilating into Western culture but are actively hostile toward the very principles upon which our societies are built, then it is “suicidal” (a term frequently used by Steyn) to permit millions of Muslims to take up residence within our countries.
Of course, such a blanket policy would be unfair towards the many individual Muslims who do not share the militant worldview of their co-religionists. Nevertheless, if 80 percent of Muslims cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of the Western nations in which they live (to use the British poll numbers cited above), then the only rational policy is to exclude Muslims altogether. However, nowhere in America Alone does Steyn dare utter this obvious, if uncomfortable, truth.
The other principal focus of Steyn’s book is on the inability of contemporary multiculturalism to provide a meaningful, vigorous base on which to sustain and defend Western civilization. On the contrary, as Steyn sharply remarks,
“multiculturalism was conceived by the Western elites not to celebrate all cultures but to deny their own.”
Hence, “the governing principle of multicultural society” is that “Western man demonstrates his cultural sensitivity by pre-emptively surrendering.” This already is happening in Europe, which Steyn thoroughly documents. But it even is happening in the United States – see the craven response by our political and media establishment to last year’s Cartoon Intifada, and the continued refusal by our law enforcement agencies to engage in “racial profiling” as part of a sensible anti-terrorism strategy. Steyn surely is correct that multiculturalism, and its philosophical twin internationalism, cannot provide the ideological meat needed to maintain a healthy body politic.
What can? Steyn doesn’t really say (a weakness in his analysis), although he strongly suggests that we need to take greater pride in our Anglo-American traditions and show greater respect for the Christian religion. Indeed, in the context of our conflict with Islam, it is difficult to conceive of anything less than a full-blown resurgence of American and European nationalism being sufficient to hold off the Islamification (or dhimmification) of much of the West.
With any significant resurgence of nationalism, however, will come, inevitably, ethnic and religious chauvinism. While such chauvinism does not have to devolve into murderous fascism, it will result in a less tolerant and accommodating attitude towards foreigners. For many Americans and Europeans, schooled for decades in the self-denying pieties of multiculturalism, this will be seen as something very bad, worse even than Islamic domination.
But ethnic and religious chauvinism is at the heart of the “civilizational confidence” that Steyn rightly ascribes to the Muslim world. Recall the Muslim protesters in London last year boldly holding signs that read “Behead Those Who Insult Islam” and “Europe You Will Pay” (all because of a few “blasphemous” cartoons in a Dutch newspaper). Without a similar sense of “civilizational confidence,” the West – including the United States – will be unable to preserve its distinctive way of life. It’s as simple as that.
After spending nearly 200 pages describing the dire threat to the West posed by Islam, Steyn begins the final chapter of America Alone by assuring his readers that his book
“isn’t an argument for more war, more bombing, or more killing, but for more will.”
This statement is either naïve or disingenuous. Because Steyn is a very smart fellow, I opt for the latter interpretation. After all, Steyn then goes on to recount his favorite anecdote about a British general in colonial India who, when faced with the traditional Hindu practice of “suttee” – the burning of widows on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands – told his Indian subjects:
“You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”
For Steyn, this is the quintessential example of Western “will” that we need to emulate today. But if this isn’t a call for more killing in the service of Western values, I don’t know what it is.
Whether we like it or not, large parts of the Islamic world have declared war on the West. Because Muslim countries, to date, have lacked the military and economic capability to wage conventional warfare against us, they have engaged in vicious acts of terrorism designed to intimidate and undermine Western society. They may soon be in position, through developments in Iran and, perhaps, Pakistan, to commit acts of nuclear blackmail or actual nuclear warfare. (And just imagine if, a few decades from now, a Muslim majority took control of France or England’s nuclear arsenal, with the capability to destroy large parts of the United States.) The West can either submit to this violence and intimidation, or we can fight back.
But what does “fighting back” mean? On this vital question, Steyn’s book, quite frankly, is disappointing. Steyn offers an ambitious 10-point list of options, but he does not explain what they would entail in practice.
Steyn’s list includes:
(1) supporting women’s rights in the Muslim world;
(2) “roll[ing] back Wahhabi, Iranian, and other ideological exports that have radicalized Muslims on every continent”;
(3) supporting economic and political liberty in the Muslim world;
(4) ensuring that Muslim nations that persecute non-Muslims are “denied international legitimacy and excluded and marginalized in international bodies”;
(5) “throttl[ing] the funding of mosques, madrassas, think tanks, and other activities in America and elsewhere by Saudi Arabia, Iran, and others”;
(6) creating a “civil corps” for “countering Islamism on the ideological front”;
(7) “marginaliz[ing] and euthaniz[ing]” the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, and similar “transnational organizations”;
(8) “transform[ing]” our domestic energy industry to reduce America’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil;
(9) “end[ing] the Iranian regime”; and
(10) “strik[ing] militarily when the opportunity presents itself.”
Steyn’s list leaves many questions unanswered. Consider options 1 and 3. How are we supposed to promote freedom and equality in the Muslim world? What political, economic, and military policies should we pursue to achieve these ends? And why would these policies be any more successful in the future than they have been in the past? Steyn doesn’t say.
Or consider option 6, Steyn’s call for the creation of a “civil corps.” This sounds an awful lot like the Peace Corps, only with an emphasis on ideological rather than economic development in the Third World. How would this work exactly? What ideology would we be exporting? Christianity? Capitalism? Secular humanism? Again, Steyn does not say.
Or consider option 8. How are we to achieve energy independence? Through higher taxes? more regulations? the nationalization of the energy industry? Steyn offers no blueprint for action in this important area (which should be a much easier nut to crack than “reforming” the Middle East). And so on.
I am not suggesting that Steyn’s list of options is wrong, only that it needs much more explanation and justification than he offers in America Alone. Of course, there is only so much one can do in one highly readable book.
My most serious criticism of Steyn, however, is that he refuses to acknowledge the dramatic implications of his own analysis. Take another look at items 2, 5, 9, and 10, on Steyn’s list of options. Together these would amount to a declaration of war against Islam. Obviously, the Muslim world will not take kindly to our “throttling” their funding of Islamic institutions in the United States and Europe, let alone our “rolling back” such institutions in other parts of the world. Nor will the Muslim world perceive our “ending” the Iranian regime or our “opportunistic” use of military power against other Muslim targets in benign terms.
We can be sure that any escalation of this conflict by the West (however necessary for our own security) will be met with an intensification of the global jihad.
Thus, contrary to Steyn’s earlier denial, his book plainly is “an argument for more war, more bombing, [and] more killing.” Only Steyn won’t admit it, probably because he wants to retain some “mainstream” credibility. This may be an understandable concern for a professional commentator, but it undermines the power and coherence of his book.
Tragically, unless the Muslim world suddenly reforms itself – an unlikely prospect given the nature of Islam – I am afraid that civilizational war is where we are headed in the coming decades, as the Muslim world gains even greater strength and confidence. While Mark Steyn’s America Alone helps open our eyes to certain aspects of this conflict, it does little to prepare us for the full scope of what lies ahead. For if the West decides to fight this war, rather than accept Islamic domination as the price of peace (an open question), the bombing and killing are going to be on a scale that makes the current war on terror look like a preliminary skirmish.