Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Review: While Europe Slept

While Europe Slept, by Bruce Bawer, is a good book. Inside this good book there is a great book wanting to come out. It is also a book that Europe will ignore at it’s own peril.

The thesis of the book is explained in the subtitle: “How Radical islam Is Destroying the West from Within.” And Bawer marshals a ream of evidence to substantiate his thesis.

But first I will discuss the two flaws which I think prevent this good book from being a great book. The first is relatively minor the second more substantial. The minor flaw is that Mr. Bawer spends too much time telling us about Mr. Bawer and his partner. A few incidents to describe how radical Islam impacts individuals is fine. But at some points in the narrative I wasn’t sure if I was reading a book on radical Islam in Europe or a book about Bawer in Europe. This is more pronounced in the first half of the book than in the second. I just thought it was bit overdone.

The second problem is that the book is in error by presenting false alternatives. Now I completely agree with the main thesis of the book: fundamentalist Islam is a threat that needs to be dealt with. But Bawer has a secondary thesis. He seems to believe that the alternative is a Bushian interventionist position.

Mr. Bawer is, at heart, a conservative. He is a liberal leaning conservative due to his own experiences as a gay man but he still is a conservative. And it shows. I would think that classical liberals and libertarians would have problems with this false dichotomy. It isn’t a choice between Bush or bin Laden.

That some solutions are needed to this crisis within the West doesn’t necessarily justify a US world police force. Mr. Bawer’s insistence to the contrary is a weak point in the book and he undermines the book’s effectiveness. Here is a book I wish every European would read but I also know that many will ignore or dismiss his major thesis, which is sound, because of his minor premise. There is enough pro-Bush sentiment to provide an excuse to those who wish to ignore the real problem.

This is not to say that his remarks about America-bashing are not valid. Many are. Some Europeans attack America when their real beef is with the US government. But it comes across as if Bawer makes the same error: to dislike the policies of Bush is to dislike the American people.

The book reminds me of tracts on atheism that I have read written by born again Christians which purport to explain why atheists should be Christians. But it is apparent they are not written for atheists at all but for Christians who want to feel good about their beliefs and wish to pity atheists. Bawer’s book is about Europe but it doesn’t seem to be written for Europeans at all. It is written for Americans who want to feel good about being American and feel bad about Europeans being Europeans.

Yet the bulk of the book has a message that every European ought to read yet the self-praising of all things American will divert attention away from the critical message. Had Mr. Bawer concentrated on his core message, instead of being diverted by his own conservative agenda, this would have been a great book. And I believe, that if an edited European edition is published, it would be a book that could take Europe by storm.

The situation with Islam in Europe is at a crisis stage. Europe has nurtured a viper and the question is when will the viper bite with a lethal strike. Unlike immigrant groups in most parts of the world the Islamists are refusing to assimilate into their new culture. They are remaining insulated. They are not Muslims living in Europe. They are enclaves of Islamic Republics that are basically beachheads in an ideological war. They are not adopting Western liberal values but intent on establishing a Quranic theocracy.

Worse yet they do so by taking advantage of Western values. A large number of the most violent among them have been nurtured by the welfare state. The terrorists who set off bombs in the London underground were sustained by welfare. The Muslim cleric who stirred up the anti-Danish riots around the world is on the payroll of the Danish government to promote Islam to criminals in prisons. Mosques built with government funds preach hatred of the West. Islamic community centres, funded by taxpayers, recruit Muslims to the Islamist agenda.

It was purported that a major communist leader once said that the West would sell the communists the rope with which they would be hung. It didn’t work out that way because selling means trade and trade means mutual exchange which socialism can’t do because it can’t produce the goods. But in this case the West is not selling the rope with which it would be hung -- it is giving it away. A large segment of the Islamist movement in Europe feeds off the welfare state.

The second issue which Bawer addresses well is how the multicultural Left is impotent due to its own mythology. The Left can attack any Western value without a second thought. But their cult of victimisation makes them impotent before “third world peoples.” The most disgusting behaviours, which would be roundly condemned if practised by Americans, is excused when engaged in by Muslims.

So the Left, which tried to make common cause with women and homosexuals, betrays them with nary a second thought when it comes to wife beatings and gay bashings conducted by Muslim. Policies that would bring loud derision and protests, had they been implemented by Rev. Falwell, are silently ignored when a Muslim cleric is the perpetrator. Instead the Left pleads for understanding and excuses the violence as cultural differences or worse yet, as the result of provocation by the victims themselves. They demand that Europeans accept this violent hatred and adapt to the values of Islam but never suggest that Islamists in the West ought to assimilate to the culture around them.

Whether the Left ever cared about the plight of women or homosexuals is open to question. But even if they did their hatred of the West trumps any support for the oppressed groups they claim to support. They invariably side with the hateful Muslim theocrats. I believe they do so because they have common ground in an intense hatred of Western liberal values. Both wish to see the West destroyed.

The last problem I have with Bawer’s book is that he spends little time suggesting ways of dealing with the problem. More needs to be done on this. Liberal theory does not deal well with an illiberal threat from within. And few liberal writers have tried to tackle the issue of solutions.

If we assume that radical Islam is a threat, and there is damn good reason to do so, then the question of how to deal with it has to be answered. Some answers, such as abolishing welfare subsidies for Islamists, are obvious. But what other actions are necessary? Ending the subsidies will have some impact but the islamists communities are growing at such a rapid rate that this only delays the problem and doesn’t end it. And I know of no liberal or libertarian who has yet to tackle solutions for dealing with this crisis.

Had Bawer toned down the personal, stopped his cheer leading meant to appeal to American readers, and discussed detailed solutions to the crisis, While Europe Slept would have been a great book. As it is this is a good book. It is an important book and it is a book that every European ought to read and heed. That this won’t happen is due partly to the flaws in the book but primarily to the European contempt for all things American. The latter problem could have been mitigated had Bawer left out the numerous comments supporting Bush and the military invasion of Iraq and kept his focus on his main thesis.

The sane and intelligent in Europe will ignore the flaws and concentrate on the main thesis. And perhaps they will begin the process necessary to find a solution if it isn’t already too late.

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