Europe has unique problems with Muslim immigration. Here’s why.

Europe has unique problems with Muslim immigration.  This is at once both an obvious statement of reality and highly controversial.  Like all History Future Now article we look at this issue from the perspective of history, how that history creates the present and how the present shapes the future.

There are four fundamental components to this problem.

The first is the rise of Christianity in Europe from 325AD.  This took a tolerant polytheistic society, that was open to new religions and ideas, and replaced it with an intolerant monotheistic society that used the power of the state to promote Christianity and to eliminate rival religions and philosophical ideas.

Second is the rise and fall of Islam in Europe between 634AD and 1912. It describes the initial conquests of Spain and southern France to the west and Turkey and most of south east Europe to the east, followed by centuries of retreat until the Ottomans were nearly completely pushed out of Europe in 1912. This rise and fall explains why Western and Eastern European countries have different views about Islam today.

The third component is the long decline of Christianity in Europe between 1517 to 2018.  This process resulted in the dismantling of an intolerant monotheistic society and the creation of a highly tolerant secular society based on the values of science and the Enlightenment.

The final aspect is the post war migrations of Muslims into Europe.  This brings particular challenges to Europe as Islam promotes many of the intolerant ideas displayed during the rise of Christianity which have now rejected by the secular West.  These ideas would have little impact were it not for the fact that the Muslim population has been doubling every decade since the 1960s and has become the majority population in a number of European towns and cities.  Muslim numbers mean that they have the power to be king makers in governments elected by proportional representation.  This will enable them to use the power of the state to promote Islam.

This leads to a final question:  Will the West be able to restrict or secularise Islam before its Muslim population Islamises Europe?

The rise of Christianity in Europe

Our story starts in 325AD at the council of Christian bishops in Nicaea, the Greek speaking city in what is now modern day Turkey.  The purpose of this council, which was organised and partially attended by the Roman Emperor Constantine I, who founded the city of Constantinople, was to force the bishops to agree on a single version of the religion.

The main controversy was the relationship between God the Father and the God the Son.  One group of Christians, led by Bishop Arian of Alexandria, Egypt, believed that God the Son – Jesus Christ – did not always exist and was thus subordinate to God the Father.  The second group, Homoousian Christians, believed that God the Son was made of the same essence as God the Father and thus both were the same, eternal and equal. For modern secular Europeans, this distinction will probably result in a shrug of the shoulders and a simple thought: so what? And what does this have to do with Islam?  The importance is that the Council supported the Homoousian argument which was written up as the Creed of Nicaea, a set of core beliefs about Christianity which have been subsequently adopted by most forms of Christianity.  All other beliefs were deemed anathema and heretical.

The decision had a profound impact.  There was now an officially correct form of Christianity that had the backing of the Emperor and the Roman state.  Constantine I punished those who did not agree to the Creed of Nicaea by sending them into exile.  Over time the punishment for heresy became more severe, and would include death.

But while Constantine I discussed the subtle details of Christianity with his bishops, the pre-Christian world was still very much alive and remained open to different religions and new ways of thinking.  This tolerance of new ideas meant that for many people in the Roman world Christianity was just another exciting way of thinking about what it was to be human.  While Christianity had its origins in Judaism it was the Hellenistic world that debated and shaped it.  It is not surprising then that many of the ideas incorporated in Christianity resonated with multiple Hellenistic schools of thought.   Cynicism, for example, advocated living a simple life of virtue and agreement with nature,  Epicureanism advocated living a life of tranquility and freedom from fear, and Stoicism also promoted a life of virtue.

Over the next few decades many pagans and philosophers began to get irritated with the intolerance of Christians and disparagingly called them “atheists,” as they did not believe in all of the gods.  However, the Christians’s stubborn refusal to compromise their beliefs eventually helped them to win enough converts for them to become the majority.

In 380AD Christianity was declared the official state religion of the Roman Empire.  This was a blow to adherents of other religions and philosophies.  Christians harnessed the power of the state and attacked the old gods and philosophical ideas. Pagan statues were smashed, temples were torn down and their stones were recycled to create Christian churches.  Philosophical schools were closed, thousands of books were burned and their leaders were banned from teaching, were killed or were exiled. By the 500s AD most of the Roman Empire had converted to Christianity, with minor exceptions.  The old gods were dead and discredited.   The Roman world’s tolerance for new ideas had enabled in an intolerant group, the Christians, to take over the empire.

And here is the core problem: state sponsored monotheistic religions have difficulties in co-existing with other religions. This was a sharp contrast to the pre-Christian world where differences of opinions simply resulted in the creation of a new religion or philosophical school. Many ideas could be right at the same time.   Monotheists demanded full control: Christianity was correct and thus all other ideas were false.

The rise and fall of Islam in Europe: Invasion, Reconquista, the Crusades and the Ottomans, 634-1912.

In the next section we are going to quickly run through the rise and fall of another state sponsored monotheistic religion that spread through parts of Europe: Islam.

In 541AD disaster struck the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the Sasanid (Persian) Empire to its east, what is now modern Iraq and Iran. Both empires had been hit by one of the deadliest plagues in history.  Up to 40% of the inhabitants of the region’s largest cities, including Constantinople and Alexandria, were killed.  Throughout the remainder of the century plagues flared up on a generational basis causing more instability and a loss of economic and military power.  To make things worse, the Zoroastrian Sasanids and Christian Romans spent much of the next ninety years fighting each other, using Arabs as their mercenary soldiers.

In 632AD Muhammed died, having conquered and unified much of Arabia.  His Arab Muslim successors successfully conquered large swathes of the weakened Christian east Mediterranean between 634 and 641.  They then conquered the Christian province of Egypt in 642, which was critical to the Roman Byzantine world as the bulk of the food needed to feed Constantinople came from Egypt.  Without those supplies Constantinople was fatally weakened and its population crashed. Between 633 and 651 they eliminated  the Zoroastrian Sasanid empire.  The Arab Muslim armies then headed west across Christian North Africa and into Christian Spain, which they conquered by 721AD.  By 725AD Muslim forces had crossed the Pyrenees and taken over southern France, including the Christian cities of Carassone and Nimes.

There are three important things to note about these Muslim conquests.  First, people forget that the entirety of the Mediterranean coastline by this stage was firmly in the Christian monotheistic camp.  The second thing to note is that the indigenous populations were not all killed and that they remained in the majority, in the same way that when Christianity usurped polytheism the polytheists were not all killed either. But even with a minority population, the Arab Muslims eventually managed to convert the entire population from Christianity to Islam, using similar techniques employed by the Christians against the majority pagan population two hundred years earlier.  Thirdly, the distinction between Christianity and Islam in this initial period was not as great as you may imagine.  This made it quite possible for Muslims, Jews and Christians to co-exist, with Muslims being the first among equals in the relationship.

In 759AD the Christian Carolingian king, Pepin the Short, pushed the Muslims out of southern France and back into Spain.  Meanwhile, the Christian kingdoms in the extreme north of Spain, who had avoided being taken over by the Muslim armies, gradually inched their way back down the Iberian peninsula.  By the 1100s the Christian kingdoms of Navarre, Leon, Castile and Aragon had bottled up the Muslims to the south of the country and Al-Andalus, what is mainly Andalusia in modern Spain, fractured into 34 small kingdoms.  By 1252, the only Muslim kingdom left was Granada, which became a vassal state of the Christian kingdom of Castile.  In 1492 Granada was captured and the Muslim’s 700 year reign in Spain ended.  Most Muslims stayed in Spain and converted to Christianity.  Hundreds of thousands, however, emigrated back to North Africa.

Life at other end of the Mediterranean was also in flux.  In 1095AD Pope Urban II called upon Christians in Western Europe to go on an armed pilgrimage to Constantinople to support the Greek speaking Christian East Roman Emperor against Muslim invaders and to recapture Jerusalem.  This eventually resulted in Western European Christians successfully invading the eastern Mediterranean and establishing the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Tripoli, the County of Edessa and the Principality of Antioch.  These Crusader states restored Christianity to the region for about 200 years before they were eventually extinguished by 1291AD.

Unlike Christians in the Iberian peninsula, Christians in the east were increasingly on the back foot.  From 1299 the Turks, a new group of steppe nomads led by a charismatic leader called Osman, successfully took over the Muslim Sultanate of Rum (Rome) in central modern day Turkey.  Osman’s Ottoman Empire expanded rapidly, defeating the Christian Byzantine, Bulgarian and Serbian Empires one by one. In 1453 they successfully captured Constantinople and the Eastern Roman Empire, which was the direct successor state to Rome, was finally killed off.

The Ottoman expansion into Europe did not end there.  Between 1453 and 1683 they penetrated deep into South- Eastern Europe. They defeated the Albanians, Bosnians and Kosovars.  In 1529 they attacked Vienna.  In 1541 they captured the twin cities of Buda and Pest in Hungary.  The Ottomans took to the seas and captured Rhodes in 1522 and Cyprus in 1570.  Between 1593 and 1669 they fought against Austria, Venice and Crete and between 1672 and 1676 they fought against Poland-Lithuania.

Wars between the Christian nations on the borders of the Muslim Ottoman empire would continue.  But from the 1700s onwards the Ottomans drifted into a period of decline.  From the early 1800s they lost many of their territories in south eastern Europe, as a result of a series of rebellions and wars.  By 1912 the Ottoman Empire’s only remaining possesion in Europe was Rumelia – the land that also includes the city of Istanbul.

This run through the rise and fall of Islam in the Iberian peninsula and in Eastern Europe is important as it helps to explain why the Spanish and  Eastern European countries are particularly hostile towards Muslim immigration and refugees from the former Ottoman Empire.  They don’t see them as innocent victims.  They are the same people that they have been fighting against for 700 years and managed to push out after a great deal of bloodshed. They don’t want them back.

The slow decline of Christianity in Europe. 1517-2018

For many, picking 1517 as the beginning of the end of Christianity in Europe would seem premature.  They would have good reason to object to this: Christian Europe would last for many more centuries.  But this was the year in which the Wittenberg University professor of moral theology, Martin Luther, sent his Ninety-Five Theses to the Archbishop of Mainz, in modern Germany.  Martin Luther objected to a number of church practices, the most famous of which was the sale of certificates issued by the clergy to reduce the period of punishment that all Christians were expected to suffer in Purgatory – the time between death and the arrival in heaven. This was big business for the clergy and had helped make the Church very wealthy.

Luther never intended for his Ninety-Five Theses to spark a revolution in Christianity.  But it did.  Printers, desperate for content for their newly invented printing presses, were happy to print copy after copy of Luther’s Theses.  The Pope was furious and demanded Luther report to him in Rome.  Luther responded by further works, “Explaining” his views in more detail, which were also printed.  He then wrote, in German, as opposed to Latin, an abridged version of his views so that as many citizens as possible could understand the controversy.

During the next one hundred and fifty years Europe was convulsed by the Reformation.  Luther had, unwittingly, done a number of things.  First, he created a fundamental split in the church, a split that Emperor Constantine I had fixed in 325AD when he forced the church to accept the Creed of Nicaea and he sent the Arians into exile.  This caused a real problem as hitherto there was only one state sanctioned monotheistic religion in Europe – the Catholic Church. (I am not going to go into the Orthodox Churches in this article, for simplicity’s sake.) With the Reformation, the Catholic Church fractured into dozens of splinter protestant groups, many of which secured the power of a minor state, which then promoted their variant of Christianity to the exclusion of others.  This eventually brought about the external conflicts between Catholic Spain and Protestant England and the nightmare of the Thirty Year’s War, which was predominantly fought on German soil and ended in 1648. It also brought about the internal conflicts in England, France, Spain and Germany as Catholics killed Protestants or Protestants killed Catholics, depending on which version of Christianity had the backing of the state at the time. This orgy of monotheistic hate continues today in the Muslim world as Sunni and Shia pound each other for supremacy.

Secondly, Luther created a demand for books that people could read in their own language, just as the printing press was coming into its own.  After they had read his Treaties and Sermon on Indulgences and Grace they then read his translation of the Bible into vernacular German, which also created the standard German language we know today.  But once they had read all the religious texts they wanted to read other, non religious, texts.  This created a demand for knowledge that had hereto not existed.  What else could be read?  How about translations of the great Roman and Greek philosophers that had managed to be saved from destruction?

This in turn helped spark the Scientific Revolution of Copernicus and Galileo in the mid 1500s and the Enlightenment movement from the 1700s.   While many people describe Europe as having a Judeo-Christian culture this not the whole picture.  The Enlightenment philosophers went back to the philosophers of the pre-Christian era.  Reason and logic were important, once again. Diderot’s Encyclopedie, published between 1751 and 1766, became a best seller and natural philosophy – the forerunner of science – became a pursuit followed by the wealthy with spare time. Coffee houses and debating societies became increasingly popular, as did attendance at university.

All of these developments gradually eroded the centrality of Christianity in the Western world.  The science of the natural philosophers was more accurate and more rigorous than anything to be found in the Bible.  Even morality was up for grabs.  Slavery, an established biblical institution, was questioned and then abolished in one country after another, starting in the 1770s.  The concept of human rights became enshrined in law in the United States and then in revolutionary France.  Women, who had lower status within Christianity, ached to be treated as equal to men.  They adapted methods learned during the anti-slavery movements and by the early 1900s most western countries gave women the right to vote.  Animals started to be given rights as well. The Puritans passed animal welfare legislation in England in 1654 and John Locke argued in 1693 that animals had feelings and that unnecessary cruelty towards them was morally wrong. In the late 1800s and early 1900s labour movements sprung up whose explicitly aim was to improve the lot of workers who had been exploited in one way or another by wealthy capitalists.  Another push for equal rights between races and women took place in the 1960s and 1970s, at the same time as environmentalism became popular.

So the world at the time of Martin Luther’s debate about church indulgences is quite different to what it is today.  Church attendance in the West is in free-fall and in no Western country does the church have the militant backing of the state.  By 2018 Europe had become fundamentally post Christian, with religion confined to holidays and celebrations.  This has a profound impact on the relationship between Islam and the West; as most of the West was abandoning religion, a fast growing immigrant group was bringing monotheism back into Europe.

Post war migrations of Muslims into Europe. 1960 to 2018.

Prior to the 1960s there were almost no Muslims living in Europe, with the exception of former Yugoslavia and the small slice of Turkey in Europe.  Yet by 2016, according to Pew Research, there were about 26 million living in Europe, the bulk of which were in France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.  How and why they ended up in Europe differs from country to country.

France’s Muslim population mainly came from North Africa, with Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia being the main source.  France had colonised much of the area from 1830 as it tried to stamp out the Barbary Pirates, Muslim Berbers who raided the coasts of Europe and who had captured and sold over one million European Christians into slavery across the Muslim world. They mainly came in the 1960s and 1970s as cheap labour and were welcomed as being part of Greater France.  They were predominantly men, but then were allowed to bring wives over, which resulted in an increase in the second generation Muslim population. There are roughly 6-8 million in France today.

The German Muslim population mainly comes from the rural mountains of south eastern Turkey.  They started to arrive in 1961 after a treaty was reluctantly signed between West Germany and Turkey for Gastarbeiters, under pressure from the United States which wanted Turkey as a NATO ally against the Soviet Union.  As with France, they then brought their wives, which resulted in a sharp increase in the second and third generation Muslim population. There are roughly 6 – 8 million in Germany today, including a million or so who have recently arrived from Syria.

The Muslim population in the UK mainly comes from Pakistan and Bangladesh, formerly parts of the British Empire.  As with France and Germany they were invited in the 1960s and 1970s to become labourers in specific cities.  They stayed, the government allowed family reunions and their population increased dramatically.  There are roughly 5-7 million in the UK today, more than the Welsh and Northern Irish combined, and roughly the size of the population of Scotland.

Italy has had a longer relationship with Islam thanks to its possesion of Sicily.  Christian Sicily was conquered by Muslims in the 800s AD and they remained there until they were kicked out of power in 1091.  They continued to live there until 1224 when Emperor Frederick II deported all of the remaining Muslims.  The 3-5 million Muslims living in Italy today are mainly from North Africa and Syria.

There are currently about 26 million Muslims living in Europe, about 5% of the total population. The numbers do not appear relatively large and Muslims are less than 10% in most countries.  This hides three details.

First, these populations are concentrated in a few urban locations, where they form either a substantial minority or are actually the majority.  According to the 2011 census in the UK, when the Muslim population was about half of what it is today, the UK Cities of Blackburn, Birmingham, Burnley and Bradford included wards with between 70% and 85% Muslim populations.  In January 2015, there were 511 British schools across 43 local authority areas with 50% or more Muslim pupils from Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic backgrounds.

Second, the Muslim population is increasingly rapidly due to the fact that Muslim immigrants typically have the same high birth rates as their native countries and have children earlier than the European average.  Take the UK, for example.  In 1961 there were 50,000 Muslims.  By 1971 that number jumped nearly fivefold to 226,000.  A decade later it doubled to 553,000.  A decade after that it nearly doubled again to 960,000.  By 2001 it jumped to 1,500,000.  All of these numbers are relatively small.  But then the maths continues relentlessly; there were 2,700,000 a decade later, in 2011, and it is predicted that there will be 4,700.000 in 2021.  If the population keeps increasing at the same pace there will be 25,000,000 Muslims by 2051 in the UK alone.

Third, the combination of high growth rates and concentrations in specific cities means that the culture of those cities has changed radically. For example, in the largest cities in the Netherlands, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, the native Dutch population is now a minority.  When you dig deeper into the detail, for example in Amsterdam, you see some interesting trends. First, the native Dutch population only exceeds 50% for those over the age of 57.  The native Dutch are a minority for those younger than that.  Second, if you look at the school age population only 32%- 39% are native Dutch, making them a small minority in their own capital city. The same demographics apply to The Hague and Rotterdam.  This is important as all major cities have an oversized influence on the culture of a country as a whole.

Pew have done some analysis on expected immigration levels in Europe over the next few years, to 2050.  They have looked at population growth due to children of existing Muslims and due to migration and have compared it to the non Muslim population.

A few numbers stick out.  First, the non-Muslim population is set to continue its gradual decline from 495m in 2016 to between 446m and 463m, depending on non Muslim immigration.  This is due to the fact that non Muslims are increasingly secular and women are active members of the working population.  This translates into having fewer children. Second, under a medium migration scenario the Muslim population is expected to more than double, from 26m in 2016 to 58m by 2050.  A higher migration scenario adds an additional 20m to the number, reaching 76m by 2050.

Pew then looked at Muslims in the EU in 2050 on a country by country basis.  They predict that France, Germany, Austria, Belgium and the UK will have Muslim populations of about 20% by 2050.  A notable standout is Sweden, which is expected to have a Muslim population of over 30%, thanks to their high levels of tolerance towards refugees and asylum seekers.  Note the relatively tiny percentage of Muslims in Eastern Europe.

Europe has unique problems with Islamic immigration

So it is time to pull all of these components together: the rise of Christianity in Europe, the rise and fall of Islam in Europe, the long decline of Christianity in Europe and the post war migrations of Muslims into Europe.

The first problem is culture.

The Pre-Christian Roman Empire was a multicultural and polytheistic society which had a vibrant tradition of rationality and inquiry.  For about a thousand years after Christianity became the dominant force in European, it lost these characteristics as the state backed Catholic Church forced its monotheistic beliefs onto Europe’s peoples.

You simply could not function successfully in this society without being an adherent of the state religion.  At the worst of times heresy could result in death and at the best of times it resulted in some form of exclusion, such as that endured by Europe’s Jewish population.

The Reformation, Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment all picked away at the monolithic dominance of the Catholic Church.  First it allowed direct access to God, through the Bible written in local languages.  Then it allowed the existence of God to be questioned using a scientific method.  Finally, the morality of Christianity was stripped away and replaced by a secular morality based on freedom and equal rights for all people.

Islam has never gone through a similar process of deconstruction.  Its adherents maintain that the rules and ethics contained in the Koran and Hadiths, which are not too dissimilar to what can be found in Christianity or Judaism, are valid today. This is a problem for the West as it was the replacement of the power of the Church with the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment that created the systems that created the world we know today.  Societies that adopt most of those systems, such as Japan, Korea and China, have been able to reach similar standards of living and wealth as the West.

Many Muslims do not believe in evolution, which has profound knock on effects on their understanding of science and the natural world.  Women and cultural minorities, such as gays, are most vulnerable in this clash of religion and secularism.  From the perspective of Western women Islam is repressive.  For gays it is life threatening.  This is not just an Islamic issue.  Christian fundamentalists in the US have similar attitudes. This is not surprising; Muslims worship the same God and Islam is heavily influenced by Judaism and Christianity.

The second problem is numbers.

If Islam were a tiny group, whose population was stagnant, its cultural differences would be irrelevant.  The fact that the Western world was going in totally the opposite direction to the Muslim world could be ignored.  They could be free to practice their religious beliefs, which they hold dear and sincerely.

But this is not the case.  The rapid increase and the heavy concentration of the Muslim population in Europe’s cultural heartlands, its cities, means that the secular value systems that underpin Western culture are crashing into a monotheistic culture that the West has spent the last 500 years unshackling itself from.

Over the next two decades the minority European Muslim population will be able to exercise a significant influence on the majority European secular society.  This is due to a well understood phenomenon called “minority influence” which was identified in the late 1960s by the French Romanian psychologist Serge Moscovici.  By repeatedly advocating one view minorities can change the opinions of individuals in the majority so that they internalise the minority view and start advocating it as well.  Eventually a snowball effect takes place and the minority view becomes the majority view. Positive examples of minority influence in action which promoted tolerance include the anti slavery, suffragette and civil rights movements, where fringe minority views were able to persuade the majority to make fundamental changes to social structures that had endured for thousands of years. Negative examples which promoted intolerance include the take over of the Roman Empire by Christianity, the take over of the west, south and east Mediterranean by Islam, the take over of Russia by the Bolsheviks and the take over of the Nazis in Germany, who used proportional representation to gain control over the German state, despite the fact they never won a majority in the Reichstag.

Muslims in Europe will also be able to exercise power directly, through the ballot box.  Most European countries practice proportional representation, which allows fringe minority parties to easily get seats in parliament. At some point Muslims will develop their own political parties in the same way that there are various Christian parties in Europe.  If they organise sufficiently they could have a pan European impact.  Proportional representation frequently results in larger parties needing the support of minority parties to get into and stay in government.  Muslim parties could be single issue parties, focusing on policies that predominantly affect them.  By being relatively innocuous they could become the king makers of governments, providing enough swing votes to always remain in office and getting their policies enacted as a reward for putting a larger party in power.

One change that a majority of European Muslims advocate is that Sharia Law be applicable to cases in which both parties- Muslims – agree to accept Sharia Law jurisdiction.  The main example of this is in family law.  For many secular Europeans this does not seem too controversial.  After all, many legal issues are already not referred to the courts, but to arbitration, subject to both parties agreeing in advance which arbitration they will use.   Sharia Law is also advocated by Muslims to control behaviour, such as drinking alcohol in public, in majority Muslim areas.  Unfortunately, this becomes a slippery slope as a parallel judicial and police system is created and minority cases can soon influence the majority.

The third problem is what to do about it.

Eastern European countries have taken a simple approach to Islamic immigration.  They are having none of it.  They make practicing Islam in their countries as difficult as they can legally get away with. They have concluded that being intolerant of Islam is the best defence against a religion that is intolerant of their values.

If you look at their history with Islam you can understand why they feel this way; they have been at war with the Muslim Ottoman Turks for hundreds of years.  They got rid of them and don’t want them back.  This has caused a rift between the relatively new EU countries of Eastern Europe and the original members.  When Germany’s Chancellor Merkel invited Muslim refugees into Europe they flooded in from the south east, through the very countries that had once fought the Ottoman Turks.  When she had had enough of the immigration she asked for other European nations to share the burden.  Hungary – who had been completely taken over by the Ottomans in the past – refused point blank, followed by Poland.  Western Europeans, unaware of the history of Eastern Europe, complained that this was neo-Nazi and racist.

This attitude is ironic as many Muslim countries use the power of the state for force their populations to remain Muslim.  In Saudi Arabia, for example it is illegal to declare yourself an atheist, blaspheme or to apostasize; the penalty is death. It is also illegal to promote Christianity, churches are banned and non-Muslim clergy are banned from conducting religious services.  Eastern European countries are extraordinarily tolerant by comparison.

Western Europe is more confused about what to do about the problem, partially because the population of Muslims is already large, and expected to double.  Over the next ten years, for example, the Muslim population in the United Kingdom will be larger than the combined population of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. (An interesting hypothetical: why should those parts of UK have their own laws and parliaments but not the Muslim population?)

According to Pew, Western Europeans have a less negative view of Muslims than Eastern Europeans, with only a third of the population having an unfavourable view of Muslims in their country. This may be surprising, given the fact that Muslim terrorists have murdered citizens in Western Europe on a regular basis over the last few years.  However, Western Europeans bend over backwards to try to explain away Islamic terrorism for two reasons. First, deciding that you don’t like a population that large is not practical, and there is a niggling fear that criticising Islam might end up getting you killed.  Second, the West’s guilt over colonialism and the Holocaust means that it is incapable of restricting Islam as it is frightened of being seen to be intolerant, despite the fact that Islam advocates policies that are intolerant towards large parts of Western society.

As a result, it is likely that Muslims will continue to be accommodated by Western Europe. Muslims are culturally very conservative and represent values that would not be out of place in Europe in the 1600s and 1700s. But there are a sizeable minority of European social conservatives who share some of Muslims’ view on issues such as women’s rights and the legality of homosexuality and transgenderism.  This is not surprising as the common origin of the two religions means that there is a large overlap between Christian and Islamic beliefs.

However, it is also possible to imagine the West having a moderating effect on Islam.  One of the ways that Islam perpetuates itself in the Muslim world is by banning apostasy. If you are automatically Muslim by birth and you can’t leave the religion it is impossible for the official number of practicing Muslims to decline.  But apostasy is not illegal in the West and many Muslims do abandon Islam, even though it is very difficult to do so socially.  At some point Muslims might start to investigate Islam critically, which could result in a re-appraisal of Islam similar to the Reformation kicked off by Martin Luther.

In addition, by banning immigration based on marriages or family reunions, Muslims would be more likely to marry other European Muslims, rather than marrying conservative migrants from their home countries.  With both parents European born it is likely that they will be more assimilated into the dominant European secular culture. Another way of moderating Islam would be to ban foreign imans and to restrict funding of mosques and Islamic schools by foreigners, such as the Saudis, who promote Salafism, a particularly intolerant variant of Islam.

Finally, more could be done to promote the integration of Muslims into the wider European story.  Most Muslims in Europe are not Arabs.  They share a long history and are arguably just as European as other peoples on the northern side of the Mediterranean basin.  They just adhere to a different variant of Jewish inspired monotheism.  Prior to the Arab invasions of the mid 600s North Africa was a core part of the Carthaginian, Greek and Roman world.  The province of Africa, now Tunisia, supplied most of Rome’s food until Egypt became a province under Emperor Augustus and performed the same role.  The history with Turkey is also a long one and recent DNA studies show that at least 38% of the current population of Turkey is European, despite the fact that between 1914 and 1923 Turkey killed or expelled a large chunk of its European Greek population, who had lived along the Aegean Sea for over 4,000 years.  Even poor Syria, wrecked by civil war, features strongly in Western culture.  It was the home of the Phoenicians who, via Greece and Rome, gave us their phonetic alphabet and was part of the Hellenistic and Roman world for nearly 1000 years.

Conclusion – so what is going to happen? 

The fundamental question for the West is whether it will be able to restrict or secularise Islam before its Muslim population Islamises Europe.

Based on the repeated examples of the effectiveness of minority influence, History Future Now predicts that Islam will win this struggle.  This is unfortunate for secular society and for freedom.

The pre-Christian Roman Empire was too pluralistic and too tolerant to deal with Christianity. It simply was not able to coordinate an effective response to a monotheistic group that patiently grew more powerful based on a single, unifying, idea.

Modern Europe is arguably more fragmented and confused. Politically it is split into 27 nation states with political parties ranging from the far left to the far right. The virulent tolerance required by identity politics is splitting European society into smaller and weaker groups with men against women, straight against everyone else, whites versus non whites. In the meantime, the monotheistic Muslim population, whilst not homogenous, gets bigger and more powerful every year.

God moves in mysterious ways.


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  • Paul Sutliff

    To state that polytheism was tolerant ignores much of history! The persecution of the Jews, the persecution of the Christians didn’t happen then? Sorry this writer lost all credibility with me from the start!

    • Tristanfischer

      You pick two good examples and they both are linked to the difference between monotheism and polytheism. The Romans were accepting of all religions and all religions were accepting of each other in the Roman world. The key clash point was when monotheism encountered polytheism. By the 100s AD Roman Emperors had elevated themselves to semi-divine or actually divine status (arguably this period could start with Augustus). As part of a desire for more personal control over the empire they began to require citizens to offer prayers to the emperor as a form of loyalty statement. All Romans were happy to do this – as it did not infringe on their beliefs. The equivalent today would be something like swearing allegiance to the flag. The major exception were the Christians, who refused to do this as it infringed on their monotheistic belief. For the Romans this was an issue as it suggested that Christians were refusing to acknowledge the power and authority of the Emperor – this was treasonous. As a result for periods of time Christians were persecuted by the Romans. The persecution of the Jews was linked but had a different driver- they refused to accept Roman authority entirely and were seen as rebellious. Their punishment was for the entire population to be deported from their homeland and they were dispersed throughout the Roman world (which helped with the establishment of Christianity later on).

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