Dr Koenraad Elst, one of Belgium’s best orientalists and an occasional contributor to this website (if I had time I would translate more of his Dutch-language contributions into English), told me last week that he thinks “Islam is in decline, despite its impressive demographic and military surge” – which according to Dr Elst is merely a “last
upheaval.” He acknowledges, however, that this decline can take some time (at least in terms of the individual human life span) and that it is possible that Islam will succeed in becoming the majority religion in Europe before collapsing.
I am not a specialist of Islam. Hence, I do not know what to think of this analysis. Perhaps it can be argued that Islam is in agony, and that this is precisely the reason why Muslims reacted so sensitively to twelve, mostly inoffensive, Danish cartoons earlier this year and why they respond in a fury beyond all reason to the words of a 14th century Byzantine Emperor quoted last week by Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope emphasized that he did not approve of the quote, but the reactions of Muslims to the Emperor’s words “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman,” only lends credibility to what the Emperor said.
If a person is incapable of tolerating criticism, including mild criticism, and especially if he perceives criticism where there is none, this is often a sign of this person’s deep psychological insecurity. Rude aggression and wild rage, too, are usually not the normal behaviour of a self-confident person, but rather of someone who knows that he will lose an argument unless he can bully others into silence. Last Sunday, Catholics going to Holy Mass in London’s Westminster Cathedral were confronted by Christophobic Muslims, carrying hate posters such as “Pope go to hell,” “Benedict watch your back,” “May Allah curse the Pope,” “Jesus is the slave of Allah, “Islam will conquer Rome,” and the like. An English blogger has some photos here. What must one make of these Muslim protestors? Do they look like self-assured people?
It looks as if Muslims cannot cope with an open society and the modern globalized world. Should we interpret their aggression – the result of their inability to cope with the world – as a token of strenght, or rather as a sign of inherent weakness – a sign, as Dr Elst says, that the decline of Islam has visibly begun?
Last weekend a 24-year old Moroccan woman was assaulted in Antwerp by a group of male Moroccan youths. They began by reproaching her for not wearing a headscarf. When she answered back, they beat her up. When the police intervened to protect the woman the officers were attacked by about thirty youths hurling stones. Fortunately, the officers were able to relieve the brave woman and escort her to hospital. She has meanwhile been discharged from hospital, though one dreads to think what may await her when she returns to her own community.
“We have no figures, but we notice that there are more and more incidents of verbal abuse towards Muslim women by male immigrants who cannot stomach that they do not wear the veil,” says Sven Lommaert of the Antwerp police, in one of today’s papers: “Often the abuse is limited to insults, but sometimes the women are attacked.”
However, Dominique Reyniers, the spokeswoman of the Antwerp judiciary said: “If violence is used a complaint is sometimes lodged. Verbal abuse, however, is obviously not a crime. Hence, we cannot say that there is a rise in this kind of incidents.” Ms Reyniers is saying that intimidating and bullying people is not a crime, unless one beats them up. If Dr Elst is right, and the intimidation of adversaries by the islamists is a proof of Islam’s inherent weakness, the refusal of the West to stand up to the bullies and to defend and protect their victims is proof of an even greater weakness.
I am inclined to suspect that the intolerance of radical Muslims, even if directed against the ‘enemy’ in the West, such as Danish cartoonists and the Pope, is primarily intended to intimidate and terrorize people who grew up in Muslim societies and families, in order to prevent their apostasy. It is intended to show the latter that they need not hope for any support from the West, i.e. from authorities such as those represented by Ms Reyniers.
Perhaps, as Dr Elst fears, Islam in its stage of decline might, by the mid-21st century, succeed in conquering Europe and becoming the old continent’s dominant religion. In this knowledge one slogan of last Sunday’s Islamic hatemongerers in London may be more than just hate speech: “Islam will conquer Rome” may be prophetic. Here, however, we ourselves are to blame, because Islamists will not find it difficult to conquer Europe. Christianity in Western Europe has virtually ceased to exist. The spirit of secular relativism that originated from the French Enlightenment has persuaded Europe (including Europe’s churches) to commit a protracted, two centuries long suicide, the symptoms of which were visible in Communism, National-Socialism and moral relativism in general.
Man is a religious being and needs religious faith. If European Christianity had still been healthy today it would have proselytized, it would have reached out with missionary zeal to the millions of Muslims who migrated to Western Europe since the 1970s, it would have offered them Christ. Instead, it’s churches became bastions of religious relativism. Europe offered the newcomers only cultural decadence, from which decent people want to shield their children, and spiritual emptiness, which one can only despise.
The Europeans, who lost the missionary zeal to reach out to the immigrants, also lacked the zeal to pass on their own civilization to their offspring. Worse still, they lacked the zeal to have offspring. Since demographics is the mother of all politics, it is, barring a miracle, certain that Islam will become the old continent’s dominant religion.
Unless Europe rediscovers its will to survive – and it may already be too late (though as a Christian I do not exclude miracles) – soon furious Islamists may be holding sway over Europe in much the same way as the Taliban did over Afghanistan, removing all visible remnants of pre-Islamic culture. The Cathedrals of Europe may share the fate of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Christian works of art may be destroyed. Surely, a faith that forbids the depiction of human figures will be offended by the Christian art of medieval Europe and the nudes of the Renaissance. Perhaps it is wise to seriously consider salvaging as many European cultural treasures as one already can, before it is too late, and bringing them to safety elsewhere.