In defence of a Muslim takeover
Or, why we should welcome the extinction of the West
“The social role … of the critic: alert, forceful, undogmatic, ironic, unafraid of orthodoxies and dogmas, respectful of settled uncoercive community, anarchic in his sense of the range of alternatives to the status quo.” — Edward Said
In 2004 Bernard Lewis, the infamous Orientalist and go-to Middle East expert of American empire, casually told the German newspaper Die Welt, “Europe will be Islamic by the end of this century at the very latest.” Uttered rather matter-of-factly, the comment sent immediate shock waves across a Europe and North America already steeped with anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments. As the last 10 years have made painstakingly evident, imperial interventions in the Middle East and Pakistan have relied heavily on the conflation of the figure of the Muslim, the immigrant/outsider, and the terrorist within mainstream discourse. It is within this context that many have begun raising alarm over the looming demographic threat posed by domestic Muslim population growth. For Lewis and a slew of other writers, such changes offer a stark warning: The Muslims Are Taking Over (and you should be scared)!
As British writer Matthew Carr has pointed out, the threat of civilizational collapse at the hands of Muslims has deep ideological roots in Europe that trace back to the Crusades. But its contemporary manifestation was given a global brand when Egyptian-Jewish writer Giselle Littmann, writing from Switzerland under the pseudonym Bat Ye’or, coined the catchy neologism “Eurabia” in her 2005 publication of a book by the same name. Ye’or is best known as the revisionist historian of abuses suffered by Christian and Jewish populations living under Islamic rule, and her writing has been characterized by “a vitriolic loathing” for Islam matched only by self-styled Canadian Muslim reformer Irshad Manji (in whose 2004 text The Trouble With Islam Ye’or is, unsurprisingly, the favoured footnote).
No fan of nuance (has anyone even used the term “Arabia” since Aladdin?), Ye’or defines the idea of Eurabia as a political project that was precipitated by the opening of Europe to increased Muslim immigration and co-operation with Arab states in a move to strengthen European power against America. This enabled Muslims to establish bases for jihad across Europe’s urban centres, which inaugurated the subjugation of Europe to the agenda of Eurabia. Lest the political loyalties of her argument be unclear, Ye’or’s primary proof for her theory is the spread of anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism (what she crudely labels “Palestinianism, a hate cult against Israel”) across Europe.
British journalist Johann Hari has aptly described Ye’or’s ideas as “a 21st-century Protocols of the Elders of Mecca,” referencing the notorious anti-Semitic text “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” that describes a Jewish plot for world domination and was widely distributed in Nazi Germany and elsewhere in the early 20th century. In fact, the fear of Eurabia is only one example of the numerous parallels between contemporary Islamophobia and historic anti-Semitism. In Eurabia’s hysterics against Muslim immigration, one might recall the infamous sentiment of the Canadian immigration official asked in 1945 how many Jews would be given refuge in Canada following the war: “None,” he replied, “is too many.”
YE’OR’s IDEAS have spread quickly in a political climate with an immense appetite for the Islamophobic, and although Eurabia’s criers include the list of usual neo-conservative suspects (Niall Ferguson, Robert Spencer, David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes), Carr has noted that “what began as an outlandish conspiracy theory has … moved ever closer towards mainstream respectability.” In January 2006, Canadian columnist Mark Steyn published an editorial in The Wall Street Journal entitled “The Century Ahead: It’s the Demography, Stupid.” The subtitle, “The real reason the West is in danger of extinction,” was echoed in Steyn’s Maclean’s piece “The future belongs to Islam,” excerpted from his book America Alone and published in October of the same year.
Once a renowned theatre critic at progressive British newspaper The Independent, Steyn is the commentator now infamous for adamantly defending Conrad Black, occasionally filling in for conservative shock jock Rush Limbaugh, and defeating a complaint at the Ontario Human Rights Commission filed against him by the Canadian Islamic Congress for the Maclean’s piece in question. With the piece, Steyn introduced Eurabia into popular Canadian discourse. In a predictable yet shocking diatribe, Steyn bemoans “the self-extinction of the races who, for good or ill, shaped the modern world” at the hands of Muslims, both “the fastest-breeding group on the planet” and the population most “at odds with the modern world.”
Although taking Europe as his example, Steyn’s arguments of demographic decline, the unsustainability of the “lavish” social democratic welfare state, and a sense of ennui in the West brought on by too much liberalism, constantly reference North America. It is clear that we too should be worried, for Eurabia is also on our horizon. In the popular tradition of the American right wing, Steyn’s shock-and-awe rhetorical style proudly celebrates colonization, dismisses Africa as AIDS-ridden and tribal, suggests abortion and gay sex are destroying the West, and even offers thinly veiled calls for genocide, as in a discussion of Bosnia where he proposes, “In a democratic age, you can’t buck demography – except through civil war. The Serbs figured that out, as other Continentals will in the years ahead: if you cannot outbreed the enemy, cull ’em.”
Steyn’s writing is so grossly racist that even a mildly liberal audience will surely gasp in horror at its claims. But the fact that his words are repeatedly disseminated in mainstream media is not solely a result of the media’s own moral bankruptcy. In an age of unprecedented global migration, an obsessive anxiety over the alleged problem of demographics has become commonplace.
In January of this year, The Economist published an editorial that opened with the line, “Are Muslims taking over the world, or at a minimum, transforming Europe into Eurabia?” The piece focuses on a recent report of centrist Washington think tank the Pew Research Center that predicts the world’s Muslim population will rise by 35 per cent in the next two decades – twice the rate of the non-Muslim world. Although the Pew report describes itself as “demographic but not political”, it is difficult to decontextualize the findings from the political landscape that accompanies the figure of the Muslim today. The report concludes that European and North American countries will see the largest slice of this projected global increase, predicting the number of Muslims will skyrocket from 2.6 million to 6.2 million in America and from 940,000 to 2.7 million in Canada by 2030.
As The Economist’s immediate citation of Eurabia makes clear, something greater is at stake in these projections than simply statistics. When the international community has aligned itself in a war against an abstraction they call terror, when the language of global violence and destruction has become the exclusive purview of Islamic fundamentalists (and never the secular liberal state), and when the widespread targeting of Muslims has become commonsensical everywhere from national polls to extralegal prisons, it is difficult to consider the prediction that there will soon be millions more Muslims in the West an entirely apolitical one.
THE NOTION of Eurabia and impending demographic apocalypse has not gone unchallenged. Many have pointed out the statistical flaws in the evidence, and successfully debunked the notion that Muslims (lest it need repeating, an exhaustively diverse population stretching across large chunks of the globe) can be attributed unique reproductive patterns or a growth rate based on religious identity as opposed to more pertinent socio-economic factors. In a response to Steyn in The Globe and Mail, Doug Saunders debunks the myth of Eurabia based on alternative numbers, only to undercut his own argument with the comment, “I agree with Mr. Steyn on one point: Islamic faith is bad for people.” French historian Justin Vaïsse additionally notes that the Muslim population in Europe is often keen to integrate into broader social norms, and “current tensions are part of a normal and democratic process of adjustment.”
Yet beyond the intricacies of how many Muslims are moving where and how often they go to mosque or have premarital sex, it is contextualizing these claims that offers the clearest picture. The myth of Eurabia is only the latest iteration of a long history of xenophobia emanating from “Western civilization.”
As many have argued, the construction of the modern state has always been based on the paradox between the need for immigration – first for the settlement of stolen land (in the North American context) and then as exploitable labour power – and the desire to maintain a purity of national character in the face of difference. Too few immigrants, and the human resources required to uphold industrialized capitalism are at risk; too many, and the hegemonic whiteness of the state is compromised.
From the treatment of Indigenous populations to slavery through to the immigration restrictions of today, governments have enacted a range of policies seeking to exclude undesirables, to prevent certain bodies from marrying and reproducing, deny equal legal rights, institute temporary work programs, selectively choose elite immigrants, and so on. Throughout this process, the threat of an immigrant invasion or internal demographic explosion has been held up as a way to demand citizen allegiance to the state. “They’ll take our jobs, drain our welfare systems, corrupt our gene pools!”, we are told. With Eurabia, the most recent paranoia of the powers that be, we are reminded that fear is the best tool of repression, and that the state will always find a new population to mark as the latest source of threat. It is the role of the left to recognize and name these patterns, and to refuse to accept any logic that constructs hierarchies of human worth, even as we struggle to grapple with new forms of difference around us.
AND YET, some things have changed. Canadian electoral politics of late have been marked by scandals surrounding the highly courted “ethnic vote” – an insulting and insidious phrase that was nonetheless unheard of 10 years ago. I remember the first time an electoral candidate showed up at my mosque in Richmond, B.C. The speech was exceptionally boring, but we all giggled at the nervous man mispronouncing the appropriately courteous Arabic greeting. A few elections later, the mosque even hosted a candidates’ debate for the riding. As the parties vied for this precious community endorsement, I realized that both of us – first-generation immigrant families and long-standing WASP Canadian politicians – likely had a remarkably new understanding of our role in these proceedings, and our strange interconnectedness in the electoral games of multicultural democracy.
Demographic statistics do reveal a certain truth. In the past decade, Canada has seen the internal makeup of its population shift significantly, as all of us who have childhood memories in the country can attest to. When I was in Grade 3, I would lock myself in the bathroom and sob after my hennaed hands were described as diseased by my classmates; by Grade 12, everyone was asking me to apply this ornate form of Indian tattoo at their parties. And never did I expect that in my mid-20s every major newspaper would be full of stories about arranged marriages and detailed expositions of the latest initiative undertaken by the local Muslim school.
These changes may appear trivial, and we know the structural racism of the state only looks better when dressed in ethnic accessories. Certainly the Harper/Kenney duo encapsulates the most vulgar form of legislated discrimination directly alongside such cultural outreach. But it is worth reflecting on how the demographic changes that have occurred may be shifting discourses of xenophobia in the tense arena of what constitutes national identity in a multicultural state.
IN HIS Maclean’s article, Steyn writes, “the modern multicultural state is too watery a concept to bind huge numbers of immigrants to the land of their nominal citizenship … The Western Muslim’s pan-Islamic identity is merely the first great cause in a world where globalized pathologies are taking the place of old-school nationalism.” A June 2006 Economist piece on Muslim immigrants in Europe similarly notes, “It does not help that all Europeans, whatever their origin, nowadays find themselves ‘identity-shopping’ as the European Union competes with older nation-states for their loyalty. No wonder … worldwide Islam tugs hardest at their heart-strings.”
I am struck by a certain change that appears to be happening here: whereas we were once told that immigrants would corrupt national identity and take advantage of all it has to offer – those provisions of social welfare, women’s rights, or queer rights that, it is worth noting, were all won only through struggles against the very powers that now use them to delineate the boundaries of the civilized – we are now told that our embracing of difference has diluted anything that could be considered definitively “national.” Where the nation could once be imagined as a certain sort of community – sharing a language, a favourite pastime, a cultural repertoire, a cuisine, a racialized identity – we are now faced with a crisis that may be less about civilizational clash than civilizational diffusion. And perhaps this is precisely the moment of possibility that we need.
IN A BEAUTIFUL statement that appeared on leftist Indian blog Kafila this past May Day, author Aditya Nigam writes, “Let us, we who have no nation – antinationals, postnationals, aliens, refugees, immigrants, undocumented workers, development refugees – sing the strains of the Internationale. Let us recall the days when the poetry of the Internationale truly belonged to the ‘wretched of the earth.’” As immigration continues and demographic trends rise and fall, it is clear to everyone involved that the rich, industrialized nations of the Western world will continue to see their populations diversify. What will bind the nation together in face of increasing difference, the alarmists ask? And what if nothing will? While we suffer no illusions about the power of the state over those who reside within its borders, what if a nation diffused into difference offers us an opportunity to forge new affiliative ties; political solidarities that begin precisely as “we who have no nation”? Might this afford us the possibility of a left not wrapped up in the logic of liberal democracy and free-market capitalism? We must, as Said says, be respectful of uncoercive communities – even as we sometimes struggle in opposition to their voices – and yet, anarchic in our capacity to imagine. So open the borders, let the Muslims have babies, and let us see where a radical future lies.
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“…the threat of civilizational collapse at the hands of Muslims has deep ideological roots in Europe that trace back to the Crusades.”
Actually, it’s roots took hold during the Muslim conquests of large parts of Europe at dates earlier than the crusades.
“Steyn’s writing is so grossly racist that even a mildly liberal audience will surely gasp in horror at its claims.”
Islam is a race? Cat Stevens, Muhammed Ali, and Edward Said will be so surprised they belong to the same race! Conflating Islamoskepticism with racism can only lead to the equally idiotic claim that believing the earth to be round is racism against members of the Flat Earth Society.
From PaulinAB in edmonton, alberta on Jul 10th, 2011 at 5:56pm
Regarding your imagining Mark Steyn’s writings to be racist: He is not racist; he is, if anything, “culturist” and, in particular, “religionist.” Thus his critique of Islam and muslims does not embrace you on account of your race, but merely because of your residual sympathies.
From Kralizec in Bitter End on Jul 10th, 2011 at 9:40pm
Unmitigated insanity. I had to push through that drivel all the way to the last paragraph to see your defense. I can certainly understand why the left loves political Islam. It’s abhorrence of individual freedoms and market economics are something they share with totalitarian oriented Islam. What’s strange though is the inability to realize that when the Caliphate is in place their days of political organization & activism will be over, the days of same-sex & women’s equality will be over, and the ability to run a publication like this will be over. In some sense, I suspect the left understands this and maybe they just think they’ll be the preferred apparatchik class, or, maybe it’s worth it all to feel the firm yoke of totalitarian rule.
From Stephen M. Wynne in Columbus, Oh on Jul 11th, 2011 at 9:11am
Whoa, hey, you lost me there Sumayya. Your title promises to defend a Muslim takeover of the West, but in the text you say that Westerners who think Muslims are taking over are wrong. But then you end with a call to “open the borders, let the Muslims have babies, and let us see where a radical future lies”, so you seem to say that if Muslims are not taking over yet, we should help them do so soon. So the Westerners who foresee a Muslim takeover are right after all? Or if they are not right, we should help make them right?
You confuse me. Are Lewis, Ye’or, Manji, Steyn, et al. right or wrong? It sounds like you think they are right. Your title and subtitle certainly suggest this. If you all agree, then what is your complaint? That you don’t want them to be mean about it?
Your title also suggests that we should welcome a Muslim takeover. But I didn’t see anything in the article that explains the “why” of the title. Why is Islam better than what came before? I’m open minded. I’m willing to listen. Why did you not say anything about this after promising it in the title? About the closest you get is writing “[i]t is the role of the left … to refuse to accept any logic that constructs hierarchies of human worth”. But now I’m really confused. Are you defending a Muslim takeover or a leftist takeover? If both, then how do you reconcile the contradictions between Islam and the left?
Anyway, it appears you can write. I just wish you had something to say.
From Molly Brazen on Jul 11th, 2011 at 2:10pm
Do you have anything to say about Islamic imperialism, slavery, exploitation of labour, elitism, discrimination, militarism or any other evils you elucidate in the West, or does none of this tKe place in Muslim parts Of the world?I would like you to cast an equally critical eye on those societies if you don’t mind and see if you come up with anything.
From Clive Lewis in Eurabia on Jul 15th, 2011 at 12:40am
This piece of info is very useful for me, thank you!
From David Watch in United States on Jul 19th, 2011 at 12:01am
When will those who claim to detest racism be held accountable as hypocrites for their blind hatred of “the west”?
Imagine if a white North American male had written “In Defence of an American/Christian Takeover- or, Why We Should Welcome the Extinction of Palestine/Iran/Pakistan etc.” The author would find himself in court for hate speech.
Kassamali has no excuse for the ignorance in this story. Yes, intelligent people know Islam encompasses a wide range of philosophies. Intelligent people also know that these can include sharia law, child marriage, genital mutilation, and terrorism. These are not racist, colonialist, imperialist accusations. They are a sick reality for millions of innocent people that Kassamali doesn’t give a rat’s arse about.
Why would she attack Irshad Manji, who risks her life to call Muslims and westerners alike to moral courage, so that these dark aspects of faith and culture can be abolished? Do we not call on western cultures to abolish their abuses and oppressions also?
The author calls Bat Ye’or a revisionist, but ignores, denies, or omits history entirely. She calls North America “stolen land” but neglects to mention the rest of the stolen land- most of the world. No mention of the millions of slaughtered through Muslim imperialism. One need only look at a map to see that the sword of Islam marched far and wide. No mention of the beheaded, disemboweled Armenians and the denial of modern Muslim Turks that this took place. No mention of the Pandits – never heard of them? There were more displaced Pandits alone than Palestinians. No mention of modern day Philippines, where Islamists have declared they will continue killing until the land is theirs. There are more Catholics dead in this war of which no one has ever heard, and more refugees, than there were during the Palestinian nakba.
No mention of racism or apartheid is honest without mentioning the daily church burning and the burning alive of Christians in Nigeria, Egypt, and Ethiopia; or the fact that Ahmadinejad and the charter of Hamas call for genocide of Jews. Kassamali spits at writers honest enough to refer to Africa’s tribal and health problems; she forgets to say that Muslim warlords in Somalia have starved hundreds of thousands of innocents, to name one example.She loathes anything that hints of slavery- yet conveniently fails to mention the epidemic of modern slavery in Sudan and Mauritania, where Muslims enslave millions of black Christians and animists. They castrate them, too. These are not consequences lingering from “the west” since Arabs and blacks were involved in trading African flesh for a millennium or more before us. We got the idea from them! Indeed, Muslims enslaved at least a million white Europeans before any blacks were shipped to Europe or the Caribbean.
Kassamali compares Bat Ye’or and other critics of Muslim atrocities to anti-Semitism and mentions the Protocols of the Elders of Zion that “was widely distributed in Nazi Germany and elsewhere in the early 20th century.” She neglects to say this document is currently a best seller- in Arabic. She forgets to say that millions of Muslim spiritual leaders and presidents take it seriously and teach it as truth. She forgets to add that the Arabic translation of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler is a current bestseller in Palestine and widely distributed in the Muslim world.
The terrible irony here is that Briarpatch mixes up the concept of freedom of speech with freedom to make shit up. The magazine’s mantra states that, “Believing that a truly free press is essential to the creation of a truly democratic society, Briarpatch provides a thoughtful, principled, and irreverent alternative to the false consensus of the corporate media.” Meaning this means mentioning whenever articles mention the Muslim world that there is no free press there, corporate or otherwise. Journalists in Syria, Libya and Egypt have recently been raped and tortured; the disappearance and torture of journalists in Palestine is barely worth mentioning it is so commonplace. Criticizing religion or politicians or revealing human rights abuses lands thousands of Iranians in jail. Kassamali and Zink would both be put away forever in some countries just because they are women who think they have the right to write.
The so called alternative press is addicted to this type of writing- writing that purports to rail against oppression but actually lies and omits and distorts to make sure it continues. What abject racism to think people of other cultures should not be scrutinized for their sins- as if only white western free marketers are capable of repentance and change.
Lorette C. Luzajic“fiercely independent”
From Lorette C. Luzajic in Toronto on Aug 30th, 2011 at 7:56am
Stephen M. Wynne: “unmitigated insanity” is what I would call your feverish imaginings about what the left “really” thinks about Islam. Here’s a novel idea: try talking to us about the topic sometime! Also, if you bothered to read the other comments (instead of furiously pounding out your ill-considered screed) you’d notice we are not a hive mind on this topic; there is plenty of debate in leftist circles about what trajectory this cultural movement will follow, and what (if anything) should be done about it. But it appears you are only interested in being angry.
Speaking only for myself, I cannot abide religion in any form. It is dangerously irrational, a hodge-podge of wishful thinking and subconscious fears codified into arbitrary rules for enforcing social cohesion (it’s no accident that religions prize obedience and reinforce a top-down social order). I think that Islam in its current form tends to be more oppressive and more poisonous to human rights, but that seems to be more about socioeconomic patterns than anything else; I fully believe that if the West was full of developing nations with no strong middle class that we would be just as bad. Ultimately we must tear down all blind faith, whether it be in an invisible creator or the invisible hand of the free market. I hope that our species will begin to see the world as it is – otherwise our chances of survival are slim.
From Deb F. Hinkel on Sep 8th, 2011 at 10:41pm
Racism is not good, anyone can do whatever they want in their own country, practice their religion and live the way they wanted. But when Muslims immigrate to other countries such as Europe and North America, they have to respect the culture and the rules of those countries. Muslim should integrate and build their lives in the new countries, for more information please visit
From Mark Kasbo on Sep 21st, 2011 at 3:54pm