Douglas Murray, The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam. Bloomsbury, 2017, 343 pp.
Douglas Murray, well-known writer, journalist, and pundit and associate editor of The Spectator, takes his readers on a journey through Europe—from his native Britain through France, Germany, Sweden, Greece, and Italy. His detailed travelogue describes and analyzes the effects of both the incremental increase of mainly Muslim immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, and countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan over several decades and the unprecedented, recent massive wave of immigration since 2015. The ongoing transformation of European cities, and in some cases even the countryside, by the presence of new population groups leads him to assert that “Europe is committing suicide. Or at least its leaders have decided to commit suicide” (1).
This sea change that has taken place has brought with it many difficulties and challenges—the major one being the replacement of the local populations with the new immigrant groups, many of which do not appear to have minimal inclination or desire to integrate into the surrounding society and culture and absorb democratic norms and behavior. According to Murray, the population of the neighborhoods and refugee shelters consists mainly of unmarried and unskilled Muslim young men who maintain the attitudes of their homelands, such as intolerance of those who disagree with them on political and religious issues, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and prejudice against homosexuals. In addition to this recent influx of immigrants are the many Muslim families who settled throughout Western Europe before 2015 and remain almost solely within their own cultural sphere. Their birthrates are significantly higher than those of the native Europeans who do not reproduce themselves. Many immigrants are unskilled, are not gainfully employed, and receive welfare benefits from the state. A growing number engage in criminal activities, including the abuse of women and girls; they are well represented in prisons. Others turn to radical Islamist organizations and become terrorists.
The Strange Death of Europe eloquently describes a variety of locations and presents a plethora of statistics and figures. Murray also includes interviews with native Europeans of differing views on immigration, including politicians, intellectuals, and ordinary citizens. Some prefer to remain anonymous out of fear of political correctness or threats of violence. He also interviews immigrants in refugee camps in Greece and Italy and in shelters in large cities in France, the United Kingdom, and Germany, and often is sympathetic toward them. He also points out the tensions between the different groups of immigrants. The juxtaposition of interviews, statistics, and summaries of books and studies makes the book readable and informative. Murray is a talented and fine writer.
The book clearly depicts the ongoing crisis caused by this mass migration and its origins—namely, the fact that the intellectual, media, and political elites encouraged this influx of a population and that its immigration was not a decision voted on democratically by the peoples of the European states but rather an unpopular position taken by their leaders with the approval and backing of the European Union. The resentment of Europeans has resulted in the rise and increase of populist and nativist movements and political parties on the one hand, and various attempts to persuade the people to accept the recent arrivals on the other. Murray cogently demolishes the arguments of the elites and the governing class as unconvincing and disingenuous. They include: the need for a replenishment of the workforce in light of a declining native population; the necessity of supporting the growing retirement benefits for an aging population and maintaining the welfare state; and the virtues of multiculturalism and diversity. For example, he points out that most of the immigrants from Third World countries are unskilled and lack a work ethic; the cost of their upkeep and absorption is high—reducing the entitlements of native populations; immigrants get older and will require government benefits; and multiculturalism is a fraud, particularly in the case of Muslims, many of whom reject European culture. He asserts that while Europeans are asked by schools, governments, institutions, and churches to act in an “inclusive” manner toward Arabs and Africans, the latter are not required to understand and integrate into the societies where they have settled. This lopsided paradigm exists throughout Western Europe and is manifest in the reign of political correctness, which prevents anyone from expressing even the slightest criticism of the mores of the immigrant populations. Questioners, skeptics, and critics of all stripes are threatened by the fear of being branded as racists, Islamophobes, and fascists and subject to being fired from their jobs, particularly in government, academia, and the media. Murray gives the example of the decade’s delay in arresting the grooming gangs in the United Kingdom. He also notes the role of the political and cultural left in fostering the groupthink that closes minds and mouths and restricts free speech. The sufferers also include articulate Muslim observers of the flaws of their own societies.
If this is the case, why is Europe replacing its population and committing suicide through mass migration? According to the author, there are two major reasons: guilt and tiredness. West European leaders feel guilty for the colonialism of the past with its overtones of white supremacy and its economic exploitation of African and Asian populations. In the case of Germany, Nazism and the Holocaust play an important role as well. Hence the compensation by welcoming and coddling nonwhite, brown- or black-skinned migrants from the Third World as expiation for the sins of the 19th and 20th centuries. These immigrants cannot be accused of any wrongdoing even if they commit crimes of terrorism, rape, or murder. Murray notes the astonishing case of a young woman raped by a recently arrived migrant who regretted his arrest because it would harm the effort to welcome refugees.
The anticolonialist mindset also influences the attitude toward the United States, Australia, and Israel, which are viewed as countries created by displacing and oppressing native populations and therefore subject to disapproval and hatred on the part of European elites—even in Sweden, which does not have a colonial past. Murray contends that the particular hostility toward Israel is partly due to the fact that it is perceived as the most recently created country whose founders were Europeans who expelled a native population. This position, which is part of a “progressive” worldview, is worthy of consideration by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Moreover, the fact that Arab governments expelled Jews from countries where they had lived for more than a millennium prior to the Arab-Muslim invasions of the seventh century CE is accorded no significance at all. Indeed, history and facts are not important, only the façade of guilt and virtue-signaling that end up justifying acts of terror, or reconciling oneself to their occurrence.
Murray also focuses on the European condition of tiredness—a malaise, a cultural ennui, a general feeling that the European story is over. He describes the sociohistorical reasons for this: disappointment with the totalitarianism, wars, and colonialism of the previous century; the failure of Marxism; liberty, prosperity, and the welfare state; the weakening of the nation-state and national identity; and, most important, the abandonment of Christianity, which provided the underpinnings of the European Enlightenment and secular culture. There is a lack of hope and faith in the future that stems from a crisis of Europe’s identity. This is particularly disconcerting because of its timing. Immigrants from a strong, assertive ideological and religious milieu are, in a massive influx, entering societies with wavering and uncertain identities and with a weariness and wariness about their present and their future. In essence, such waffling identity cannot serve as a magnet for integration. The lack of confidence cannot attract the migrants who adhere to their own group identity, however problematic. In fact, their strong presence attracts some native Europeans. Of particular interest is Murray’s discussion of conversions to Islam and the works of the French author Michel Houellebecq, especially his novel Soumission (Submission) whose protagonist no longer finds his moorings in Christianity and becomes a Muslim when France has a Muslim prime minister and the universities are taken over by Muslims, many of whom are converts owing to the dominance and ascendance of Islam. The proverbial strong horse has triumphed.
While all this may apply in Western Europe, Murray points out that East European countries, formerly under Soviet domination and influence, differ. They are antimigrant and assert their Christianity and national history and identity. He notes Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland, which have defied the dictates of the European Union and of Germany. Their emergence from a half-century experience of Soviet rule and their historical encounters with Islam have made them more confident than the West. While Murray devotes some attention to the East Europeans, they are not the main focus of his study.
The book also discusses the predicament of the Jews of Europe in light of the influx of Arab and other Muslim immigrants. These immigrants’ anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli sentiments and indoctrination, brought from their native lands, have found expression in physical violence (even murder) against Jewish persons and institutions. The latter are heavily guarded, as is apparent in any visit to a Jewish event, museum, or synagogue. Jews frequently avoid wearing Stars of David or skullcaps. Jewish pupils are attacked in schools. Even Holocaust memorial gatherings are not free from harm. Ironically, politicians have invoked the memory of the Holocaust and the Jewish refugees as grounds for welcoming today’s migrants. Under siege and marginalized and without sufficient protection, many Jews choose to leave Europe, often for Israel. The European attitude toward Israel has affected its Jews, who are blamed for Israel’s actions and targeted by the Muslim immigrants. While Murray notes that the increasing number of Muslim citizens, voters, and politicians may affect the policies of European governments in the future when it comes to dispatching troops to Arab countries and the like, he does not point out that this has already taken place as far as Israel is concerned. Although European socialist and leftist parties and the European Union have been pro-Palestinian for several decades, the desire to appeal to Muslim constituencies will intensify anti-Israeli positions and the Jewish communities will find themselves even more marginalized. Despite this development, Murray believes that, unlike non-Jewish, native Europeans, the Jews have acquired the tools of survival as a minority over the centuries and their communities somehow will continue to exist. One cannot be certain of this.
The Strange Death of Europe is an important and timely, well-documented and well-written work. Murray challenges the reader to face reality in all its potential and actual unpleasantness. The book belongs to the recent genre of warnings about the lack of integration of the immigrants and the cravenness of the European elite in the face of the Islamic influx. The books by Bruce Bawer, Oriana Fallacci, and Pascal Bruckner, among others, which Murray cites, all appeared before 2015. It is unfortunate that Murray does not also mention the works of Melanie Phillips or Bat Ye’or, who also described the salient features and ominous effects of this phenomenon, and in the case of Bat Ye’or, its encouragement by Arab countries. Murray is not optimistic about the future of Europe. He presents two options: an almost futile, albeit essential, attempt to stem the tide and maintain individual liberty or complicity in the suicide of Europe.