LOS ANGELES–Another Academy Awards ceremony has come and gone. If you’re like me, you spent much of it on the edge of your seat, silently praying that none of the winning actors would launch into a noxious left-wing tirade, featuring such sagacious bromides as “War is Not the Answer” (to what?).
It’s a common perception that Hollywood is a liberal town, and rightly so. There are a few bold souls, however, who are willing to swim against the tide.
One of these starred in the film that won the most Oscars last Sunday night. He’s John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli in The Lord of the Rings (as well as Sallah in the Indiana Jones movies, in addition to many other roles). His comments over the past month or so regarding world affairs have ignited a firestorm of controversy in his home country of Great Britain.
Rather than taking up the banner of global warming, AIDS, world peace, or some other trendy cause, as most of his colleagues are prone to do, the Welsh-born actor has chosen as his particular hobbyhorse the growing demographic crisis in Europe.
He also regularly heaps praise on President George W. Bush and his war on terror, including the invasion of Iraq. “There are at least four or five [officials in the Bush administration] who could hold their own against the Founding Fathers,” he says. This is blasphemous speech in Europe and Hollywood alike.
In a recent interview at a European-style café near Hollywood’s Universal Studios, Rhys-Davies jokes about his candor, saying with a laugh that betrays a little nervousness, “Every time I open my mouth, I may be committing career suicide.”
But he does not hold back, flatly stating, “I think that radical Islam has declared war on the West.”
“It’s not a question of the decency of Muslims,” he says, many of whom he admires and respects. But “radical Islamist groups are controlling, manipulating, and forming the attitudes of Muslims throughout Europe,” he adds. And Rhys-Davies fears that, due to their demographic advantages, their culture may eventually swamp or supplant the indigenous cultures of Europe.
Europeans are having fewer and fewer children, while migrant populations, predominantly Muslim, are growing much faster. Most European fertility rates have dropped so much that they have declined below the break-even point, to the degree that populations are actually beginning to shrink.
If the current trend continues, Rhys-Davies says, “The population of Germany at the end of the century is going to be 56 percent of what it is now. The population of France will decline to about 52 percent.”
Meanwhile, Muslim immigrants are having babies at a much faster clip, so that in time, they may become the majority population throughout Europe.
“Last year, 56 percent of the babies born in Brussels were Muslim,” Rhys-Davies notes. “In a matter of 20-50 years, we are going to see two to three countries become predominately Muslim–Holland, France, and possibly Germany.”
This sort of talk, predictably enough, has provoked cries of “racism” from Muslim advocacy groups and left-wing critics back on his home turf. “We want an apology,” demanded Mohammed Javed, chairman of the Muslim Society for Wales. “This could stir up racial hatred in society. It’s ignorance, he should learn more about Islam…before he makes these comments.”
At the same time, the far-right British National party, a fringe white-supremacist group, has tried to co-opt Rhys-Davies’s message by reprinting some of his quotes on flyers they distributed at Lord of the Rings movie showings around the United Kingdom. Rhys-Davies strongly repudiated the BNP for their action; he belongs to the Conservative party, which has condemned the BNP as well.
“There is a demographic catastrophe happening in Europe that nobody wants to talk about, that we daren’t bring up because we are so cagey about not offending people racially. And rightly we should be. But there is a cultural [aspect] as well,” Rhys-Davies has said.
It is the culture of fundamentalist Islam that concerns Rhys-Davies the most. “When I look at contemporary Islam, I see homophobia, forced conversion, genital mutilation, slavery, two million people being put to death in the Sudan because of their religion.”
He also sees its hand in an ugly trend: “There is a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe unprecedented since the 1930s,” he laments.
In his view, “Fundamental Islamism is a particularly brutish and unpleasant form of fascism.” He fears that if it becomes the dominant culture in Europe, it will wipe out all that is good about Western culture.
“It’s easy to lose a civilization,” Rhys-Davies warns. “The values of Western civilization have brought so much good to the world: the notions of equality, democracy, tolerance, abolition of slavery.”
Rhys-Davies sees these same themes espoused in The Lord of the Rings, observing, “[J.R.R.] Tolkien knew that civilization is worth fighting for. There are times when a generation is challenged and must fight to defend their civilization from annihilation.”
Of course, others on the set didn’t see it the same way. Viggo Mortensen, who played Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, wore a “No Blood for Oil” T-shirt during a promotional interview for the movie on Charlie Rose’s PBS show.
Ironically, Mortensen’s character in the movies is a military leader. And many have drawn parallels between the conflict in The Lord of the Rings with the war on terror. With a twinkle in his eye, Rhys-Davies confides that a friend whispered to him while watching Mortensen in The Return of the King, “Does he realize he’s George Bush?”
Conservatives indeed are scarce in Hollywood. “You introduce a Republican to another in Hollywood, it’s like a meeting between two Christians in Caligula’s Rome,” he observes.
Rhys-Davies does not appreciate the images of President Bush and America broadcast by Western media. “When Hollywood constantly projects that the West is weak, the military is corrupt, that big business is corrupt, it has to have an influence on Muslims,” he says.
Rhys-Davies used to be a radical leftist, as a university student in the ’60s. He first started to come around when he went to the local hall to hear a young local member of parliament by the name of Margaret Thatcher. “I went to heckle her,” Rhys-Davies says. “She shot down the first two hecklers in such brilliant fashion that I decided I ought for once to shut up and listen.”
It was the beginning of his eventual transformation into a conservative. Rhys-Davies’s father was a colonial officer, but from a poor “working-class socialist” background, which Rhys-Davies absorbed into his bloodstream. He spent a large portion of his childhood in Tanzania, where his father was posted.
He says, “As a child, my father showed me a dhow in the harbor at Dar es Salaam and said, ‘You see that dhow? Twice a year it comes down from Aden filled with boxes of goods. On the way back up it’s got two or three black boys on it. Those boys are slaves. And the U.N. won’t let me do a thing about it.’”
Rhys-Davies says that his father predicted our current state of affairs, once telling his son, “The next world war will be between Islam and the West. And it will happen in your lifetime.”
–Andrew Leigh is a screenwriter based in Los Angeles.