Magazine | July 10, 2017, Issue

Europe in Crisis

The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, by Douglas Murray (Bloomsbury Continuum, 352 pp., $26)

Europe almost committed suicide by means of the two world wars, but managed to survive both times. Douglas Murray holds that a third attempt at suicide is under way. The context is rather straightforward. The order of the Muslim Middle East was always fragile, and hideous power struggles and Islamic rivalries have shattered it beyond recovery. Either fleeing from chaos or taking the chance to better themselves, Muslims numbering in the millions have come to settle in Europe. The initial humanitarian impulse of Europeans to come to the aid of the victims and the dispossessed was only right and proper. Something had to be done, as policymakers like to assure one another in the corridors of power.

The governments of Western Europe decided to admit these migrants more or less unconditionally, taking the simplistic view that they would integrate naturally, the way migrants are supposed to do. As far as is known, nobody in authority had the vision to ask whether it was wise to introduce a minority whose very strong religious faith and culture have a long history of opposition to Christendom and risked keeping them separate from the natives, to put it no more strongly. The failure to set any effective limit on admissions meant that the authorities were giving free rein to a mass movement with which they were already unable to cope. The imposition of quotas, closure of frontiers, erection of fences, and establishment of holding camps were desperate improvisations certain to generate a response of crime and violence of a kind and on a scale impossible to police. The Labour government of Tony Blair employed a bureaucrat who could have been speaking for every administration in Europe when she said about the task she had been given, “There was no policy for integration. We just believed migrants would integrate.” To welcome into the house people who will then make it unlivable is the stuff of some grim fable of moral instruction.

Perhaps the huge majority of migrants entering Europe thought that they should stay true to themselves, and they saw no harm in that. But along came exemplars of Islam, imams and mullahs who preached that Muslims could never be friends and good neighbors of the kafirs, the unbelievers, but had the religious duty to wage jihad, a campaign of conquest, against them. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a mainstream Sunni Muslim, showed how to lay the foundations of a war of civilizations in an address to an audience of 20,000 Turks in Germany at a time when he was prime minister of Turkey, not the president he subsequently became: “I understand very well that you are against assimilation. One cannot expect you to assimilate. Assimilation is a crime against humanity.”

Anyone who dares to say that Muslim migrants bring with them religious, social, and cultural values incompatible with those of native Europeans — and what’s more, immune to reform — is bound to be called names, certainly “racist” and probably “fascist,” if not “Nazi.” Yet Douglas Murray is only fulfilling the obligation of every writer worth his salt to interpret the world as he finds it. Virtually unique among commentators, he has had the courage and originality to make the failure of integration and assimilation his very own subject.

He began his researches by interviewing migrants who had fetched up on the Italian island of Lampedusa and the Greek island of Lesbos, the two most crowded way stations. Investigations in Holland, Sweden, and Germany convinced him that migrants have not been given any incentive or encouragement to integrate into society, and that it is fanciful, mere wish fulfillment, to expect them to be other than what they are. A balance of power now exists, and perhaps it is tilting in favor of Muslims. “Vast epochal changes” is a phrase of his that envisages a time not so distant when perhaps the whole course of history will have been redirected. (Attached to sentences like a talisman to ward off bad luck, “perhaps” might well be the word most repeated in this book.) Quoted on the dust jacket, an endorsement from Clive James amusingly does justice to Murray’s careful and measured insights: “I found myself continually wishing that he wasn’t making himself so clear.”

The reality of the ongoing cultural clash is sometimes surreal, sometimes ugly. Iraqi migrants who have no experience of snow are quartered in Finnish villages near the North Pole. A man called Mohammad brands the letter M on an eleven-year-old girl to signify that she is his sex slave. Mass rapes and the grooming of underage girls for sex are commonplace in Britain, Sweden, Holland, and Germany, but the authorities and the police cover up these crimes for fear of being called racist. In 2015, Sweden admitted 162,000 migrants; according to government statistics, only 494 of them got jobs, owing to the overwhelmed admission system. In 2010, there were 48,589 applicants for asylum in Germany. Five short years later, Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech announcing her extraordinary decision to commit Germany to accept migrants, 1.5 million of them in that one year alone, according to government estimates. “Wir schaffen das,” we can do it, she saw fit to boast. Confronted by critics, she responded with the astonishing unforced error of raising the stakes by promising that another million would be welcome next year.

The intention is to show that the Germany of today has nothing to do with the Germany of Hitler. Europeans are supposed to have behaved in the past with unmitigated brutality everywhere, but especially in their empires overseas, so migrants who now accept Mrs. Merkel’s abject invitation to take advantage of Europeans are only evening the score.

How and why has Europe come to this pass? In general terms, as another of Murray’s telling phrases has it, “the intellectual and political pollution of Europe’s 20th century” is a dead weight on the spirit of Europe. Communism and Nazism between them crushed beliefs, tradition, and legitimacy. In reaction to the totalitarian monstrosities, the European Union has dismantled the nation-state; its abolition of borders, its shibboleth about the free movement of labor, and its regimentation of virtue leave the Continent defenseless and all doors open for whoever cares to walk in. Europe lost faith in itself and “today has little desire to reproduce itself, fight for itself or even take its own side in an argument.” Exhausted, the Continent has nothing to say; all that survives of its story is guilt and shame. The ingrown attitude of self-abasement is perfectly captured in a throwaway remark of Fredrik Reinfeldt, a recent prime minister of Sweden: “Only barbarism is genuinely Swedish. All further development has been brought from outside.”

A terrorist collects unemployment benefits to the tune of 19,000 euros right up to the moment of committing his outrage; in other words, the society is paying this man to attack it. It becomes impossible to stand up for oneself when disarmament is recommended as the best measure of self-defense; every dispute is negotiable; and peace and prosperity are universal rights effortlessly bestowed as though by magic.

Other excuses are even more specious and Murray makes short work of them. Multiculturalism is evidently self-abasement. Migrants are said to bring diversity, itself only a variant of self-abasement. (Besides, how diverse can diversity be? One sample of Turkish cuisine is much like another sample.) Populations in Europe are indeed declining, and migrants are to be treated as so many useful pairs of hands and nothing more. Education will cure prejudices. In any case, the migrants are here, nothing can be done about it. Meanwhile, many more are on the way, waiting for the opportunity to cross the Mediterranean or the Aegean and head for whichever European destination it is to be. On a single day last summer, the Italian coast guard rescued 6,500 migrants. Traffickers charge at least $1,000 per person and run a ferry service in collusion with European Union police and navy personnel. This little racket turns murderous whenever storms blow up and unseaworthy dinghies capsize, leaving unfortunate migrants to drown.

Murray quotes with approval a French philosopher, Chantal Delsol, who believes that Europeans have lost “our sense of the tragic dimension of life.” To spell it out, Europeans might have saved themselves from being caught up in the consequences of Muslim chaos only by putting a halt to the mass migration while it was still possible to do so, and that would have been hard and painful. Too late now. Acts of terror are placing the Continent’s future in the hands of Islamists. Murray would wish Islam to be “deliteralized, wounded and defanged.” Die-hard Europeans, fascists by any other name, are waiting in the wings and mobilizing the backlash without which there will be no wounding and defanging. The shadow of future dreads and unwanted changes darkens the final chapters of this astonishing crystal ball of a book. More of the same uncertain standoff, indefinitely extended, is the best that Murray hopes for, though it comes with a very big “perhaps.”

David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners


Politics & Policy


LOST PRAYER A prayer well known and repeated, and repeated, the mind focused on the words, on the words, becomes an internal ceremony, with little room, and then no room for another thought; sooner or ...


Obergefell and Forced Labor With respect to Alexandra DeSanctis’s article “Religious Liberty after Obergefell” (June 12), it is surprising to me that no defendant has cited the 13th Amendment to the ...
The Week

The Week

‐ Can it be mere coincidence that Ossoff is a Russian name? ‐ In spite of the total lack of available information, a host of figures in the media were convinced ...

Most Popular

White House

More Evidence the Guardrails Are Gone

At the end of last month, just as the news of the Ukraine scandal started dominating the news cycle, I argued that we're seeing evidence that the guardrails that staff had placed around Donald Trump's worst instincts were in the process of breaking down. When Trump's staff was at its best, it was possible to draw ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren Is Not Honest

If you want to run for office, political consultants will hammer away at one point: Tell stories. People respond to stories. We’ve been a story-telling species since our fur-clad ancestors gathered around campfires. Don’t cite statistics. No one can remember statistics. Make it human. Make it relatable. ... Read More
Economy & Business

Andrew Yang, Snake Oil Salesman

Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur and gadfly, has definitely cleared the bar for a successful cause candidate. Not only has he exceeded expectations for his polling and fundraising, not only has he developed a cult following, not only has he got people talking about his signature idea, the universal basic ... Read More
National Review


Today is my last day at National Review. It's an incredibly bittersweet moment. While I've only worked full-time since May, 2015, I've contributed posts and pieces for over fifteen years. NR was the first national platform to publish my work, and now -- thousands of posts and more than a million words later -- I ... Read More

Is America Becoming Sinicized?

A little over 40 years ago, Chinese Communist strongman and reformer Deng Xiaoping began 15 years of sweeping economic reforms. They were designed to end the disastrous, even murderous planned economy of Mao Zedong, who died in 1976. The results of Deng’s revolution astonished the world. In four decades, ... Read More