May 13, 2004
Christianity Faltering in Muslim Europe
"Europe becomes more and more a province of Islam, a colony of Islam." So declares Oriana Fallaci in her new book, "La Forza della Ragione"
("The Force of Reason"). And the famed Italian journalist is right: Christianity's ancient stronghold of Europe is rapidly giving way to Islam.
Two factors mainly contribute to this world-shaking development.
The hollowing out of Christianity. Europe is increasingly a post-Christian society, one with a diminishing connection to its tradition or its historic values. The numbers of believing, observant Christians has collapsed in the past two generations to the point that some observers call it the "new dark continent." Already, analysts estimate Britain's mosques host more worshippers each week than does the Church of England.
An anemic birth rate. Indigenous Europeans are dying out. Sustaining a population requires each woman on average to bear 2.1 children; in the European Union, the overall rate is one-third short, at 1.5 per woman, and falling. One study finds that, should current population trends continue and immigration cease, today's population of 375 million could decline to 275 million by 2075. To keep its working population even, the E.U. needs 1.6 million immigrants a year; to sustain the present workers-to-retirees ratio requires an astonishing 13.5 million immigrants annually.
Into the void are coming Islam and Muslims. As Christianity falters, Islam is robust, assertive and ambitious. As Europeans under-reproduce at advanced ages, Muslims do so in large numbers while young.
Some 5 percent of the E.U., or nearly 20 million persons, presently identify themselves as Muslims; should current trends continue, that number will reach 10 percent by 2020. If non-Muslims flee the new Islamic order, as seems likely, the Continent could be majority-Muslim within decades.
When that happens, grand cathedrals will appear as vestiges of a prior civilization (the Jahiliyya?) -- at least until a Saudi-style regime transforms them into mosques or a Taliban-like regime blows them up. The great national cultures -- Italian, French, English and others -- will likely wither, replaced by a new transnational Muslim identity that merges North African, Turkish, subcontinental and other elements.
This prediction is hardly new. In 1968, the British politician Enoch Powell gave his famed "rivers of blood" speech in which he warned that in allowing excessive immigration, the United Kingdom was "heaping up its own funeral pyre." (Those words stalled a hitherto promising career.)
There is still a chance for the transformation not to play itself out, but the prospects diminish with time. Here are several possible ways it might be stopped: Changes in Europe that lead to a resurgence of Christian faith, an increase in childbearing or the cultural assimilation of immigrants. Such developments can theoretically occur but what would cause them are hard to imagine.
Muslim modernization. For reasons no one has quite figured out (Education of women? Abortion on demand? Adults too self-absorbed to have children?), modernity leads to a drastic reduction in the birthrate. Also, were the Muslim world to modernize, the attraction of moving to Europe would diminish.
Immigration from other sources. Latin Americans, being Christian, would more or less permit Europe to keep its historic identity. Hindus and Chinese would increase the diversity of cultures, making it less likely that Islam would dominate.
Current trends suggest Islamization will happen, for Europeans seem to find it too strenuous to have children, stop illegal immigration or even diversify their sources of immigrants. Instead, they prefer to settle unhappily into civilizational senility.
Europe has simultaneously reached unprecedented heights of prosperity and peacefulness -- and shown a unique inability to sustain itself (one demographer, Wolfgang Lutz, notes that "negative momentum has not been experienced on a large scale in world history").
Is it inevitable that the most brilliantly successful society also be the first in danger of collapse due to a lack of cultural confidence and offspring? Ironically, creating a hugely desirable place to live would seem also to be a recipe for suicide. The human comedy continues.
Daniel Pipes is the keynote speaker at the Religious Zionists of Los Angeles (RZLA) annual Yom Yerushalayim Celebration May 19 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, 10500 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood. For information, call RZLA (310) 274-6657.
Daniel Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and author of "Miniatures" (Transaction, 2003).