The Islamization of Europe
On Friday 20th May 2005 a crowd of some 300 Muslims burned a wooden cross outside the American embassy in London. This was part of a protest against the rumoured desecration of a Qur’an by American soldiers in Guantanamo Bay, during which British and American flags were also burned. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this event was that it was not deemed to be newsworthy, receiving little attention in the national press.
The whole scenario is reminiscent of what happens in so many Muslim-majority countries: a rumour of an insult to Islam, a violent and blasphemous anti-Christian reaction, police watching idly, and a complete lack of public interest let alone outrage. It could have been Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia or Northern Nigeria. But it was the UK.
Europe is undergoing a rapid process of change as Muslims make their presence felt in politics, economics, law, education and the media. While there is a wide range of attitudes amongst Muslims in Europe, with many who are broadly content with the status quo and just want to live their lives peacefully, others are striving deliberately to drive forward the changes. As a result of the efforts of the latter, Europe is gradually being transformed into a society in which Islam takes its place, not just as an equal alongside the many other faith communities, but often as the dominant player. This is not purely, or even primarily, a matter of numbers, but is more a matter of control of the structures of society. It is not happening by chance but is the result of a careful and deliberate strategy by certain Muslim leaders.
Though the effects are only now becoming noticeable, the planning was done decades ago. In 1980 the Islamic Council of Europe published a book called Muslim Communities in Non-Muslim States which clearly explained the Islamic agenda in Europe. When Muslims live as a minority they face theological problems, because classical Islamic teaching always presupposed a context of Islamic dominance; hence the need for guidance on how to live in non-Muslim states. The instructions given in the book told Muslims to get together and organise themselves with the aim of establishing a viable Muslim community based on Islamic principles. This is the duty of every individual Muslim living within a non-Muslim political entity. They should set up mosques, community centres and Islamic schools. At all costs they must avoid being assimilated by the majority. In order to resist assimilation, they must group themselves geographically, forming areas of high Muslim concentration within the population as a whole. Yet they must also interact with non-Muslims so as to share the message of Islam with them. Every Muslim individual is required to participate in the plan; it is not allowed for anyone simply to live as a “good Muslim” without assisting the overall strategy. The ultimate goal of this strategy is that the Muslims should become a majority and the entire nation be governed according to Islam. (M. Ali Kettani “The Problems of Muslim Minorities and their Solutions” in Muslim Communities in Non-Muslim States (London: Islamic Council of Europe, 1980) pp.96-105)
Not all Muslims would support this action plan. The more secularized are happy to become integrated within the majority society. Even amongst those who agree on the ultimate goal of creating an Islamic state, there are differences about methodology i.e. whether this should be a slow and peaceful transition, or whether it should be hastened by means of political dominance or even – say some – by violence.
Despite the variety of opinion amongst Muslims, it is not hard to recognize the different stages of the Islamic Council of Europe’s strategy being put into practice within today’s Europe. Muslims do tend to live in tightly concentrated areas, and show little sign of integrating into wider society. Saudi funding is paying for the erection of large and beautiful mosques, staffed by imams brought over to Europe from the “home countries”. Sweden’s third largest city, Malm ƒ ¸, is effectively ruled by violent gangs of Muslims, and some of the Muslim residents of the city still cannot read or write Swedish though they have lived there for 20 years. Denmark has recently seen the Nordg ƒ ¥rdsskolen in Aarhus become the first school in the country to have 100% Muslim pupils. Britain’s Muslim population (variously estimated at between 1.6 and 3 million) is concentrated in three areas: north-west England, the midlands and London. In some of these areas Muslims are now targeting the remaining Christian presence, arsoning churches, physically attacking church leaders and their property; the aim seems to be to “cleanse” these areas of non-Muslims.
European Muslims are Islamizing many aspects of life that also affect non-Muslims. Spanish Muslims have expressed their desire to “regain” the mosque of Cordoba. This building was originally a church, then turned into a mosque, and then turned back into a place of Christian worship. Halal meat is now routinely served in many British prisons, schools and hospitals, sometimes to Muslim and non-Muslim alike, and the hijab [Islamic headscarf] is worn in British schools. Muslims in the London borough of Tower Hamlets have forced name-changes for districts and local amenities if the existing name sounds too Christian for their liking.
In the UK, where Islam is making its most rapid advance, Islamic law (shari’a) is already practised unofficially, with shari’a councils and shari’a courts giving judgments on Muslim family matters. In education numerous concessions are being made to British Muslims, Islam often being given more prominence and respect than other faiths at state schools. An increasing number of university posts are being funded from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries on condition that a certain line of thinking is promoted.
The ultimate goal of taking control of society, as depicted by the Islamic Council of Europe in 1980, is clearly in the minds of at least some Muslim leaders. A Dutch Imam has stated that Islamic law is superior to other forms of legislation so there is no need to obey other laws. Some Finnish imams preach on the Islamic duty to kill a Muslim who converts to another faith, adding that it is difficult to carry this out in Finland at present because Muslims do not yet “own the state”. Furthermore, the freedoms of European society are being exploited by Islamic militants and their supporters to plan terrorist activities around the world. London – or “Londonistan” as it is becoming known – is one of the most important bases for Islamic terrorism worldwide. This has been illustrated by the July bombings in London itself.
Despite all these advances, Muslims still tend to portray themselves as victims in European society, while the majority society in turn struggles to affirm them and to avoid giving any accidental offence.
But this kind of reaction by non-Muslims can be seen as the typical behaviour of dhimmi. In classical Islam, Christian and Jewish minorities within an Islamic state were called dhimmi. They were free to worship and live out their faith, but had to submit to a raft of discriminatory and humiliating laws. They learned to be subservient, and to consider the dominance of Muslims as normal as the Muslims themselves did.
It is typical of dhimmi not to protest if a Christian cross is burned by an angry crowd, nor even to feel that anything outrageous has occurred. Likewise the Muslim scheme to turn the cathedral of Cordoba back into a mosque has the backing of some Spanish government leaders in the city.
At a political level, European countries are responding in different ways to the challenge of Islam. France is determinedly protecting its secularism, and has banned the hijab in school. The Netherlands have recently swung from one extreme to the other, following the ritualized killing of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh by a young Muslim in November 2004; they are turning against multiculturalism and becoming concerned to control immigration. The UK seems to be seeking to replicate the segregation and communalism of the British Raj in India, whereby the various religious communities were each given their own laws. This policy would certainly mesh well with some Muslim leaders’ own plans for Britain. If Britain is to be sub-divided in this way, perhaps geographically as well as legally, it raises the question of how the Church would survive in areas of Islamic rule. What form would Christian ministry be able to take in these areas?
Muslims are still a minority in numerical terms in Europe, with an estimated 20 million living in the European Union. No country apart from Albania has a Muslim community amounting to more than about 10% of the population. However, demographic studies indicate that Muslim populations are growing far faster than the non-Muslim populations. This is due partly to continued immigration, partly to conversion, but mainly to the larger number of children which Muslim families typically have. The growing Muslim community is a mosaic of different ethnic, linguistic, cultural, sectarian and geographical backgrounds, and characterized by increasing internal tensions particularly over how to relate to the host society.
Some Christians have decried as faithless pessimism those who predict the Islamization of Europe before the end of the century. But it must be remembered that the region which is now Pakistan and Afghanistan was once Christian, as was North Africa. The Church was completely eradicated from these areas by the advance of Islam. It would surely be arrogant to think that this could never happen to the Church in Europe.
As individual Christians we must love our Muslim neighbours and forgive any wrongs done to us. But as a community the Church must defend herself, as well as the Judaeo-Christian heritage with which Europe is blessed. For this her leaders need great wisdom and courage.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo
International Director of Barnabas Fund