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Bawer: Crisis in Europe

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Here’s Bruce Bawer on the Crisis in Europe.

My learning curve was steep. When I look back, it’s as if one day the whole business wasn’t even on my radar screen, and the next day I understood that it was the most important issue of our time.

It happened in Amsterdam, a city I flipped for in 1997 and moved to a year later. But it wasn’t till 1999, when I lived briefly in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood, that I took in the fact that the city was divided into two radically different and almost entirely separate communities. One of them, composed mostly of ethnic Dutchmen, was secular, liberal, and (owing to a very low birthrate) dwindling steadily; the other, composed of immigrant Muslims, lived in tradition-bound, self-segregating enclaves whose autocratic leaders despised democracy and whose population (thanks to high birth and immigration rates) was climbing rapidly. This division, I soon realized, was replicated across Western Europe. Clearly, major social friction—and more—lay down the line.

Yet nobody talked about it. Or wanted to. And when I went to the Amsterdam library in search of information about this subject (the Internet then being far less fecund a resource than it has since become), I found little other than books like The Islamic Threat (1992)—in which the American scholar John L. Esposito insisted that there was no such threat, period—and A Heart Turned East (1997), in which the British writer Adam LeBor celebrated Muslims for bringing to Europe something “intangible, but nonetheless vital,” namely “God and spirituality.”

To be sure, a few thoughtful observers had made public their concern about Europe’s ongoing transformation—but I didn’t find this out until later, after I’d moved to Oslo.

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