Thursday, April 22, 2010

Crusade 2.0

Let's imagine that the Cold War was a detour. The entire 20th century, in fact, was a detour. Since conflicts among the 20th-century ideologies (liberalism, communism, fascism) cost humanity so dearly, it's hard to conceive of World War II and the clashes that followed as sideshows. And yet many people have begun to do just that. They view the period we find ourselves in right now -- the so-called post-Cold War era -- as a return to a much earlier time and a much earlier confrontation. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq aren't discrete battles against a tyrant (Saddam Hussein) or a tyrannical group (the Taliban). They fit together with Turkey's resurgence, the swell of Muslim immigration to Europe, and Israel's settlement policy to form part of a much larger struggle.

Welcome to Crusade 2.0.

For those who see Islam as a civilizational threat, the key dates aren't 1945 or 1989 but rather 1683, 1492, 1099, and 732. The very mention of these watershed years stirs the blood of the modern-day crusader. In 1683, thanks to the intercession of the Polish cavalry, Christian forces beat back Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Vienna, preventing Islam from spreading to Western Europe. In 1492, Christian armies recovered all of Spain from Muslim rulers. In 1099, during the first Crusade, the European army seized Jerusalem. And in 732, Charles Martel led the Franks in a victory over the forces of the Ummayad Caliphate, ensuring that Islam would not spread beyond its conquests in Spain.

Today, many Europeans are enlisting in a modern crusade. They see the threat of 732, with Islamic immigrants coming in from North Africa and bringing their culture and customs -- like the mosque and the veil -- to secular France and multicultural Switzerland. They see the threat of 1683, with Turkey planning to join and then take over the European Union. And they stand with Israel to protect Jerusalem from the demands of Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab world.

In defense of their crusade, they point to acts of terrorism committed by Islamic fundamentalists (the 2004 Madrid bombings, the 2005 London bombings), occasional acts of violence (the killing of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, a rash of honor killings), the fatwa against novelist Salman Rushdie, and so on. These incidents, they argue, add up to a pattern: an attempt to destroy the Judeo-Christian world, reestablish the caliphate dismantled by Ataturk in 1924, impose sharia law, and turn the world into a version of Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Although Muslims represent only 3-4 percent of Europe's population, today's crusaders see the outlines of Eurabia emerging, a Muslim takeover of the continent through shrewd politics and inexorable birthrates. A "civilization of dhimmitude," Bat Ye'or calls the endpoint of this strategy, in which "subjugated, non-Muslim individuals or peoples...accept the restrictive and humiliating subordination to an ascendant Islamic power to avoid enslavement or death." Muslims will conquer "Europe's cities, street by street," the Weekly Standard's Christopher Caldwell argues in Reflections on the Revolution in Europe.

This isn't just the opinion of a few intemperate pundits. A surprisingly large number of Europeans simply don't like Muslims. More than 50 percent of Germans and Spaniards "rate Muslims unfavorably," the Pew Global Attitudes Project diplomatically reported. The recent Swiss referendum banning future construction of minarets has proved quite popular among those polled in other European countries, writes Foreign Policy In Focus contributor Jeanne Kay.

"The populist right doesn't hold a monopoly on the clash-of-civilization narrative in Europe," she continues in Europe's Islamophobia. "Parties of the moderate right have jumped on the Islamophobia bandwagon to gain political capital from the sordid national identity debate. They are sometimes even joined by social democrats under the banner of liberal values. Mainstream politicians most often invoke 'Enlightenment' values to stigmatize features of Islam. In the Netherlands, the alleged incompatibility of Islam with the country's historic gay-positive culture is a critical argument in anti-Islamic rhetoric. But co-opting liberalism is particularly prominent in the debate over the veil in public spaces, a hot issue across Western Europe."

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