Europe's Long Road to the Mosque

Europe's Long Road to the Mosque

Justin Vaisse is not yet a household name but this young man may go far. Of North African background, he has taught at Sciences Po in Paris and been a speechwriter for the French Minister of Defence. Currently at Washington's Brookings Institution, he is the leading French expert on — and the nemesis of — the neoconservatives. The fact that he is spending time in America may not necessarily affect his political prospects. After all, Georges Clemenceau did the same. Of late, he has discovered and given publicity to what he calls a new genre in American literature: Eurabia. Among the chief protagonists in this new genre he mentions above all Bernard Lewis, the greatest Orientalist of our time, and Bat Ye'or, who popularised the term "Eurabia" to warn against the Islamicisation of Europe. In view of the homeric struggle between the two sides — Lewis has been accused of appeasement, if not worse, by the other side — it seems somewhat far-fetched to find a common denominator for them, but Vaisse is a resourceful man. 

Among the European protagonists of the Eurabian thesis, Vaisse mentions Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was born in Somalia and now lives in the US. I am also named, although it helps him very little that in Last Days of Europe (Thomas Dunne, 2007) I devoted several pages to my unhappiness with the very term "Eurabia" which, for a variety of reasons, I have never used and thought misleading. The great majority of Muslims in Britain are not Arab but Pakistani or Bangladeshi in origin. In Germany, the Turks greatly outnumber all other Muslims. In France, the majority is North and West African. In Belgium, Turkish and Moroccan, and so on. These are not minor, pedantic issues because traditions, culture, language and even the forms of Islam practised differ considerably in Europe. While the Arabs have tried to attain positions of leadership in the European Muslim communities, this has merely given additional impetus to tensions (and among the Arabs there is a bitter struggle between Shias and Sunnis). Arabs traditionally believe that only they are the true sons of the Prophet, giving them a feeling of superiority over other Muslims.

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