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April 13, 2004

Against visions of Eurabia?

Randy McDonald has an excellent post titled France, its Muslims, and the Future. Randy does a few "back of the envelope" calculations, along with contemporary cultural observations & a historical context. But, Randy did say I should feel free to criticize him, so a few points....

Is the analogy with immigration from an underdeveloped Romance speaking and religiously Catholic nations into a developed Romance speaking and secular Catholic nation juxtaposed against the current situation-where people from a non-Romance speaking and non-Catholic non-Christian culture immigrate to France-appropriate?

I think Randy can extract a lot from the analogy-and he brings up groups like Poles, who are outside this dichotomy. But I think it plausible to say that given the same conditions in France (similar level of population, economic growth, etc.), two waves of immigrants of the same size from Spain and Algeria will result in different levels of social anomie or discord. Stated differently, perhaps an order of magnitude greater numers of Spaniards could be allowed to settle in France than Algerians and result in the same level of nativism?

This is conjecture, but Randy did bring up the anti-Catholic hysteria in the United States. But, it must be noted while immigrants from eastern and southern Europe continued to stream into the United States as late as 1920, "Oriental" immigrants were excluded earlier on because of native fear. In other words, there are differing levels of social discord elicted by differing classes of immigrants, so a near 1:1 mapping of Iberian/Italian immigrants with a wave of North Africans is unwarranted. To be more candid: did a significant minority of Iberian or Italian immigrants express a wish to turn France into a fully southern European nation through a vocal intellectual elite that brought with them a full-course socio-religious ideology? Randy also points to east Asian nations as an example where low birthrates and social conservatism co-exist, but like Italy and Spain, I think it can be shown that this is partially the result of few government programs that encourage higher fertility (not explicitly, but in terms of the cradle to grave system). In France, and other northern European nations with generous social welfare systems, ther is less incentive to control family size.

Now we turn to the dynamics within the Muslim community. Randy makes a convincing case that only a minority of French Muslims are the reactionary medievalists that LGF & co. would portray them as. But then again-only a minority of Saudis probably are fully onboard with the Wahabbi ideology, only a minority of Russians were full-bore believing Communists, only a minority of Germans were heart-felt (rather than opportunistic) Nazis. Motivated minorities can make a world of difference. Look at the rampant anti-clericalism that characterized some traditionally Catholic nations in the 19th century, or the use of the courts to overturn segregation and school prayer in the United States. I have never seen an estimate for the numbers for Christians in the Roman Empire during the early 4th century (when the pagan Empire began to go Christian) as greater that 30%, and more often it is closer to 10%. The problem, as even the most anti-Muslim of thinkers will admit, are some Muslims, not all Muslims.

On the sexualization of white Christian women by Muslim men that Randy refers to, unfortunately, I think it exists, and it is a common trend among Muslim men. I have discussed this with a friend who is of part-Israeli Arab origin. I have seen it in college when Arab students whisper to me about how loose American women are, or decide to camp outside a sorority, or tell me how Filipino maids are the best since you can assault them and get away with it since they aren't Muslim, or how my cousin tells me of his conquests. This mercenary attitude toward sex is aimed at all women, but "their own women" remain pure, because familial constraints and protections are in place (my cousins who behave in a conventionally predatory manner toward American women are respectfull of the Bangladeshi women who they eventually will marry or have married). This is not a Muslim tendency, this predatory attitude is a male tendency. Note how grotesquely primitive men in college fraternies become-males who are no doubt a somewhat self-selected portion of the socioeconomic elite. Islam does not create the male savage, it simply places restrictions on the savage in ways that are not exportable to the Western world (Western culture has other controls).

Finally, Randy states: "In short, human beings show an unerring tendency to leave restrictive cultures for more pluralistic ones." I don't believe this at all. They leave for economic opportunity, which many pluralistic cultures offer. The initial waves of immigrants into Germany, Norwary or Sweden, for example, did not migrate to pluralistic cultures, just ones where they could make money, or utilize the welfare state (and as American history reminds us, religious refugees often seek freedom to express their own beliefs, not freedom as a principle). Correlation does not equation causation! Look at what happens in the United States: Separate proms for different races held in Georgia (the Latino kids have started their own prom, set alongside the black and white proms). I agree that some of the extreme advocates of Islamophobia have given into dystopian fantasies-but, frankly Randy, a statement like this seems to suggest you have your own fantasies! [1]

I'd like to see ParaPundit comment on this....

Addendum: Non-linear projections of change that result in dystopian fantasies are almost certainly partially inspired by books like this: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.

Addendum II: Also, the point that 5-10% isn't that much hides the reality that:

1) it is regionally concentrated
2) is it skewed by age cohorts (something Randy implies)

Update: Randy has a round-up of those who linked/commented on his post.

[1] Projections of Muslim assimilation into Western culture based on historical precedent are interesting, insofar as liberals who might praise this probability are less likely to accept the same argument from libertarians who assert that Erlich & co. have been wrong so often, that human ingenuity has been sufficient in the past, that we need not worry about the "coming environmental apocalypse." Reflecting on these peculiar reversals of method can smoke out real underpinnings of beliefs.

Posted by razib at 11:13 AM