The war ahead of Europe

Posted on März 27, 2016


 Amots Asa-El


Foreign Affairs: The war ahead of Europe

The social and political predicaments underpinning Europe’s Islamist challenge ominously resemble those that caused the decline of ancient Rome.

„You cry like a woman because you couldn’t defend like a man,” said Muhammad XII’s mother as the weeping emir left the Alhambra Palace for the ceremony in which he surrendered to Spain Islam’s last West-European realm.

That was in 1492. Now the pendulum has swung. As Muslims this week again sent Christian Europe running for cover, the one shedding tears was European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The attackers’ affiliation, motivation and aims became clear shortly after they murdered dozens and wreaked havoc in the EU’s capital: They were activated by Islamic State, which in turn explained through its news agency that it was out to attack “the Cross-bearing nations” – meaning Christendom – and that it has in store for them “black days” that will be much worse than what Europe has so far endured.

French President François Hollande’s statement following November’s attacks in his country “France is at war” this week became “Europe is at war.”

The Islamist war on Europe has now reached the very headquarters of the EU, shaking the flagpoles that line it, shortly before a major EU member – Great Britain – issued a travel warning to the EU’s capital.

Few measures could vindicate more harshly the growing suspicion that the EU is a failed experiment, and that the Muslim challenge that has been the doing of many European governments will be their union’s undoing.

THE CURRENT Muslim challenge evolved over hardly three generations, after Western Europe opened its gates to the immigration it has largely failed to absorb.

Historically, however, Europe and Islam have been at loggerheads intermittently since the eighth century, when Muslim armies conquered Spain and then invaded France through the Pyrenees before landing in Italy and reaching Rome.

Consequent Muslim rule, from Barcelona to Sicily, may be trivia to current-day Christian Europeans, but to some Muslims it is a recollection both vivid and instructing. Similarly, the Ottoman conquests at Europe’s other end remain traumatic memories in Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary.

Now this legacy of disharmony is returning to the fore.

Yet unlike previous Muslim penetrations into Europe, which followed military conquests, the current presence follows a mostly peaceful immigration whose causes and results bring to mind not medieval Europe’s struggles with its Muslims but ancient Rome’s decline and fall.

BEFORE ROME was “delivered to the licentious fury of the tribes of Germany and Scythia,” as Edward Gibbon put it in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the number of Romans joining its army was steadily declining; the middle classes were overtaxed to finance grandiose public works; the cities that once were the empire’s social backbone were crumbling under the weight of foreign migrations; a hedonistic elite increasingly shunned politics; and a new religion’s believers threatened the social, political and cultural order.

Much of this has been happening in Europe, gradually but steadily, in recent decades.

Like ancient Rome, Europe has effectively opened its doors to an underprivileged workforce that brought with it a triumphalist faith’s zealots, while the Europeans themselves had fewer children, worked short hours, paid high taxes for grand public works and demanded of their citizens less and less military duty.

Europe’s porous borders and vulnerable currency are now suspected by a growing number of its citizens as part of this syndrome of political weakness and self-inflicted vulnerability.

All this was at work, and already festering, well before this decade’s tumult in the Middle East. Now, with the Arab civil wars’ refugees sailing to its shores in droves, it seems the challenge Europe faces picks up from where Rome’s demise and Islam’s assaults left off.

As long as this sort of historic perspective is not considered in the very Brussels that has just been targeted, Europe will remain on the defensive, its enemies’ gains will accumulate, and their Christian victims will grow increasingly restless, insecure and, ultimately, also violent.

What, then, should Europe do?

THE FIRST thing Europe must do is define the enemy.

Calling the enemy “terror” is not only misleading but also disorienting.

Terror is not the enemy, but the enemy’s weapon. The enemy is Islamist fundamentalism, the ideology that feeds the terrorists and lets Europe’s blood.

The second aim must be to restore the political vitality that the EU has unwittingly damaged.



Nach den kitschtriefenden Liebeserklärungen der westlichen christlichen Kirchen an den Islam ist dieser Artikel erholsam. Nur eine Anmerkung: Der Feind, der benannt werden muss, ist nicht der islamistische Fundamentalismus, sondern der Islam. Man muss ihn nicht umschreiben.    






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