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Extremism in Europe, and questions of what’s next
WHILE EUROPE SLEPT: HOW RADICAL ISLAM IS DESTROYING THE WEST FROM WITHIN
By Bruce Bawer
Doubleday, $23.95, 247 pages
MENACE IN EUROPE: WHY THE CONTINENT’S CRISIS IS AMERICA’S, TOO
By Claire Berlinski
Crown Forum. $25.95, 272 pages
REVIEWED BY CLIVE DAVIS
Sometimes nuance is the last thing the publishing world wants. As Bruce Bawer and Claire Berlinski both point out, there is never any problem finding incendiary titles about America in the bookshops of London, Berlin or Paris. No idea seems too far-fetched for the gullible Euro-public.
Want to write a book claiming the September 11 attacks were orchestrated by shadowy figures in the industrial-military complex? Go ahead, only you’ll find that the author Thierry Meyssan has already cornered the market in that particular conspiracy theory, making his bank manager a very happy man in the process.
Barely a day goes by without some op-ed columnist in the Guardian or Le Monde proclaiming that America is on the verge of becoming a police state. The intellectual firepower that used to be reserved for making documentaries about the role of flying saucers in the assassination of John F. Kennedy is now lavished on films, plays and polemics depicting Washington as the capital of the Fourth Reich, with Deputy Fuehrer Rumsfeld organising torchlight parades opposite the Lincoln Memorial.
There is only so much of this nonsense that a normal person can take, and Americans wouldn’t be human if they didn’t long to see the smug Europeans get their comeuppance. Bruce Bawer and Claire Berlinski both have thoughtful points to make about the way the old continent is heading, but much of their analysis is couched in bleakly apocalyptic rhetoric more suited to one of John Gibson’s Frog-bashing pep talks on Fox News.
“While Europe Slept” is easily the better of the two books. Having lived in the Netherlands and Norway, he has seen how two small, vulnerable — and complacent — societies have struggled to come to terms with the rise of Islamic extremism.
Mr Bawer, whose previous work includes a study of America’s Christian fundamentalists, also happens to be homosexual, which means he was more attuned to changes in the atmosphere than the typical expatriate. Day by day, he grew more aware of the incompatibility of Islamist beliefs and liberal democracy. At the same time he noted how well-meaning, relentlesly non-judgemental members of the Dutch and Norwegian elite insisted on turning a blind eye to the problem developing in their midst. Long before the murders of the anti-Islamist Dutch politician Pym Fortuyn and the avant-garde film-maker Theo van Gogh, Mr Bawer realized that the local version of multiculturalism had grown dysfunctional.
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