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Dark clouds on the European horizon
Question of the Day
Europe is on the verge of imploding: Radical Muslims are moving there in droves. Europeans have all but given up on their Christian roots. Moral absolutes are no longer relevant. National pride is a thing of the past.
The European economy is sluggish, but welfare entitlements continue to expand. Indigenous birthrates are plummeting, and immigration is supplying the continent's work force.
Those were some of reasons for "The Collapse of Europe," an academic conference held here last week. Participants said that unless Europe reverses course, it could be headed for a civil war, taken over by Islam's Shariah law or destroyed in some other way.
"Europe is facing tensions, which, unless are seriously addressed, will tear it apart," said Mark Steyn, author of "America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It."
"Permanence is the illusion of every age," he said. "Today, Europeans find the idea that ... their European Union cannot endure inconceivable. ... We're not here celebrating the collapse of Europe. It's real, and it could hurt America."
The conference was hosted by Pepperdine University and sponsored by the American Freedom Alliance, the Council for Democracy and Tolerance, and the university's school of public policy.
One of the main themes of the event was the Islamic stronghold Europe has become. Although the number of Muslims living in Europe was not available because of questionable census figures and poor data tracking in some countries, panelists estimated it at about 50 million.
"The European political class is not ready to confront the reality of this," Mr. Steyn said. "If they don't get serious about correcting their course, their next generation of Europeans — the last generation — will end their place in a very dark world."
He said one of the biggest problems is Europe's reliance on a largely Muslim immigrant work force.
"Demography, in the end, underpins everything," Mr. Steyn said. "The dependence of mass immigration is always a sign of weakness."
Philippe Karsenty, a French journalist who founded Media-Ratings, which often monitors the failure of the French press to document the rise of militant Islam in France, said his countrymen are in denial about their state of affairs.
"Europe is collapsing, but don't even think of telling anyone in Paris; they'll think you're a fool," he said.
Mr. Karsenty described a France in which many of its citizens are obsessed with the Palestinian cause, calling some of Frenchmen "more extremist than Arabs."
Europeans have lost their sense of nationalism, and thus care less about the large and growing number of devout Muslims who are slowly taking over their countries, the panelists said.
"Islam is a political project and a supremacist movement," said Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim, a former member of the Dutch parliament and author of "Infidel." "In order to expand, you need an enemy."
Author and filmmaker Greg Davis, who produced the documentary "Islam: What the West Needs to Know," compared Islam to the Cold War threat of communism.
Several panelists also noted the Shariah law of Islam, as far as most Muslims are concerned, trumps all civic laws. Some conference participants expressed concern that Islamic leaders intend to eventually take over Europe.
They noted, for example, that Muhammad is the second most common name for newborns in Britain, and that Muslim leaders are demanding that large mosques be built in the middle of major cities.
"The greatest factor in this equation is what Europe wants to do," Mr. Davis said. "What will its people fight and die and kill for? ... If Europe will not fight for its Christian heritage, will it fight for its secular heritage?"
Several panelists noted a so-called "white flight," saying Europeans are moving to places such as Canada and Florida to avoid problems in their homeland.
"The talented folks want to get out," Mr. Steyn said, adding that these are the future bankers, politicians and business leaders.
Several Europeans at the conference weren't ready to concede Europe is doomed, or that its residents have given up all hope.
"We allow [Muslim immigrants] to go very far, and that is the problem," said Henryk Broder, a German journalist and author of "Hurray — We Surrender," which deals with European appeasement toward Islam. "What can we do? The number of people asking that question is rising."
His colleague, Dutch writer, filmmaker and producer Leon de Winter, agreed.
"There is a vast undercurrent among the general public of the feeling that we have had enough of it, we're fed up," said Mr. de Winter, a critic of what he calls Europe's appeasement of Muslim militancy.
Ms. Ali said Europe's strength and hope lie in its freedom and civil society.
She said Muslims who move to Europe may become aware of the opportunities afforded by a free and progressive society and turn their backs on what she describes as an oppressive religion. She and others already have, she said, but she is also the target of death threats.
Ms. Ali is quick to point out her concerns about Islam in Europe, noting that Islamic leaders are abusing Europe's welfare state and "justify bigoted sermons as freedom of religion."
"Muslim leadership understands it is more effective to exploit a system from within than to attack it from the outside," she said. "But it's not so much what a relatively small minority do or don't do; it's the Europeans who allow it."
Mr. de Winter also put the onus for change on Europeans, saying they must re-examine their priorities. He said Muslim immigration isn't Europe's biggest threat.
"It's a crisis of European civilization, of our identity," he said. "What is sacred in our lives? This is a crisis about values, ethics."
Mr. Davis said Europe needs to rediscover its core beliefs.
"Europe has stopped believing in stuff because if you believe in stuff it's dangerous," he said. "If you believe in stuff, you might disagree with someone. ... [America] is not as far down the slope as Europe, but we're getting there."
Phyllis Chesler, author and professor emeritus at City University of New York, said the embrace of secularism among Europeans is doing nothing to reverse the trend toward Islam. What's more, she said, America's role in educating people about the situation is falling short, that the radical professors who have taken over college campuses constantly side with Islam.
Panelists agreed the crisis in Europe has gone largely unnoticed by Americans. Talk of what Americans could do to help Europe get back on track rounded out the day's discussion.
Hugh Hewitt, the host of a syndicated radio talk show, a law professor and a contributor to Townhall.com, said a variety of steps need to be taken. Among them, Americans should support nonprofits working to alleviate problems in Europe, and Christians should think of the continent as a place where missionary work is needed, he said.
"We are going to end up exactly where Europe is if we don't defend what is sacred," he said.
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