- The Washington Times - Monday, July 20, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

IMMIGRATION, ISLAM AND THE WEST

By Christopher Caldwell

Doubleday, $30, 416 pages

Reviewed by Martin Sieff

Christopher Caldwell is obviously not Edmund Burke, the great political philosopher of modern minimalist government and cultural conservatism. But as his title implies, he walks in the master’s footsteps to explore and discuss the profound transformations of politics, society, culture and identity that mass immigration from the Muslim world already has brought to modern Europe.

Mr. Caldwell, a longtime contributor to the Weekly Standard and columnist for the Financial Times of London, has written a deeply pessimistic and sobering book about the crises European nations face from the rapid growth of communities of increasingly devout Muslim immigrants and their descendants.

The author, as his own biography confirms, is firmly rooted in the “old” mainstream media even while his work appears on Web sites and blogs. His book is seriously and even impressively documented, citing important books, papers and articles from intellectual journals that make his case or that he thinks he must address. Yet there is virtually no reference to blogs that have documented the same trends and made the same arguments in recent years, producing a far larger, well-sourced body of work than is possible even in a major book.

Mr. Caldwell, an honorable man and excellent writer, has not stolen or cribbed from any of these European blogs, such as the Brussels Journal and Fjordman, that have achieved fame and even notoriety in their arguments. It seems likely that he simply does not know that their Web sites even exist.

The author and the intellectual world he inhabits are not aware of the family of widely read European blogs from locations as diverse as Brussels, Norway and England that document the rising public order, governmental and social pathologies rising across Western Europe. For that very reason, his book is of significance in bringing these gathering storms to the attention of a world of readers, intellectuals and policymakers in Europe and the United State who previously have been able to ignore them.

In this role, he already has tasted blood. His book triggered a minor literary storm in London when the Financial Times, the same newspaper that employs him as a columnist, published a harsh attack on it.

The criticisms heaped on Mr. Caldwell in that now somewhat notorious review certainly appear unjustified: Mr. Caldwell has produced a very impressive piece of work. To some degree, he covers overlapping ground with Bruce Bawer’s recent book “Surrender.” The focus of the two works is different (Mr. Bawer’s focus is on the failure of the European elites to stand up to the forces of Islamization; Mr. Caldwell focuses on the Islamization process itself), but they complement each other in making the case that Europe is likely to be plunged into a turmoil of social and even potentially violent crisis in the coming years by the unanticipated social forces that already have been unleashed across it.

In discussing the work of intellectual historian Mark Lilla, Mr. Caldwell perfectly captures the confusions and contradictions, writing of “a Europe rueful about the legacy of immigration and disinclined (or too weak) to make a fuss about it.”

He also honestly and boldly confronts the sobering reality that not only is “the old, cushy social contract, the Europe of stable marriages, plentiful jobs, light policing and frictionless social problems” not available to Muslim immigrants and their descendants, but “such a social contract is no longer available to Europeans themselves. For a good number of European natives, particularly working class ones, expulsion from the culture of their parents is the story of their lives.”

As Mr. Bawer did in his book, Mr. Caldwell digs deep to the roots of the current crisis in Europe, and his book contains serious, profound discussions of the contrasting and colliding spiritual heritages of European Christianity and Islam. His discussion on the intellectual contributions of Pope Benedict XVI’s very different analysis of spiritual dynamics in Europe and around the world from that of his predecessor, John Paul II, is exceptionally important.

It also is crucially important to grasp the elementary fact, as Mr. Caldwell points out, that “Muslims know a great deal about Western societies — starting with their languages — while Westerners know next to nothing about Muslim ones.” These are only a handful of the often disquieting insights to be gained from this courageous, valuable book.

Martin Sieff is a veteran foreign correspondent. He has received three Pulitzer Prize nominations for international reporting.


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