The way to handle the unstoppable flood of immigrants to the continent has become quite a controversial subject among European Union member states. The core countries of Europe remain adamantly convinced that the proper way to deal with the problem is by reiterating the humanist values of toleration, acceptance, and welcome that traditionally characterize the Christian culture of the West. There are, however, many dissenting voices. Emanating primarily from the political leaders of former Central and Eastern Europe, they maintain that Europe should keep intact its democratic Christian heritage that is being eroded by the influx of Islamic migration.
Stuck in the middle are the countries of Southern Europe, which are facing major financial hardships, in addition to the biggest wave of illegal immigration. Despite their concern about the pressure that societies in Greece, Italy and Spain are up against, governments in these countries are looking for a compromise between the green card and lenient control over immigration that Brussels is waving vs. the negative attitude that Eastern Europe appears to be adopting, along with the newly emerging anti-immigration political forces in Germany and Scandinavia.
The essence of the division lies in a disagreement over the nature and belief systems of the immigrants. The official European position is that ‘Islamic immigrants have arrived in Europe to stay’. This is based on the implicit assumption that most of them will join the European workforce and contribute to the alleviation of many of the current economic problems. The facts on the ground, however, seem to call this expectation into question. In Britain, 50% of Muslim men and 70% of the women are currently living on welfare. In his book, The Slow Death of Europe (2017), Douglas Murray claims similar findings for the whole of the continent.
Likewise, Western European leaders do not look upon Islam with suspicious eyes. Significant numbers of Muslims, descendants of earlier immigrant influxes from their former colonies, already reside in their countries, so these leaders do not consider Islam to be a threat. They have even gone out of their way to reassure the public that the acts of jihadi terrorism that have occurred in their societies are un-Islamic.
A former English prime minister exclaimed that these horrendous acts of terror ‘have nothing to do with Islam’. While the leaders of France, Belgium and Germany have done their very best to keep any cloud of suspicion from falling upon their own Muslim communities, by reassuring the public that ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ and that ‘Muslims are loyal, law-abiding citizens’ who clearly differ little from any of their other national subjects. The conceptual distinction between ordinary devout Muslims and radicalised jihadi Islamists has become a common paradigm for Western multicultural society.
Suspicion toward Brussels elitism, on the one hand, and widespread mistrust regarding the behaviour and intentions of Muslim newcomers, on the other, runs deep amidst the ranks of Central and East Europeans and their elected representatives. Similar attitudes are becoming increasingly common among natives in countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia as well. These views are now being expressed by political parties who are finding success at the polls. Some of them, mainly in Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, have already seized the reins of government power. For most of them, the EU leadership seems unsympathetic toward the public's worries and Muslims appear to embody all the negative attributes of a sinister invading force.
How then should we view this very serious division? What can possibly be done to bridge the gaps and smooth out the differences? There can be no answer without considering the very essence of Muslim immigration, along with the question of its compatibility with traditional European values and principles. Are the Muslims immigrating northward devoted to the polemical declarations of Islam? How can these thousands of people, who have supposedly fled in fear of their lives, persuade Europe that they do not intend to undermine its culture, traditions, values and democratic heritage? Without satisfactory answers to these pressing questions, there will never be a solidary European response to immigration.
What is essentially in question is the nature of the Islamic presence. Are the refugees simply suffering people looking for a better chance of survival? It would be an entirely different proposition if they were found to hold high religious beliefs embracing the actual teachings of the Koran and of the Hadiths (the traditional sayings attributed to the Prophet) that show hatred for the 'infidels' and which affirm the necessity of the struggle (jihad) to convert the whole world to Islam. These two mental pictures mean a world of difference as to how Westerners will confront and treat Muslims.
It would be impossible to appeal to European principles, if you were faced with a people who despise your values and way of life and aim to undermine Western democracy for the purpose of eventually replacing it with a theocratic regime that is submissive to the will of an obscure, all-powerful entity. Europe cultivates respect for human rights, tolerance and acceptance of the 'other'. However, it is not clear how it should respond if the accepted newcomer intends to destroy the principles upon which his opportunity to be an equal citizen are based.
The words of America’s Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, ambassadors at that time in Paris and London, respectively, still resonate for Europeans. They wrote to Congress in late 1780 of an encounter with a diplomatic representative of the Muslim Barbary States of North Africa, who was keeping a number of Americans captive:
"We took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the grounds of their [Barbary’s] pretentions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation. The ambassador answered us that it was founded on the laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Muslim who should be slain in battle was sure to go to paradise".
The recent revival of Islamic radicalism, the atrocities committed by the exponents of ISIS in many European capitals, along with the persecution of Christians in Africa and the Middle East, have brought back memories of the past and contributed to the suspicion with which Muslims are viewed in the West in general. In those countries with small or non-existent Muslim minorities, negative attitudes dominate the public discourse. Likewise, in the rest of Europe, anti-Muslim sentiment is gaining strength. The situation won't be resolved unless certain issues are clarified.
1. Muslims should unequivocally adhere to the cultural imperatives and value systems of the societies they join.
2. European values of humanism, gender equality, respect for women, acceptance of the rule of civil law and limitations on Sharia norms exclusively with respect to religious duties should be demonstrated by those desiring entry into Europe.
3. Clear denunciation of Islamic teachings about the persecution of infidels, apostates and atheists/polytheists should be enacted.
4. All acts of violence and terror committed in the name of Islam by Salafi jihadists should be vigorously condemned. The Muslim community should openly demonstrate its renunciation of all these anti-European and anti-Western actions.
Only initiatives like these could potentially begin to alleviate the anti-Islamic feelings in the West and validate the arguments in favour of a truly European response to Muslim migration.