Europe and What Really Threatens It

Author: Zsolt KAPELNER Original title:  EURÓPA ÉS AMI FENYEGETI
Publication: Date: 19:05 17/09/2015

Europe and What Really Threatens It

The refugee crisis slowly gets to the stage where people are getting over the horrors of the humanitarian crisis and start to get worried about the Islamification of Europe instead. People are worried about the future of “our European culture”, at the heart of which lays Enlightenment and the rule of reason over our prejudices.

People quickly deny any cultural racism but want to point out that the “principles of Islam” are incompatible with European cultural values. There are indeed clearly definable principles accepted by all the one billion believers around the world and their numerous different variants – just like Christianity, right?

Others highlight the fact that the “democratic culture” of Muslims is rather underdeveloped yet, and for this reason, it endangers our – developed – democratic culture. (Naturally, when East-European countries slipped into party-state dictatorship joined the European community, no such danger existed. Of course not.)

Then comes the lamenting, typically accompanied by horrific phantasms that Muslims are going to outnumber us gradually. They constitute about 6% of Europe’s population currently – around 44 million people – which will increase by about 400,000 due to the recent arrivals of Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis (it is not going to increase, you should just calculate it). People also say that the transformation in society has already started to take place; for example, in the non-existent Muslim zones in Great Britain where Sharia law prevails. Or let’s take Rotterdam, where “more than 50% of its population are Muslims” (13% of the population was Muslim in 2010 and more recent estimates suggest 25%), and where men and women have to sit separately in theatres (well, that happened once in 2009 at a performance by a Moroccan stand-up comedian. It was certainly not good but it does not imply systemic change).

In addition, there are some groups, which would like to convert Belgium to a Muslim state, but at the same time there are nationalists who would like Hungary to become a monarchy again. The existence of typically rather small radical groups does not tell us much about the character and ambitions of a community of 40 million people, provided they indeed have common goals and characteristics.

The most hypocritical thing in this fairy tale about “the clash of cultures” is obviously that Europe is portrayed as the land of Enlightenment, democracy and civilisation, the land of plenty, which is now going to be corrupted by dark-hearted Arabs. We should ponder a little bit before saying things like “the basis of European culture is the Humanism and Enlightenment stemming from the Judaeo-Christian culture.”

Europe’s Enlightenment and humanism are momentary flashes in a millennium of cruelty, barbarity and despotism. After flourishing for a couple of decades, the French Enlightenment ended in the blood bath of revolutionary terror and Napoleon’s tyranny. In the 19th century most European states were under ruthless dictatorships, with secret police, financial quota and religious oppression. The cruel dictatorships, which dominated Europe for half a century, were not imposed upon us by barbarian Orientals – however convenient the thought might be – but were “cultivated” locally. Fascist and communist regimes had plenty of European examples to follow.

It is only since the end of the Second World War that we started to emerge from this mess. I say that “we started”, because in the course of the 20th century the so-called enlightened West still indulged in things which were far from being enlightened. Just consider the cruelties in our colonies which only came to an end in the middle of the century (or rather in the second half of it) and the consequences of which we struggle with today. Consider the oppression of women. A note: Liechtenstein gave women the right to vote only in 1984 and the Swiss Canton of Innerrhoden only did so in 1990. Then there is the subject of racial and national discrimination… The violent expulsion of 12 million Germans from Eastern Europe after the war? Does this ring a bell?

Even today, we cannot really say that the principles of Enlightenment are particularly successful. The best example is the ever-increasing influence of the far right, the prevalence of racism and the increasing scepticism over democracy. Here in Europe, we shut our eyes to the abuse of women, racial and religious exclusion and other similar monstrosities. You don’t need to go as far as the Islamic State to find inhumanity. Of course, our barbarity and inhumanity is not as visible – or we just got used to it to a greater extent.

However, it is the European migration policy that shows just how far the continent is from being a bastion of Enlightenment. A Europe, which allows women and children escaping war to drown on the shores of holiday resorts, should not get above herself proclaiming that other cultures are strange and “backward.”

We have to recognise there is no such thing as an elevated European culture that we all share and have to protect. The spirit of Enlightenment, democracy, freedom – these are universal values which we have to aspire and struggle for globally. It is not the flood of Muslims we have to protect democracy from, but the extremists, let them be Neo-Nazis, Muslim fundamentalists or extreme left-wing terrorists. It is not Islam that threatens the rights of minorities, women or gays, but prejudiced and violent people – of whom there are quite a few among us.

It is true that there is a clash of cultures and values in the world. However, it is not the clash of Europe and Islam, but that of humanity and hate, exclusion and acceptance, peace and violence. We can find Muslims and Christians on both sides, black and white, women and men. If we want to fight for Enlightenment, the most important thing is to recognise who our enemies and who our allies are.


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