Monday, February 20, 2006

A few reasons why Europe is not doomed

Mark Steyn continues to predict the doom of Europe.
Europe is bicultural: a fading elderly population yielding to a young surging Islam.
But Australia, like the US, is genuinely multicultural, at least in the sense that its immigration is not from a single overwhelming source. The remorseless transformation of Eutopia into Eurabia is already prompting the Dutch to abandon their country in record numbers, for Canada and New Zealand.

In the years ahead, North America and Australia will have the pick of European talent and a chance to learn the lessons of its self-extinction, as they apply to abortion and much else.
Steyn sees Muslim immigration as colonization.
Instead of a melting pot, there's conversion: A Scot can marry a Greek or a Botswanan, but when a Scot marries a Yemeni it's because the former has become a Muslim. In defiance of normal immigration patterns, the host country winds up assimilating with Islam: French municipal swimming baths introduce non-mixed bathing sessions; a Canadian Government report recommends the legalisation of polygamy; Seville removes King Ferdinand III as patron of the annual fiesta because he played too, um, prominent a role in taking back Spain from the Moors.
First of all, is Steyn correct "when a Scot marries a Yemeni it's because the former has become a Muslim"? My first thought is "yes, obviously." Here's my second thought. With nonzero probability, the Yemeni converts to Christianity, or the Yemeni becomes an atheist, or the Yemeni had secretly been an atheist all along, or.... Is this nonzero probability too small to matter? I don't know. All my evidence is anecdotal. I'd like to see more data to back up the underlying assertion: immigrants from Muslim countries to the West, and their descendants, will almost never marry a non-Muslim because they either take their faith that seriously or are afraid of angering their Muslim family members and peers. Of course, I could imagine how getting useful survey data on such matters might prove difficult. Moreover, even given such data, we wouldn't be able to predict the results of future surveys.

Uncertainty about the future also makes me hesitate to declare Europe is one generation away from Sharia rule. However bleak a picture I try to paint of the present, I always produce a lot of bright patches that give reason for optimism. For example, Flemming Rose, culture editor of Jyllands-Posten, thinks many Danish Muslims can be integrated into secular democracy.
In January, Jyllands-Posten ran three full pages of interviews and photos of moderate Muslims saying no to being represented by the imams. They insist that their faith is compatible with a modern secular democracy. A network of moderate Muslims committed to the constitution has been established, and the anti-immigration People's Party called on its members to differentiate between radical and moderate Muslims, i.e. between Muslims propagating sharia law and Muslims accepting the rule of secular law. The Muslim face of Denmark has changed, and it is becoming clear that this is not a debate between "them" and "us," but between those committed to democracy in Denmark and those who are not.

This is the sort of debate that Jyllands-Posten had hoped to generate when it chose to test the limits of self-censorship by calling on cartoonists to challenge a Muslim taboo. Did we achieve our purpose? Yes and no. Some of the spirited defenses of our freedom of expression have been inspiring. But tragic demonstrations throughout the Middle East and Asia were not what we anticipated, much less desired. Moreover, the newspaper has received 104 registered threats, 10 people have been arrested, cartoonists have been forced into hiding because of threats against their lives and Jyllands-Posten's headquarters have been evacuated several times due to bomb threats. This is hardly a climate for easing self-censorship.

Still, I think the cartoons now have a place in two separate narratives, one in Europe and one in the Middle East. In the words of the Somali-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the integration of Muslims into European societies has been sped up by 300 years due to the cartoons; perhaps we do not need to fight the battle for the Enlightenment all over again in Europe.
For sake of argument, suppose Steyn is right about Muslims in Europe. Does this imply Steyn's prediction of the subjugation and/or exodus of the West in Europe? If Steyn's right, then Muslims in Europe will become ever more assertive in making illiberal demands. Moreover, the Danish cartoons controversy is but one of many examples suggesting that such demands will become much more intense well before Muslims become the majority in Europe. Such premature demands will produce a political backlash, exemplified by politicians like Hirsi Ali. Now, suppose you were a European politician just swept into office by this backlash. Further supoose you agree with Steyn about Muslims, and that demography is destiny. What would you do? You'd try to change your country's demography. Eugenics, even in a positive form of offering natalist subsidies to certains subsets of the population, is just too offensive to modern notions of equality to be implemented in your country, and you may have moral qualms about it too. That leaves immigration policy. Now the solution is obvious; Steyn hinted at it when he said the U.S. and Australia our "genuinely multicultural." Your country must encourage immigration of a great variety of peoples, with preference given to those who would "enhance the cultural diversity of immigrant community." Picture "Free airfare!" banners at your consulates in Beijing and Mexcio City.

Strangely, Steyn dismissed this idea out of hand last November.
So Europe's present biculturalism makes disaster a certainty. One way to avoid it would be to go genuinely multicultural, to broaden the Continent's sources of immigration beyond the Muslim world. But a talented ambitious Chinese or Indian or Chilean has zero reason to emigrate to France, unless he is consumed by a perverse fantasy of living in a segregated society that artificially constrains his economic opportunities yet imposes confiscatory taxation on him in order to support an ancien regime of indolent geriatrics.
Perhaps the "talented ambitious Chinese or Indian or Chilean" will always prefer to immigrate to a place with more economic opportunity, like America. But (legal) immigration into America, when it's even possible, is a ridiculously cumbersome process even for the talented. Europe could compete by offering streamlined immigration procedures and tax incentives to the world's top talent (measured by things like pursuit or possession of advanced education). Suppose the US gets wise and offers the world's top talent a better deal. Well, there's still a lot of people with only average talent that would like to immigrate to a richer nation. For example, "More than 40% of Mexican adults say they would move to the USA if they could." That's more than 40 million Mexicans; surely a favorable immigration policy could encourage some of them to come to Europe. Moreover, there are countries poorer than Mexico; in these places economic incentives make it still less difficult to convince folks to immigrate to Europe.

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