Tuesday 13 April 2004

"Liberalism" is always to blame

In last weekend's Sunday Times, historian Niall Ferguson speculated on Europe's demographic future:
It was the Egyptian-born, Swiss-based writer Bat Ye’or who coined this electrifying term to describe a continent part European, part Muslim, but hostile in equal measure to the United States and Israel. The idea is, to be sure, a magnet for cranks and extremists. Two years ago, Pat Buchanan published an apocalyptic book entitled The Death of the West, prophesying that declining European fertility and immigration from Muslim countries could turn “the cradle of western civilisation” into “its grave”. The resemblance between this argument and Oswald Spengler’s notorious Decline of the West (1922) is a little too close for comfort.
Ferguson goes on to say:
In short, a youthful Muslim society to the south and east of the Mediterranean is poised to colonise a senescent Europe to the north and west.

Indeed, this process is already well under way. Estimates vary as to how many Muslims now live in Europe, since not all countries record religious affiliation in their censuses. Some put the number as high as 14m. France has without question the largest concentration, with Muslims accounting for about 8% of the total population. Anyone who wishes to visit Eurabia need only take a trip to a place like La Bricarde, a largely Muslim suburb to the north of Marseilles.

Over on the City Journal, Theodore Dalrymple thinks that Islam is an overrated threat to the west.

Maybe, maybe not. It is quite possible to argue that Islam does threaten western values, or, like Dalrymple, to be more sanguine. What, however, is one to make of the comments of Angus Calder?

However, Angus Calder, the Edinburgh-based historian, said Mr Ferguson was seeking to alarm and shock, while Neal Ascherson, the author and journalist, accused him of "playing along with fundamentalist panic".

Mr Calder said yesterday: "Ferguson is a clever man but his basic position tells me he has taken free market liberalism to an insane pitch. I would not deny that it could happen but I think he is being alarmist."

"Free market liberalism" indeed! Ferguson suggests that Islam is taking over Europe demographically. He doesn't say anything about any particular economic system. Calder sounds like one of those juvenile leftists who denounce anything they don't like as being "Thatcherite", "monetarist" or, indeed, as having something to do with "free market liberalism", even when there is absolutely no connection with the question at hand. Given half a chance, these people will blame the weather or their favourite football team's lack of success on capitalism. Bah! I'd rather read Mr Ferguson and think seriously about what's happening in the world.