The Question of Muslim Immigrants

I think it best to avoid using pop-psychology terms, what some call “psychobabble.” It puts my teeth on edge when I hear terms such as “paranoid,” “schizoid,” and “bi-polar” thrown about with abandon.

It is not that I have a great respect for psychological analysis and want to ensure that these terms do not lose their precise meanings. It is just that, more often than not, I find their insertion into a discussion of political and cultural matters to be pretentious and trendy, rhetorical cheapshots that muddy the waters more than they clarify the issue at hand.

That said, I am going to make an exception: “Cognitive Dissonance” — what psychologists call the uncomfortable tension brought about from holding two conflicting thoughts at the same time — describes perfectly my reacton to what we routinely hear these days from theologians, the American bishops and parish priests on the question of immigration. You know the drill: The hierarchy and the clergy tell us we must be open to immigration, welcome the poor and the downtrodden to our shores, not put materialistic concerns above our duty to love our neighbors as ourselves, the least of our brethren. My heart tells me I should be with them on this one.

Yet when I look around the world, especially at the rapidly increasing and increasingly militant Muslim populations in Europe, my head tells me otherwise. We can’t go on like this. I suspect that a good number of the theologians and clergy who scold us for not being open to immigration feel the same way, even if they are reluctant to admit it in public. I don’t think they ever imagined it would come to this, to the likelihood that Muslims will be the majority in most of the countries of Western Europe and that Catholics in the not-so-distant future will find themselves living under laws shaped by the kind of people who are burning embassies and issuing death threats because of cartoons in a Danish newspaper that they found offensive.

Christ’s call is to teach all nations in the name of the Father. St. Paul tells us to remake all things in Christ. How can permitting demographic changes that will turn Catholics into a beleaguered minority aid in that mission? Martyrs can be powerful examples that draw men to Christ. But we are not supposed to deliberately seek martyrdom. We are certainly not called to wish it on our descendants. There is nothing noble in that.

The wave of protests over the Danish cartoons forces us to confront what will happen to a society where Muslims become the dominant segment. We are not talking about a handful of Islamic kooks. We saw waves of street protests, death threats to Western reporters, burned embassies. Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait withdrew their ambassadors from Copenhagen. Several commentators noted the irony of Muslim demonstrators burning the Danish flag, which features a prominent Christian cross, because of their anger over a lack of respect by Europeans for their religious symbols.

But highlighting this hypocrisy will make little impact on the Muslim extremists. They feel no obligation to be consistent in these matters. They see nothing out of line in demanding respect for Islam from Westerners, while at the same time prohibiting the display of the Christian Cross or the Star of David in Saudi Arabia. Infidels are not entitled to equal justice under the law in societies governed by Islamic fundamentalists. Muslim fundamentalists do not shrink from admitting that they seek supremacy for Islam. They are proud of their militancy.

Is there anything to prevent the demographic changes that will give Europe’s Muslims the power to decide how much religious freedom to grant the Christians living in their midst? Sad to say, maybe not. We may have passed the tipping point. But there is a possibility that the rioting over the Danish cartoons and the rise in crime and Islamic militancy in Europe will provide the jolt needed to wake the Europeans out of their torpor.

In Our Culture, What’s Left of It, Theodore Dalrymple paints a chilling portrait of what is happening these days in France. Crime has risen dramatically in recent years, from 600,000 incidents annually in 1959 to 4 million today. Reported cases of arson have increased 2,500 percent in the last seven years. Robbery involving violence has increased 44.5 percent since 1996.

Everyone agrees about where these increases have come from, says Dalrymple: “the public housing projects that encircle and increasingly besiege every French city or town of any size, Paris especially. In these housing projects lives an immigrant population numbering several million, from North and West Africa mostly, along with their French-born descendants, and a smattering of the least successful members of the French working class. From these projects, the excellence of the French public transport system ensures that the most fashionable arrondissements are within easy reach of the most inveterate thief and vandal.”

The hatred of these immigrants for the host culture is so intense, Dalrymple continues, that the local street thugs “greet the admirable firemen (whose motto is Sauver ou périr, save or perish) with Molotov cocktails and hails of stones when they arrive” to put out “the fires that they themselves have started.” The French now live with a numerous and ever-increasing Islamic sub-culture, biding its time until it can remake France to its liking.

And it is not just France. In one of those curious coincidences that some time come about, during the same week that the rioting over the Danish cartoons broke out, the New York Times ran a story (one that had to have been written at least weeks before) by Christopher Caldwell in its Sunday magazine entitled “Islam…on the Outskirts of the Welfare State.” Caldwell describes how Swedish factory towns, such as Bergsjon, built in the mid-20th century to provide a comfortable middle-class life for Swedish workers, are now inhabited mostly by Muslim immigrants. “Seventy percent of the residents were either born abroad or have parents who were. The same goes for 93 percent of the schoolchildren. You see Somali women walkng the paths in hijabs and long wraps.”

A woman of Turkish background, a former member of the Swedish Parliament assimilated into Sweden’s way of life, was interviewed by Caldwell. She is uncomfortable with the cultural forces at work brought on by the wave of modern immigrants:

People are using Islam to distance themselves from Swedish society. Ten years ago when I was a member of Parliament, people would see me on the tiniest cable stations. Now, when I’m on big national programs, only one or two people will ever say they’ve seen me. Everybody else is watching Al Jazeera.

Caldwell cuts to the chase:

Sweden’s biggest immigration problem may be a matter not of crime, unemployment and Islamic radicalism, but of something else altogether: that its newcomers understand perfectly well what this system erected in the name of equality is and have decided it doesn’t particularly suit them.

Tell me again: Why is it a Catholic responsibility to call for an immigration policy that will facilitate the process through which they will construct a society that does suit them?

James Fitzpatrick's novel, The Dead Sea Conspiracy: Teilhard de Chardin and the New American Church, is available from our online store. You can email Mr. Fitzpatrick at

(This article originally appeared in The Wanderer and is reprinted with permission. To subscribe call 651-224-5733.)

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