For Western Europe, 2016 began with an apocalyptic frenzy, a nightmarish vision of its possible future – namely, an avalanche of brutal sexual assaults, over a thousand of them, committed on New Year's Eve by savage Muslim gangs in the streets and squares of Cologne and several other major German cities.
The horrific events of New Year's Eve didn't happen out of the blue, of course. For over a generation, thanks to irresponsible immigration policies that had never been submitted for approval to any electorate, as well as to straightforward demographic realities, Western Europe had been steadily Islamized. At first in a few large cities and eventually even in small, remote towns, the presence of Islam became more and more visible. Over time, government officials who had made these developments possible, and who had cut back their own citizens' welfare-state entitlements in order to feed, clothe, and house newly arrived Muslims, were rewarded not with the gratitude and assimilation they had expected but with the exact opposite. Steadily, Muslim communities developed into crime-ridden, sharia-governed enclaves, increasingly explicit in their hostility to infidels, increasingly aggressive in their rejection of the values of their host cultures, and increasingly insistent on their legal independence from secular authorities. Forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and honor killing became European problems. Hijab proliferated, then (in some places at least) niqab. And authorities reacted to all of it with a feckless passivity.
Along with the quotidian reality of stealth jihad came jihad of the more headline-grabbing sort: terrorism. Only months after 9/11, the Netherlands experienced the coldblooded murder of politician Pim Fortuyn, a vocal critic of Muslim immigration and leading prime ministerial candidate; in 2004, journalist Theo van Gogh, who had just released a documentary about Islam's treatment of women, was butchered in broad daylight on an Amsterdam street. In 2006, Muslims around the world rioted, committed major acts of vandalism, and massacred dozens in response to a Danish newspaper's publication of cartoons of their prophet. Bombs took 191 lives in and around Madrid's Atocha railway station in 2004 and 52 lives in London in 2005; last year saw the assassination of 12 people at the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Each time, mainstream media and public officials made haste to insist that the atrocities had nothing to do with Islam, to reaffirm their dedication to the policies that made this bloodshed possible, and to shower Europe's Muslims with inane, unmerited praise. Europeans didn't have to be familiar with Islamic theology to understand that, like it or not, they were at war. And they didn't need to know the term dhimmi to recognize that their elites were kowtowing to would-be conquerors.
These elites inhabited a bubble of privilege, protected from the consequences of their own policies. Most Western Europeans did not. In the space of a few years, they'd seen their neighborhoods dramatically transformed. Their once-safe streets were dangerous. Their children were harassed at school. Jews, especially, were terrorized. There was no sign of a reversal in this rapid process of civilizational decline and destruction. And if they tried to discuss the issue honestly, they risked being labeled bigots, losing their jobs, and even being put on trial. Here and there, voters found, and supported, politicians who articulated their concerns. But the political establishment erected cordons sanitaires around them, denying them power and, when possible, dragging them, too, into court. Instead of heeding the voice of the people, officials doubled down.
And then came the final straw: in August 2015, Western Europe's most powerful leader, Angela Merkel, invited all Syrian refugees to come to Germany. The floodgates opened even wider. Syrian refugees poured in – but most of them proved to be neither Syrians nor refugees. Naive do-gooders who welcomed these monsters into their homes ended up being raped and robbed. And the terrorist attacks became even more frequent. On November 13, 2015, jihadists slaughtered 130 people in and around the Bataclan Theater in Paris. Then came the aforementioned New Year's Eve carnage. Brussels was hit in March, with 32 civilian deaths. On Bastille Day, a truck-driving terrorist mowed down 86 pedestrians on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. And these were just a few of the jihadist offenses committed in Western Europe during this period. As I write this, a Turkish cop shouting “Allahu akbar!” has just gunned down Russia's ambassador to Turkey, and – shades of Nice – a truck driven by a Muslim has plowed into a busy Christmas market in the center of Berlin, killing at least 12 and injuring dozens. (P.S. Apparently Merkel heard of the attack shortly after attending a celebration of the “International Day of Migrants.” This is not a joke.)
The good news is that this year's spikes in out-of-control immigration and in jihadist terror appear to have been accompanied – at last – by an equivalent spike in outrage. Western Europeans' fury over the relentless rise of Islam in their midst – and at the complicity, and complacency, of their leaders – may finally have reached a tipping point. On June 23, defying the counsel (and upending the predictions) of virtually the entire U.K. political, cultural, business, ecclesiastical, academic, and media elite, the people of Britain voted to quit the EU, reinstate their national borders, and establish proper immigration controls – an act that voters in several other EU countries now yearn to replicate. This month, not long after Donald Trump won an equally stunning triumph against his own nation's see-no-evil establishment, a referendum in Italy rejected an attempted power grab by their insouciant elites.
The winds are shifting. Merkel's approval ratings have plummeted, raising the odds that her party will go down to defeat in next year's parliamentary elections, which will probably be held in September. Meanwhile, in France, presidential hopeful and outspoken Islam critic Marine Le Pen's numbers are rising in the run-up to that country's April elections. Since a kangaroo court declared him guilty of anti-Islamic hate speech on December 9, Geert Wilders, the already highly popular head of the Netherlands' Freedom Party, has won even more support. I gave a talk in Rome a few days after Trump's win, and was surprised when several members of the audience, including a history professor, came up to me afterwards and voiced strong pro-Trump sympathies. From their perspective, the Donald had come along just in the nick of time, giving the entire West a desperately needed jolt of hope. Their sentiment: we may win this one after all.
In November 1942, after British forces defeated General Erwin Rommel in the Second Battle of El Alamein, bringing the Allies their first major victory in World War II, Winston Churchill famously said: “This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. But it may be the end of the beginning.” In these closing days of 2016, it can feel, very much as it did in late 1942, as if the effort by at least some freedom-loving Europeans to push back the tide of tyranny – an effort that for many years seemed quixotic – is finally making some headway. Is this the end of the beginning? We can hope so. But it'll take more than hope to win this struggle. Among other things, it'll take a Churchill. Preferably a few of them.