Bruce Bawer is a Shillman Fellow of the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Note: My book While Europe Slept was first published by Doubleday in 2006. Now the Stapis publishing house has put out a Polish edition, translated by Tadeusz Skrzyszowski. Given that the book is fifteen years old, Stapis asked for a new preface. Here it is.
This book, which appeared first in English, has already been translated into several other languages, but it is a special pleasure to see it published in Polish. My father’s parents were both Polish, although they came from municipalities that, in their time, were located in the Austrian Empire and that are now part of Ukraine, not far from the Polish border. My grandfather was a native of the Galician town of Brody; my grandmother was raised in the Galician city of Krystynopol (now Chervonohrad). He emigrated to America before World War I; she left her childhood home – which was blasted half to bits during exchanges of gunfire between the Central Powers and the Russians – during the war, traveling all alone at the age of fifteen and waiting for several months in Rotterdam until it was determined that the shipping route was safe from German mines.
My grandparents met and married in New York City and spent the rest of their lives there, raising a daughter and a son, my father, to whom they gave the name Tadeusz Kazimierz, after Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Kazimierz Pulaski, the two great Polish heroes of the American revolution. My grandfather died in 1958, two years after my birth, but my grandmother lived to be ninety, and was an important part of my childhood and early adulthood. On the wall over her bed there hung for decades a huge photograph of my father as a baby, swaddled in an American flag; on her bedroom dresser stood a framed photograph of Richard M. Nixon, whom she respected for his hatred of the Communism to which the Polish people had been subjected since the end of World War II. While she was a proud American citizen, ever thankful to the United States for taking her in and for giving her freedom, she retained throughout her life a strong attachment to Poland and a strong concern for the fate of her fellow Poles.
Growing up, I was deeply cognizant of these matters. First my grandmother had been driven from her home and family by a brutal war between the Kaiser and the Tsar; later, long after she had departed, the people she left behind had been cruelly subjugated by the Nazis and the Soviets. Largely because of my awareness of my grandmother’s background, I was, even as a small child, profoundly aware of the evils of despotism in all its forms. As a teenager I read everything I could find about Nazi Germany and the USSR. When, in 1998, I relocated to the continent of my grandparents’ birth and encountered a large Islamic subculture in Amsterdam, I immediately recognized the smell of tyranny. That encounter is the starting point for this book.
When I wrote this book, I used such terms as “radical Islam” and “Muslim extremist.” Indeed, the book’s original English subtitle was How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within. I have asked my Polish publishers to remove the word “radical” from the subtitle of this edition. I no longer use such terms in connection with Islam, for I have recognized that Islam itself is radical and extreme; people who call themselves “moderate” or “liberal” Muslims are people who have exchanged key elements of their faith for Western Enlightenment values.
In the same way, I no longer speak of “Islamic fundamentalism.” This expression came naturally to me because prior to writing While Europe Slept I had published the book Stealing Jesus, about Protestant fundamentalism in the U.S. Fundamentalism is a legitimate word to use in connection with certain varieties of Christianity that uphold an untenable Biblical literalism and preach a harsh legalism derived largely from the Old Testament book of Leviticus while losing sight of the forgiving, all-encompassing love that Jesus Christ preached in the gospels.
But Islam is fundamentalist – it insists that every word of the Koran be taken literally, that every commandment in that book be followed, that Muslim men look upon Muhammed (a bloodthirsty warrior who married a little girl) as the perfect role model in every possible respect, and that women accept their role as household chattel whose lives may someday need to be sacrificed in so-called “honor killings” in order to preserve their families’ reputations. I have long since ceased, then, to speak of “Islamic fundamentalism.”
In this book I blame the failure of Muslims to assimilate into European society in part, at least, on the fact that Europeans, while welcoming – and housing and feeding and clothing – Muslim immigrants prefer that they live apart, in their own enclaves, rather than blend into mainstream society, and prefer to give them welfare handout rather than jobs. I now feel that I put too much blame for this situation on Europeans; after all, Hindus and Sikhs and other such minorities have faced similar obstacles in Europe but have overcome them. (In Britain, the average Hindu earns more than the average British native.)
I also suggest in the book that America, historically a “melting pot” of people from all over the world, will be more successful than Europe at turning Muslims into happy, productive, and patriotic citizens. I now realize that I was mistaken. If Muslims in America do indeed seem somewhat more likely to be well integrated, law-abiding job-holders than are their coreligionists in Europe, this has a lot to do with the fact that many Muslim immigrants to America are educated professionals from largely Westernized cities, while many Muslims who emigrate to Europe are illiterate rural villagers. Yet even the most privileged Muslim families in the U.S. manage to breed terrorists. What I failed to realize when I wrote this book was that while the American “melting pot” may indeed work wonders on people from a great many parts of the globe, Islam, when truly believed in, is a force that powerfully repels other loyalties.
In this book I describe the 2005 election of “pro-American, reform-minded Angela Merkel” to the office of German chancellor as a “hopeful sign,” and applaud her for insisting that a 2006 Berlin staging of Mozart’s opera Idomeneo go forward in the face of Muslim outrage. This is also the woman who in 2010 famously – and admirably – admitted that German multiculturalism had “utterly failed.” Who would have expected, then, that she would later open her country’s floodgates to a tsunami of Muslim immigrants – hundreds of whom sexually assaulted German women on New Year’s Eve 2015/16 – and would turn violently against the U.S., describing it as the moral equivalent of Putin’s Russia and Communist China? This woman whom I thought so well of in 2006 has turned out to be the scariest German chancellor since – hmm, what was his name again?
The U.S. invasion of Iraq posed a particular problem to me while I was writing this book. On the one hand, I knew enough about Islam to doubt strongly that Iraqis, once freed from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, would institute something in their country resembling Jeffersonian democracy. On the other hand, I had never set foot in the Muslim world, so I hardly felt I was in a position to question “experts” many of whom had spent decades there. Besides, my country was at war, and I didn’t want to join in the pile-on against my president, however ill-advised I thought he was. So it is that while acknowledging that “there were sensible arguments against invading Iraq” and making clear my conviction that Islam, as currently constituted, is not “compatible with democracy,” I didn’t explicitly support or oppose the Iraq War in these pages, and instead focused on what to me, in any case, was the most relevant issue related to it: the truly vile tendency of many commentators in both the U.S. and Europe to equate Bush with Saddam and to attribute unworthy motives to decent Americans who, however misguided, truly thought they were engaged, as in World War II, in a struggle for other people’s freedom.
This book first came out in 2006; the paperback was published a year later with an afterword that is included here and that brought my account up to date. In the thirteen years since, needless to say, there have been a great many developments in the ongoing story of Islam in Europe. The continent’s Muslim population has continued to mount, creating more “no-go zones” and increasing the incidence of rape and other violent crimes by Muslim youth gangs. There have been major acts of jihadist terror in Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Barcelona, and many other places.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., major terrorist acts have occurred in Boston, Orlando, San Bernardino, and elsewhere. In 2018, Ilhan Omar, a hijab-clad Muslim woman who is virulently antisemitic and openly contemptuous of America, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from a largely Muslim district in Minnesota. Another hijab-wearing Jew-hater, Linda Sarsour, enjoys the respect of many leading U.S. politicians, who take seriously her claim to be a feminist.
In Europe, Canada, and elsewhere, though (thanks to the First Amendment) not yet in the United States, critics of Islam have been prosecuted. Throughout the West, such critics have been censored or have engaged in self-censorship, resulting in an alarming decline in freedom of speech. (This was the subject of my 2009 book Surrender.) As I write these words, Turkey, a member of NATO whose reputation as an exemplarily civilized and tolerant Muslim country has been destroyed by its current leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was encouraging tens of thousands of military-age men from around the Muslim world to force their way across the Greek border and flood into Europe.
When I wrote this book, I lived in Oslo; I now live in a small town in the mountains of Norway, a two-hour drive from the capital. If you had told me in 2006 that the Muslim population of Oslo would increase dramatically by the year 2020 (as it has), I’d have believed you; if you had told me that by 2020 women in hijab and even niqab – which covers everything but the eyes – would be a familiar sight in the small town where I now live (which it is), I’d have been surprised.
The subject of this book, then, is more urgent than ever. Yet there is nothing new under the sun; despite everything that has happened on the Islam front in the years since this book was published, all of these developments come under the heading of “more of the same.” Hence, I believe, this book continues to be, as it was in 2006, a useful introduction and overview of its subject – a subject about which every responsible citizen of a free country, and every loving parent of a free child, should be seriously knowledgeable.
Leave a Reply