Guess Who's Coming to Europe?

Protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square, London, to denounce cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square, London, to denounce cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. (Scott Barbour/getty Images)

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Reviewed by Steven Simon
Sunday, March 26, 2006

WHILE EUROPE SLEPT

How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within

By Bruce Bawer

Doubleday. 247 pp. $23.95

THE ISLAMIC CHALLENGE

Politics and Religion in Western Europe

By Jytte Klausen

Oxford Univ. 253 pp. $29.95

When a right-of-center Danish newspaper published 12 cartoons in September depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist and lecher, it ultimately unleashed a storm of protest in the Arab world and South Asia. The repulsion and fury -- which resulted in the torching of Danish diplomatic posts, as well as riots in Afghanistan -- were predictable. But so was the underlying provocation. Many Europeans are increasingly alienated by what they take to be Muslim rejection of Europe's liberal principles. It was only a matter of time before someone was going to return the favor. Bruce Bawer's While Europe Slept , which castigates alleged West European complacency in the face of Muslim encroachments that threaten European values, reflects these brewing resentments.

This book picks up where Bawer's 1998 Stealing Jesus left off. Then his target was American evangelicalism. Contemporary fundamentalism, he argued, had betrayed the more authentic religion of his Episcopal ancestors and foisted on American Christians eccentric ideas about rapture and the apocalypse. These beliefs not only corrupted the faith, he lamented, but underpinned a combination of certainty, intolerance and social conservatism that marred American society -- and, in particular, penalized gays like himself.

Bawer, a widely published cultural critic in the United States, did not remain here. With his partner, he moved first to the Netherlands and then to Norway, which he saw as havens of rationality, measured hedonism and respect for personal choice. But for Bawer, the seductive openness and easy sophistication of Dutch and Norwegian urban society were soon clouded by his realization that not all the inhabitants of Western Europe were secularized Christians. There were also an estimated 15 million Muslims, often ghettoized. An ugly encounter with gay-bashing Muslim youths and reports of similar incidents triggered Bawer's focus on this large and growing European minority, which in some countries makes up more than 10 percent of the population.


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