Title: The Strange Death of Europe (Immigration, Identity, Islam)
Author: Douglas Murray
Year: 2017
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-1-4729-5800-6

A website where I spend a lot of time is 9gag. A significant proportion of its posts are anti-Muslim, anti-black immigration, mockeries of the failings of African & black countries, antisemitic, and anti the current fashion of (seemingly) denigrating anything white & male while gushing over things female & non-white. I find the site really funny and educational. I honestly enjoy the non-pc fare despite it being targeted at me - a black, Muslim man. A recurring theme in the posts is the immigration of non-white people into white countries and the negative effects of same. This book is a formal and sophisticated collation of those opinions. I first read it last year and I liked it enough to read it again.

The book examines the causes of, processes, and reactions to non-white immigration into Europe starting from the 1950s to 2016. It discusses the demographic, economic, humanitarian and political reasons for the phenomenon. Right off the bat, it is clear that the author is unhappy with the immigration and its effects. So, he begins with the end in mind. However, he makes a compelling case for his opinion. His primary argument is that European governments seem more concerned with the rights of immigrants than with those of natives/Europeans/white people. It is a valid stance because immigration has changed the nature of Europe. The dislike of some of those changes is a question of taste while the dislike for others is a matter of objectivity.

It is normal to describe as racist people who dislike others due to skin colour or a different faith. However, preference is a human thing and implicit in the freedom to associate is the freedom not to associate. This means that members of a group are free to decide who to admit and who to exclude. A society has certain characteristics which identify its members. Some of them can be physical while others will be intangible. The author talks about how some immigrants to Europe refuse to accept European values, especially liberalism. He talks about the illiberal attitudes of Muslims especially towards homosexuality. The rights guaranteed by European governments are what attract immigrants and give them space to express their own cultures. If that cultural expression includes attempts to deny others, especially natives, their own right to expression, then there is nothing wrong in speaking out against not just the culture of those immigrants but against the immigrants themselves. He also talks about Muslim demands for Shariah. I completely agree with the view that any Muslim who goes to a non-Muslim country and demands for Islamic law should be firmly invited to migrate to countries that practice it. I am not saying discrimination is ok, but in this case, it can be justified.

The discussion about how aspects of Muslim culture are at variance with European customs is about intangible changes. The physical changes he dislikes include a focus on skin colour. He talks about how the racial composition of big European cities is trending towards whites becoming a minority. This is classically racist but again, I can understand it while also smirking that it is a continuation of human history. This is a report of a prehistoric non-white corpse found in the UK who had a descendant still living in the area. So, Mr. Murray's concerns about the darkening of European skins are either unjustified, since the Europeans were originally non-white; or temporary, because if black people who came to Europe long ago became white, the descendants of those coming now will also eventually become white.

The more objective changes which he complains about are those that are leading or have even led to declines in the European quality of life. He talks about how immigration has strained the health system. This is an extremely valid point since the public health system is one of financial intermediation. Young and healthy and rich people pay for old and sick and poor ones. It works because firstly, the population is expected to keep growing, and; secondly, on average, more is put into the system by citizens than is taken out. However, immigrants come and use up the system's resources without having contributed to it. It is the same situation with education and housing.

A more serious if exaggerated issue is crime. He quotes statistics about how increased immigration has led to increased crime (especially rapes and sexual assaults) in France, Germany, Sweden and the UK. A criticism of this point is that it might be cherry picking. For example, in Sweden, the apparent increase in sexual crime statistics is due to a change in the law which widened the definition of those crimes. Regardless, he reports on a trend where Muslim men groom white girls. If this is more prevalent among immigrants, then it is not racist to speak against it or against the perpetrators or even against the culture which produced people who do such things. It is important however to make a distinction between Islam and Muslims. That Muslims do something does not mean that thing is Islamic. In my country, people (both Muslim and non) are frequently lynched merely on allegations of blasphemy, desecrating the Quran or disrespecting the prophet. This is wrong and un-islamic. In the same vein, people are frequently lynched on suspicions of theft and witchcraft. Those lynchings are never laid at the door of the dominant non-Muslim cultures which produced the people and the environment that allows such acts to happen with such frequency. This distinction between culture and members is, to me, the most reasonable explanation for people pushing back against accusations that Islam is a violent religion or Muslims being uniquely violent people. Further, evidence that Islam is not inherently violent is Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia. Until relatively recently, Islam there coexisted peacefully with other faiths. That it has become less tolerant and more violent now is demonstrably due to foreign influence. Regardless, the Muslim penchant for violence, especially when it relates to perceptions of disrespect towards the religion has led to self-censorship in Europe and honestly, this is sad. European liberal culture and its separation of church and state has led to increased knowledge and an incredible diversity in the arts which have greatly improved quality of life. This liberality allows irreverence towards religion. Muslims say they will not tolerate this attitude towards their religion. And I think Europeans should not agree. Nobody has the right to dictate another person's attitudes or opinions.

The most serious complaint about Muslims is that of terrorism. To this, there is nothing to say except that the man is correct in wanting to be safe and if the price of that safety is exclusion, then it is a price worth paying. It doesn't even matter if the cause of the immigration is European foreign policy, like how the destabilisation of Libya and killing of Gaddafi enabled the situation being complained about.

As I said earlier, the book talks about both non-white and Muslim immigration. I have been going on about the Muslim bit because that is the main thrust of the book. The bits about non-whites migrating to Europe are not many nor as strident. And it made me think about an article I read which argued that if Islam has not existed, and the Middle East was still largely Christian as it was before the emergence of Islam, there would still be conflict between Europe and the region. Such conflict could even be religious due to doctrinal disagreements between the eastern and western church. I also remember reading that one of the causes of the deterioration of relations with Russia was NATO action in Bosnia. Russia allegedly viewed the attacks on the Serbs as an attack on co-religionists. Thus, conflict is inevitable, and that Islam is embroiled in it against the west is just part of the march of history. Besides, as one of my friends said when I discussed my views with him, Europeans were once traveling the world and taking over other people's countries. What they are experiencing now is the chickens coming home to roost. This is defensible but not a good argument, like the case for reparations or even apologies to descendants of people whose parents were victims of western empire.

The most introspective and melancholic part of the book is the bit about the attitudes of European politicians towards European concerns. The politicians seem more concerned with saying the right sounding things, even if patently false. They seem more concerned with being on the good side of the diversity, equity and inclusion crowd even when their publics don't want it. In this process of trendy political posturing, they denigrate and deny European culture. He laments the vacuousness of current European culture which seems mostly just concerned with hedonism. He opines that European philosophy and material wealth have led Europeans to become blind to the value in their culture and history and thus unable or unwilling to resist the changes being wrought on their society now. And in reaction, new parties have come up to better reflect those ignored concerns. Those parties have been called far right and even racist. Even if they are, which some are not, a people have the right to decide what their country should be like. The concerns of those who are currently in the country or have been there longer should not be subsidiary to the rights of those who want to come or have just come. Further, despite the desire for compassion, migration to Europe as a solution to upheaval in other places must have a limit simply because the place has a carrying capacity.

This is a great book. I have only two criticisms against it. The first is the cherry picking I mentioned earlier. He does that mainly in two ways. The first way is when he chooses only data that supports his thesis. There are many places where the author mentions polls that speak approvingly of immigration. He dismisses those polls and says that is not what the public thinks. However, when those polls align with his views, he uses them as evidence. This is inconsistent and biased because the criterion for the veracity of a poll is not whether it aligns with one's views but whether it was conducted properly.

The other cherry-picked use of information is his selective view of history. He says Islam has no place in Europe because the roots of European culture are Judeo-Christian. Firstly, until fairly recently, Christians generally treated Jews horribly - multiple expulsions (after many of which, the Jews found refuge in Muslim lands), blood libels, trade + work restrictions, confinements to ghettos and so many other discriminations. While there were Jews in Europe, I doubt they contributed much to European culture until maybe the 19th century. Secondly, Islam has more in common with Judaism than Christianity does - dietary laws, requirements for multiple daily prayers, an abhorrence of graven images in houses of worship, an uncompromising view on the primacy of one God and thus a rejection of the trinity, etc. Thirdly, all the 3 religions are from the same root. Despite Judaism denying the messiah-hood of Jesus and Christians denying the truth of Muhammad's ministry, there is no denying their similarity. Fourthly, his insinuation that the bad behavior of Muslim men is due to Islam's intrinsic unfairness except to Muslim men is wrong because there is a bill of rights in Islam. While it does not give the rights that modern people are used to, it was quite an improvement on social mores at the time it was released. Finally, and I admit this is a weak point, if there is anything like Judeo-Christian values, why are the Israelis treating Palestinian Christians so badly?

The other criticism I have of it is a pet peeve. I don't think Europe is a continent. Otherwise, why is India not called a continent also?

This is a great book and it is highly recommended. I enjoyed it so much, I read it twice.