Sunday, August 10, 2008

What the Hell is Going On in Italy?

24 July 2008
Soldiers To Patrol Italian Streets To Fight Crime

Italian Mayor Bans Gatherings of Three or More

What is one to make of these ominous developments in Italy? Do they suggest more of the same is on the way in other European countries? Or is it simply an anomaly? I think to understand what is happening now, you need to think about Europe’s history.

Europe is a place that turned back the Muslim invaders in the 700's (Tours/Poitiers France) and the 1600s (Vienna Austria). The current "invasion" by poor people from Muslim countries is viewed by many Europeans through this lens of history. It's not something we here in the US can really grasp; we keep saying "yeah well we have our own problem with an 'invasion' from Mexico!" But it's really not the same thing at all. The US's wave of "invaders" have no history of aggressive behavior against the US (in fact, if you look at the Texican squatters of the 1830s and the unprovoked war against Mexico in the 1840s, quite the opposite is true). When Europe sees a new wave of "barbarians at the gates", they are seeing three things that we cannot grasp:

  1. historically, Islam did try to over-run Europe and convert it. We might say "Jeez Louise, that was centuries ago!" Which simply reveals our ignorance of the thinking of countries that actually have a history, one spanning millenia. To Europe (and, it should be noted, to the Muslim world) things like the battle of Tours and the siege of Vienna happened yesterday.
  1. our Mexican "invaders" do not have a recent history of detonating themselves in close proximity to the native population of their host country. When Europeans see Muslim immigrants, they think Madrid, they think Coventry Station. They look at Iraq and Afghanistan and they think "these people are trying to import that into our country." Every single Muslim immigrant gets painted with this same brush.
  2. Europe always has before its eyes the image of poor, brave, reasonable Theo van Gogh, run down on the street in Amsterdam in 2004 and slaughtered like an animal in an abattoir by a Muslim religious fanatic. They do not forget that the influential Imam of the as-Sunnah Mosque in The Hague gave a sermon several weeks before the murder calling for Van Gogh’s death. They do not forget that, as news of Van Gogh’s murder spread through the Muslim world, many Muslims turned out on the streets to cheer. They think of Van Gogh and wonder, “When will it be my turn?”

I'm not writing any of this to excuse the recent convulsions of xenophobia in Europe, but simply to give Americans -- who tend to view things through a very America-centric lens -- some idea of how things look from over there. If you think post-9/11 Americans are scared of hordes of Muslim "barbarians at the gates", you haven’t seen anything -- the Europeans are terrified at the barbarians at their gates.

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