Malibu conference on Europe sees threats in ‘multiculturalism’

It was a beautiful Sunday in Malibu, but the 300 people gathered at a Pepperdine University hilltop building had little time to appreciate the sparkling Pacific Ocean.

The scholars, journalists and concerned citizens were there for a conference whose title could hardly be weightier or more ominous: “The Collapse of Europe, the Rise of Islam, and the Consequences for the United States.”

“We did not come here to declare the demise of Europe, whose strength is vital to the future of Western civilization,” said Avi Davis, coordinator of the June 10-11 meeting and executive director of the recently founded American Freedom Alliance, which seeks to promote freedom of conscience among people of faith.

However, Davis and most of the speakers clearly meant “to raise a red flag that in its present state, Europe is too exhausted, too uncertain of its future and too unwilling to defend its basic values against Islamic insurgency.”

Describing the conference as the most concerted intellectual effort to address this perceived danger, Davis said that the venue on the U.S. West Coast indicated that “Europeans either think there is no problem or are fearful of addressing it.”

Instead, impressive numbers of European writers and thinkers from Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and Austria, who seek to “awaken” their countrymen, traveled to Malibu to join their like-minded American colleagues.

At just one of the 15 sessions, titled “Eurabia: Is Muslim Domination of Europe Inevitable?” the panelists included Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a native of Somalia, former Dutch Parliament member and fervent critic of Islam’s treatment of women; Henryk Broder, an influential German Jewish journalist and author of “Hurray — We Surrender,” and Dutch filmmaker Leon de Winter.

They were joined by Americans Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, and Gregory M. Davis, documentary film producer and author of “Religion of Peace?”

Among other well-known speakers at the conference were talk show hosts Hugh Hewitt and Dennis Prager, columnist Mark Steyn and professor James Q. Wilson of Harvard, UCLA and Pepperdine University.

While the “Eurabia” panelists did not give up Europe for lost, their indictments of the Continent’s alleged spinelessness and inaction in the face of escalating Islamic immigration, birthrate and militancy pointed to grave dangers ahead.

According to statistics presented in the conference source book, there are now 6 million Muslims in France, 3 million in Germany and 1 million in both Spain and Holland.

A main culprit in the eyes of most speakers is “multiculturalism” taken to an extreme, in which the self-labeled “victim” is always right, and any criticism of Islamic beliefs or demands is politically incorrect.

“It is a fallacy of multiculturalism that all cultures are equally valuable and must be preserved,” Hirsi Ali declared.

“Whether Muslims will take over Europe will depend on how far we let them go,” Broder observed. “But most [Europeans] don’t know what to do. They prefer capitulation to action.”

Such inertia is due to Europe’s loss of confidence in itself, various speakers agreed, and in a later session, Claire Berlinski, author of “Menace in Europe,” blamed two main factors. One reason is the catastrophic bloodletting of the two world wars; a second is “the death of Christianity,” Berlinski said.

“Christianity gave a framework to European life, and nothing has replaced it,” she said. “Today, less than 10 percent of Europeans are Christian believers and more British people know about Britney Spears than Jesus Christ.”

A recurrent analogy at the meeting was between European appeasement of Nazism in the 1930s and the current lack of resolve to confront radical Islam.

Judging from the question-and-answer exchanges, audience members warmly agreed with the speakers’ viewpoints or found them not forceful enough, but organizer Davis rejected labeling participants as right wing or intolerant.

“We have been occasionally attacked as neocons or even racists, but that is simply not the case,” he said. “This is an academic conference, and we have both liberal and conservative participants.”

“Criticizing another religion is a sensitive issue, but we must break this taboo when our values and traditions are under assault,” Davis emphasized. “We are absolutely committed to freedom of conscience and inquiry.”

The American Freedom Alliance and its associated Council for Democracy and Tolerance plan a follow-up conference in November in Washington, D.C., focusing on the political and legal aspects of the European situation.

Next April or May, a further meeting is expected to be held in a European capital.

For more information, visit

A Voice of Democracy Where None Exists

Tashbih Sayyed believes in democracy as a way of life. He can be counted among the few Muslims in America who believe that modernism, free-thinking and education are keys to rid Muslims from the morass of extremism.

Sayyed was the keynote speaker at a two-hour discussion on the Middle East crisis during a July 27 Laguna Beach Havurah gathering at a private residence in Monarch Bay.

The discussion, organized by Rabbi Stuart Altshuler, head of Congregation Eilat in Mission Viejo, explored ideas and exchanged views on how to tackle the growing fanaticism in Islam and how to alert the Muslim world that their biggest enemies — imams and emirs — lie within.

“I have to challenge the enemy of Muslims, the enemy of Islam, who is also the enemy of Israel and enemy of [the] USA,” said Sayyed, who once served in Pakistan’s government and is now editor of Pakistan Today.

Sayyed also blamed the United States and its Western partners for installing corrupt dictators in the Islamic world and giving them billions of dollars in aid.

Due to a lack of education and social services in the Middle East, according to Sayyed, Arab and Muslims are trying to qualify for eternity by doing what they determined to be God’s work, which is to make war on those who ignore or question divine authority.

For extremists it is not about killing Jews per se, but a means to purchase a heaven filled with women, he said.

Sayyed, who has been harassed and threatened by fellow Muslims, spoke out vehemently against some Islamic rights organizations in the United States. He said such organizations — many of which are funded with Saudi money — should be banned.

He also said the time had come for the United States to be vigilant at mosques and other Islamic institutions where Saudi-funded literature is being distributed and Saudi Arabia’s Whabisim is spread, in the name of Islam, to the mostly peaceful and educated North American Muslim community.

Sayyed also said he strongly opposes the creation of a separate homeland for Palestinians, saying that another Islamic state is not going to help Muslims, Islam and the world when so many other Islamic countries are already failing to do good. He said he feels this way not out of favoritism for the Jewish state, but because a Palestinian nation is just not ready for a separate country.

It will just be another state on the world map, spreading the message of hate, he said.

Sayyed added that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who can easily pass as a personal stenographer of Yasser Arafat, could hardly be an example of leadership and that the world was just wasting time dealing with him. However, Sayyed couldn’t elaborate on whom among Palestinians to deal with.

For more information about Tashbih Sayyed, e-mail Rabbi
Stuart Altshuler at .

Athens and Baghdad

The legacy of Athens was not only the glory of Western democracy. It was also the brutality of Roman tyranny. And the legacy of Baghdad is not only Wahhabi obscurantism and viciousness. It is also religious tolerance and a this-worldly spirituality.

Islam may have been born in Mecca and Medina, but it matured and flowered under the civilization that issued from noble Baghdad. Civilization is never static. It changes with the seasons of history. An inward-looking America of a century ago would hardly be recognizable to a student of American foreign policy since World War II.

Civilizations wax and wane but never stop evolving. Since this is so clearly the case, I can’t understand why so many self-appointed pundits of Islam are convinced that Islam and democracy don’t mix.

Who would have thought in 1945 that Japan would become one of the world’s most powerful, liberal democracies only two decades later? Centuries of militarism and despotic rule there were turned around in a generation. It is hard to conceive of a return to the collective mentality of imperial Japan in my children’s or their children’s generation.

It is true that Islam is not a "democratic" religion. But then, I know of no religion that is. Certainly not Christianity, with its divinely appointed hierarchy. And not Judaism, which derives its legal tradition from God — not from the Sanhedrin.

The bottom line of democracy is the freedom of every individual to vote one’s conscience, and that tenet is missing equally from Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It has been argued that democracy in the West required that people experience the repeated and violent failures of feudalism to prove its worth, and the subsequent catastrophes of fascism and communism to confirm its value.

I don’t believe it’s a stretch to point out that the Muslims of the Middle East know very well how feudalism, fascism, communism and theocracies have failed them miserably. So what is to prevent Arab Muslims from diving enthusiastically into democracy?

The answer is their taste of the bitter fruits of democracy itself. Democracy has worked best in tandem with capitalism, and capitalism has always required expanding markets, greater supplies of resources and cheap and dependable labor.

These requirements have convinced many in the business world to exploit less-developed areas for their resources, their labor and their purchase power. There is nothing wrong with exploitation — but there are two meanings to the term. One meaning is utilization, development and management. The other is abuse, mistreatment and manipulation.

In the search for a fast and easy buck, our capitalists have too often read exploitation the wrong way. The amazing thing about this is that we have managed to remain largely immune from the effects of our grand schemes.

Sept. 11 was our wake-up call. It hit us hard and it hit us where it really hurts. So as any nation would, we responded. With our superior technology and firepower, we managed to destroy two threats to our immediate security. First, it was the theocracy of Afghanistan, and now, the secular tyranny of Iraq.

We must now follow our display of military prowess with a responsible demonstration of our conviction that democracy works. We need to teach the Iraqis, as we did the Japanese, that we will accept nothing less than full capitulation and reversal from tyranny and violence.

But as any teacher knows, effective teaching fails when students can see the disconnect between teaching and personal example (and students can always see when there is a disconnect between teaching and example). This is the root failure of European colonialists. They educated indigenous elites on the principles of democracy and social justice, but set personal examples of racism, negative exploitation and autocracy.

Which message was the one that was learned?

We can teach effectively only by example. That means that America must demonstrate to the Iraqis and the entire Muslim world that our war was not a clash of civilizations or just another excuse for exploitation, but rather a demonstration of what American values are all about.

We need to prove that democracy can work for everybody; that it is not only a Christian or a Western experience. It may mean a slightly poorer bottom line for our businesses in the short term, but the long-term results will more than make up for it.

Reuven Firestone is professor of medieval Judaism and Islam and the director of the Edgar F. Magnin School of Graduate Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institue of Religion in Los Angeles.