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Europe, Muslims, and crime

Posted by Christopher Shea  February 5, 2010 08:31 AM

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Christopher Caldwell's book "Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West" has been reviewed with a level of respect not accorded other doom-and-gloom books about the supposed rising Muslim tide. In a sense, writes David Rieff in the journal World Affairs, that respect is justified, as Caldwell has an able mind and pen. But the book, Rieff concludes, is a different story: It is "intellectually and morally beneath him."

Consider his treatment of crime committed by Muslims:

Caldwell never pauses in his breathless account of the decline of the West to ask himself whether things would really be so bad if youth unemployment rates in places like the Paris suburbs didn't hover around 40 percent. .... The problem is that, where immigrants in Europe are concerned (as opposed to soccer hooligans in the United Kingdom, Latino street thugs in the States, or gangs in Rio), Caldwell simply will not accept that the criminal and the political are not inseparable. In this, his argument is oddly reminiscent of the one made by radical leftists like the writer Mike Davis about the Crips and Bloods street gangs in Los Angeles being proto-revolutionary formations.

Rieff includes some thoughts about the temptations facing intellectuals who want to reach an audience beyond their small circle of peers. Of the corner-cutting he identifies in Caldwell's book, he writes: "Such simplifications make for provocative Op-Ed pieces, fat book contracts, and wide media attention for the writers who trade in them. ... But given the seriousness with which writers like Caldwell take themselves, and what to be taken, it simply won't do."

Rieff gets into provocative territory himself when he discusses the parallels, or lack thereof, between Muslim integration in Europe and the integration of Latino immigrants in America. Caldwell, he writes, "makes an impassioned case for the northward migration of Mexicans and Central and South Americans en masse, sayiing it is fundamentally different because Latino immigrants are Catholic and have the mores of white ethnic immigrants of four or five decades ago. I rather doubt anyone who has direct experience of Central American youth gangs in California or Washington State, or lives in the southwest and has watched the drug violence spread across the border from Mexico, would take quite the sentimental line Caldwell does ..."

A scene from a riot in a Paris suburb, fall 2007

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