German Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to have developed a fitful case of the John-Howards this week. Much like the former Australian prime-minister, she found herself being forced to publicly confront the reality that a large swathe of the Muslim minority in her country has no interest in assimilating into German society.
Germany has been roiled over the past month after the publication of former Central Banker Thilo Sarazzin’s book Deutschland schafft sich ab “Germany Does Away With Itself” in which Mr. Sarazzin alleges that Germany’s immigrant Muslim population is reluctant to integrate and tends to rely more on social services than to contribute productively to their society. Furthermore, he calculates that their population growth may well overwhelm the German population within a couple of generations at the current rate. He proposes stringent reforms for the welfare system to rectify the problems. The first edition of his book sold out within a few days.
The political uproar occurred when German president Christian Wullff responded to Sarazzin with a plea for greater tolerance of Muslim sensitivities. That pushed members of Merkel’s governing conservative coalition, the Christian Democratic Union, to call on the president to show her conservative muscle and counter Wulff’s apparent words of appeasement.
Increasingly, European leaders are being forced to state openly what isolated members of their conservative constituencies have been saying for nearly a decade – that Europe has a Muslim problem that is not going away any time soon. Men and women who have been brave enough to defy politically correct prohibitions have suffered for their convictions. Pik Fortuyn and Theo Van Gogh were murdered; Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Dutch legislator, was forced to flee and Geert Wilders, the leader of the second largest party in the Dutch parliament, is currently standing trial for incitement.
But the fact there is a movement afoot to confront the realities of a restive, unassimiable minority of Muslims in the midst of Europe, cannot now be denied. Last December the Swiss voted to ban the construction of further minarets in their country; the French have been debated the banning of the burqa for nearly two years and the Italians, whose problems are not quite as severe, nevertheless have developed stringent judicial responses to honor killings and wife beating incidents in Muslim homes.
Now its Germany’s turn. The German journalist Henryk Broder, who appeared at the first Collapse of Europe conference in June 2007, once explained to me that German passivity was a result of its disinclination to be regarded in any way as racist. Its own history with racism has inoculated it, he said , against any notion that other groups should be coerced into accepting Western values.
Its not quite good enough any more. Over the next five years European political leaders will come under increasing pressure from their constituencies to make bold statements, much as Ms. Merkel did this week. They may not be quite as brave as John Howard, who, in 2005, faced down multicultural pressure to state assertively that Muslims who do not subscribe to Australian values or choose to place their religious convictions above the Australian constitution, will be stripped of their citizenship.
But that day might be coming to Europe sooner than anyone expects.