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Reader comment on item: Muslim Europe

Submitted by Bob Carl (United States), May 11, 2004 at 10:48

Dear Daniel,

This is a brilliant article. I have two comments. First, there is a historical precedent for all of this and it happened in Europe itself. I refer to the gradual migration of barbarian peoples through the rather porous borders of the Roman Empire during the period 167-450 A.D.

As is happening today in Europe, Rome during the first and second centuries A.D. had reached a peak in prosperity and power. But its birth rates were rapidly declining and there was an increasing failure of nerve. Romans didn't want to breed or serve in the legions and so germanic, hunnic and alanic barbarians took their place. Barbarian generals appear in the late 3rd century, more in the 4th, and by the 5th century were often "king makers" and made and unmade emperors. Meanwhile, polis-based classical civilization withered as trade routes were disrupted by barbarian holdings and piracies. A new religion (Christianity) was rapidly displacing the state cults that served as focii for imperial patriotism. A belief in a new and eternal world of the spirit chilled efforts to confront temporal problems. At some point, say mid 5th century, the combined effects of all this was to replace classical civilization with the dark ages. By the 6th century, cattle grazed in the Roman forum. So history is just repeating itself.

My second concern though is that it almost sounds like Nazism or Hitler when one speaks in a xenophobic tone a la Enoch Powell. Yet, there is much truth in this and western values are worth preserving. Still, there is a very fine line here between "responsible xenophobia" and racism and we must find it.

Bob Carl


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