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A Peacable Transformation to Islamic Civilization?- Not Necessarily

Reader comment on item: Muslim Europe

Submitted by Uzi Amit-Kohn (Israel), May 12, 2004 at 02:45

You write: "The peaceable transformation of a region from one major civilization to another, now under way, has no precedent in human history".

Yet it is far from clear that the transformation now seemingly underway will remain peaceable.

The early British settlers in North America also managed to get along peaceably for a while with their Native American neighbors, but once the scale of the immigration and settlement of Europeans in North America became clear to the locals, some of them, at least, fought back. Hence the term "Indian Wars" (as well as Black Hawk Wars, Seminole Wars etc., to say nothing of the French and Indian War).

Similarly, the first four decades of modern Zionist immigration to and settlement of Palestine were marked by very little violence by the local Arabs. However, once the Balfour Declaration and the replacement of Ottoman rule by British occupation signaled to them the seriousness of the Zionist enterprize, violence became the order of the day, beginning with the Arab riots and massacres of Jews in Jaffa and then throughout Palestine in 1920, the Nebi Moussa riots and pogroms in Jerusalem in 1921, the country-wide rioting and massacre of Hebron's ancient (and non-Zionist) Jewish community in 1929, the Arab rebellion of 1936-1939, and all of the fighting between the Jews and the Arabs since 1947.

In both the case of North America and of Israel/Palestine, the violent opposition came too late in the day to affect the outcome. The settlers were already too firmly established in the new country, their communities self sufficient, their institutions determined and confident. And, in the case of North America, the Native Americans were too weakened, their numbers too thinned, by the devastation of Small Pox , to put up much of a fight. One massacre at Jamestown in 1605 might have put a halt to European settlement in North America. Dozens of Indian Wars in the nineteenth century could not.

In other situations, where Muslim and non-Muslim communities have been forced to coexist and work out terms for the sharing or division of power, this has not been accomplished without large-scale violence or outright war: Lebanon, Nigeria, Cyprus, India/Pakistan, Indonesia, Sudan, the Balkans, the Phillippines, to name a few.

So, while I agree that the demographic trends portend a disaster for Christian Europe, I doubt that the disaster will be in the form of a peaceable tranformation to Islamic civilization. It seems likely that Christian Europe will not "go gently into that good night", but rather will put up a fight. If history is any guide, a Christian- Muslim civil war with wide-scale ethnic cleansing by both sides, is more likely than a quiescent transition to Muslim civilization. At some point, the size of the Muslim population and the assertiveness of its members will awaken the European Christians, and they will take steps to change the demographic processes underway. The Muslim reaction to such steps is likely to be violent and may ignite a wide-spread conflagration. Or perhaps, as the Islamists so often seem wont to do, the Muslim side will grow impatient and overplay its hand, and attempt a power grab before the demographics have worked their work. Either way, or in dozens of other potential scenarios, inter-communal conflict could easily break out. War, not peace, will be the handmaiden of the Islamization of Christian Europe.
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