Although it was published in 2017, Douglas Murray,’s The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam is as relevant now as it was three years ago. A British journalist and Associate Editor of The Spectator, Murray is also openly gay and considers himself a Christian atheist. He thus undoubtedly brings a unique perspective to the immigration debate, one that we should pay attention to lest we commit mistakes that Europe has already made.
A casual and superficial observer might conclude that modern-day Western Europe’s self-destructive immigration policies – Angela Merkel’s open arms invitation to more than a million migrants in 2015 in particular – are something new and recent. In fact, Murray reminds us that, like Rome, and like the United States’ current-day dysfunctional immigration system, they weren’t created in a day.
Following the Second World War – during which much of Europe was destroyed and millions of Europeans killed – Western European nations established guest worker programs to fill temporary labor shortages. This, for example, is how West Germany acquired a large Turkish population after the war. Economic factors were also coupled with post-colonial guilt as growing numbers of Western Europeans felt morally duty-bound to accept increasing levels of immigration from their former colonies (e.g. the British from the India and Pakistan, and the French from North Africa).
Since postwar immigration was seen primarily as a temporary economic fix, it was assumed that the migrants would eventually return home. Thus, there was little emphasis on assimilation. Yet, it quickly became evident that the guest workers and immigrants grew to appreciate higher Western wages and living standards and had no intention of returning home. With time, the numbers of new arrivals grew larger and larger – in spite of overwhelming opposition on the part of Western European publics.
The average European’s skepticism towards high levels of mass immigration – and the demographic and cultural shifts which it entailed – was either ignored or condemned by politicians, journalists, and other members of the elite. When silence or minimizing the issue didn’t work, Europeans were either lied to by politicians who talked tough on immigration during elections, but did nothing to lower numbers or deport illegal aliens, or were simply shouted-down as “racists” and “xenophobes.”
As Murray points out, however, Europeans have become much more vocal about mass immigration in recent years. Much of this was driven by immigration from Islamic countries – which constitutes much of Europe’s immigrant population – and radical Islamist violence and terrorism. Many Europeans were shocked by such instances of Islamist intolerance as the assassination of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim extremist of Moroccan descent in 2004. Parties opposed to mass immigration, and what they saw as the future “Islamization” of Europe, sprang up or increased their popularity throughout Western Europe.
Perhaps the greatest shock to the system came in 2015, as hundreds of thousands of migrants from the greater Middle East and Africa flooded Europe. Poverty, war, and chaos in the migrants’ homelands certainly contributed to the exodus, but there is little doubt that German chancellor Angela Merkel’s naïvely optimistic open-arms policies (“we can do this!”) also served as a huge magnet (interestingly, only five years before Merkel publicly acknowledged that multiculturalism had “utterly failed” because many immigrants were simply not assimilating). As Murray shows, the ensuing wave of sexual assaults and terror attacks by migrants saw anti-mass-immigration sentiments and political movements grow throughout the continent – much to the chagrin of the political establishment.
The book is useful to Americans not only because it offers a comparative insight into immigration policies in Europe, but also because the author succinctly and skillfully dismantles the main arguments of the pro-mass-immigration lobby. Thus, in Chapter Three (“The excuses we told ourselves”), and elsewhere, the book tackles talking points that we are all-too-familiar with here in the United States.
But Murray does not only lament the very strange fact that Western Europeans are pursuing self-destructive and harmful immigration policies. He also offers solutions. For instance, refugees and migrants should be helped closer to home, in neighboring safe countries, where the aid can be administered much more cost-effectively and where cultural barriers are less pronounced. Paying them to work in neighboring countries could complement such a policy. He also recommends processing asylum claims outside of Europe as well as implementing a policy of temporary asylum (given how TPS has turned “temporary” quasi-amnesties into permanent ones, the latter solution seems problematic).
All of these solutions are inspired by a perspective that “however greatly you might wish to benefit from an endless supply of cheap labor, a wider range of cuisine or the salving of a generation’s conscience, you still would not have the right to wholly transform your society. Because that which you inherited that is good should also be passed on.”