Jewish World Review August 12, 2005 / 7 Av,
LONDON They are so obliging, the Brits. On nearly every
crosswalk, painted alerts on the streets warn visitors to "look left" or
"look right" depending upon whether you've come to a one-way or two-way
street. Even with these cautions, we've had a couple of close shaves with
cars making turns from the "wrong" direction.
The city is hardy and resilient, if a bit edgy. The 7/7 bombings
and 7/21 attempted bombings are still on everyone's minds and lips. When
sirens scream and three police cars race down the street, people shoot
nervous glances at them. Tourism is way down. The police presence is
ostentatious. Wait times at attractions like the London Eye (an enormous
Ferris wheel with enclosed glass pods that sits on the banks of the Thames),
usually up to an hour in the summer months, are down to five or 10 minutes.
The British Museum is busy, but not mobbed. It's easy to find seating at
lunchtime in the cafe. When we explain that we're from Washington, D.C., and
are therefore used to this, we get rueful and sad nods from Londoners.
Great Britain is struggling to come to grips with the meaning of
those attacks, as they were launched not by foreigners but by entirely
homegrown jihadists. They were educated, British-born, middle class Muslims,
not poor and ignorant recruits from the Middle East. Great Britain is home
to more than 1.6 million legal Muslim immigrants (according to the 2001
census) and to an unknown number of illegals and visitors of various kinds.
They are very much in evidence in London, particularly in the Knightsbridge
neighborhood. Here, the nickname "Londonistan" leaps to life. In outdoor
cafes with Arabic writing on the awnings, large numbers of Arab men sit
smoking water pipes and sipping Turkish coffee. Arab women, some covered
head to toe in burkas, push baby strollers and hold hands with toddlers as
they pass. I saw one Muslim lady clad entirely in black, including black
gloves and black face veil, revealing only eyes and hardly those, as the
lady in question wore glasses. It was about 78 degrees and a bright sunny
day. She looked like an apparition the grim reaper at a garden party.
In other Muslim women, the clash of civilizations is played out
in their fashions. They adapt. Over long skirts and long sleeves, they wear
a beaded denim skirt, or sport boots under a burka. Harrods was packed with
veiled Arab ladies buying designer clothes and expensive make-up to wear
England's Muslim immigrants are not all Islamists by any means.
Neither are all orthodox Muslims. But assimilation is not the norm. The
Muslim birth rate is very high whereas that of native Britons lags far
behind. It is estimated that by 2050, 20 percent of the European Community
will be Muslim, and Muslim majorities will by then be in place in a number
of large cities.
One can understand why Muslims are flocking to Europe (900,000
legal immigrants enter the EU yearly). It is clean, wealthy, orderly, safe
and free. Certainly Europeans are not knocking on the doors of Jordan,
Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Lebanon demanding admission. Europeans have
created among the most prosperous and peaceful societies on earth. And yet,
the paradox is that the refugees from the least successful societies in the
world have more confidence in their civilization than the Europeans have in
their own. Their birth rate is the best evidence. Surely George Weigel ("The
Cube and the Cathedral") is correct that the reason lies in religion.
Even the tour guides at famous landmarks like the Tower of
London and other landmarks though sometimes dressed in traditional
garb reflect the post-Christian nature of British society. "People in
those days," they explain in reference to the 16th century, "believed in an
One of the great questions of our time is whether Europe will,
in the coming century, maintain its identity and civilization, or be
gradually absorbed into the expanding Muslim world. And America's fate
cannot be divorced from that of its forebears.
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