In 1990 former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt told me in an interview that massive Islamic immigration into Europe kept him awake at night. Between pinches of snuff, Schmidt said he worried Muslims wouldn’t assimilate, and that this would become a big problem for the continent.
Schmidt’s ruminations are worth remembering following French President Francois Hollande visit to President Obama Tuesday to ask for help in what he has called France’s war on the Islamic State (ISIS). Hollande, who has been much more assertive than his host on defeating ISIS, to say the least, has been candid that “complicity from the inside” is one of the problems he will have to tackle.
I won’t quote Schmidt directly out of deference to the quarter century that has passed. But I distinctly remember thinking his comment would be the lede [sic] paragraph. Some European pols like Jean-Marie Le Pen were saying things like this back then, but here was a big Social-Democrat who had led West Germany for eight years talking this way.
Schmidt’s death this month—not to mention the fact that in the past 10 years he apparently stopped asking journalists not to print these things—releases me from my undertaking. The terrorist attacks in Paris this month and the fact that Belgium has gone into a virtual lockdown for days now because of the threat of an attack makes this relevant now.
Europe’s Assimilation Problem
It’s not only a French problem. An opinion poll conducted by the firm Survation for Britain’s The Sun newspaper revealed this week that one in five Islamic Britons have at least some sympathy for “young Muslims who leave the U.K. to join fighters in Syria.” Detractors on the left say, to be sure, that some respondents may have interpreted the question to include also young British Muslims who have gone to Syria to fight against ISIS.
The Difference Between America and Europe
Research such the Manhattan Institute’s Jacob L. Vigdor’s assimilation index demonstrates that Muslim immigrants in Europe do not assimilate as well as they do here. Vigdor’s index looks at economic, cultural and civic indicators such as unemployment, home ownership, marriage rates and military service, but is imperfect in that it does not measure patriotic attachment.
Polls, such as this one from the Pew Research Center, show that by large margins most Muslims in European countries think of themselves as Muslim first (in Britain, Spain and Germany only 7 percent, 3 percent and 13 percent saw themselves as citizens first). The same poll also shows that substantial majorities in those countries think Muslims do not want to assimilate. In a different Pew poll, 46 percent of American Muslims see themselves as Muslim first, 26 percent as American first.
The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the 1970s and 80s has made assimilation harder to accomplish for all countries, of course. As to why Europe has a harder time assimilating Muslim immigrants, there are several explanations:
- Socialist policies do not create a dynamic, fluid society. As can be seen in this OECD chart (also below), America’s per capita GDP simply grows at a much faster rate than Europe’s, creating employment and more prosperity for all.
It is doubtful that Obama and Hollande mentioned any of these items. Which is too bad if the prophesies that Schmidt made to me 25 years ago are ever to be disproved.
Full article: West Germany’s Former Chancellor Predicted Europe Would Have an Assimilation Problem (The Epoch Times)