Question: How would a Catholic bishop respond to tens of thousands of peaceful citizens singing Silent Night in the center of an historic European city?
Answer: He would forbid Christians to take part.
On December 22, 18,000 demonstrators, many of them families with children, marched against “Islamization” and sang Christmas carols in front of Dresden’s opera house. The march was the latest in a series of “evening strolls” sponsored by PEGIDA, “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West.” In response to their previous march the week before, Ludwig Schick, the Archbishop of Bamberg, said that “Christians must not take part in PEGIDA.” Why? Because:
Pegida activists spread racial hatred and stir up irrational anxieties against the people; they are a reservoir of diffuse aggression against people of other cultures and religions. …For that reason we must uphold the values of Christianity, which preaches humanism, equality in dignity and rights, justice and peace. [emphasis added]
The archbishop’s reaction was similar to that of many German elites. “I find it really unaesthetic when Christmas carols are used to put across a political message,” said Jochen Bohl, bishop of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church, state church of Saxony. To show their own highly cultured distaste, the management of the opera house turned off the building’s lights and displayed banners outside that read “Open your eyes,” “Open your hearts,” “Open doors.” Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called for citizens to launch a “rebellion of the decent” against PEGIDA, and current chancellor Angela Merkel warned Germans not to be taken in by the “rabble-rousing” group. Meanwhile, virtually all the German media outlets describe PEGIDA as a far-right group, and the Interior Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia referred to the organizers as “Nazis in pin-striped suits.”
Yet PEGIDA’s immigration stance is rather mild compared to the platforms of other “right-wing” organizations and parties (any group that does not subscribe to leftist viewpoints is automatically labeled “right-wing” or “extreme right-wing” by Europe’s left leaning media.) PEGIDA’s manifesto calls for tolerance toward assimilated and moderate Muslims, welcomes war refugees, and calls for a more decentralized distribution of housing facilities for asylum seekers. On the other hand, PEGIDA is opposed to a “watering down” of Christian culture and traditions.
Archbishop Schick said that PEGIDA stirs up “irrational anxieties,” but many of PEGIDA’s concerns seem rational enough. According to The Guardian, Germany is the Continent’s chief destination for asylum seekers, and the second main destination for migrants after the United States. In recent years, Germany has seen:
- Street riots between Kurdish and Salafist immigrants.
- A proliferation of mosques housed in former churches.
- Numerous court cases in which sharia law has been given precedence over German law.
- A rise in polygamy: it is estimated that one-third of the Muslim men living in the Neukölln district of Berlin have two or more wives.
- The opening of a medical facility offering comprehensive treatment for victims of female genital mutilation. An estimated 50,000 German women are victims of FGM.
- Polls showing that 65 percent of Muslims interviewed thought sharia law should take precedence over secular law.
- Schools where German children, mostly in the minority, are subjected to daily bullying by Turkish and Arab students.
In addition, despite government efforts to discourage criticism of Europe’s indiscriminate immigration policies, Germans are no doubt aware of where those policies have led to in other immigrant-rich European nations. They probably know that:
- Muslim children outnumber Christian children in a number of European cities, including Vienna and Birmingham.
- Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city and home to Sweden’s largest concentration of Muslim immigrants, has been rocked by a series of car bombings in recent months.
- Sweden now has the second highest incidence of rape in the world.
- In the space of three days, France, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, experienced three “lone wolf” attacks—a knife attack on police officers and two car attacks on crowds of pedestrians. In all three cases, the perpetrators shouted “Allahu akbar.”
- The number one non-fiction bestseller in France is Éric Zemmour’s The Suicide of France.
In case the Germans haven’t heard of Zemmour’s book, they most likely have heard of a very similar book by Thilo Sarrazin titled Germany is Abolishing Itself. It was the number one non-fiction bestseller in Germany in 2010. Quite obviously, Sarrazin’s and Zemmour’s criticism of careless immigration policies have hit a nerve. So has PEGIDA’s. An opinion poll published by die Zeit showed that approximately half of Germans are sympathetic to PEGIDA and more than half believe that Germany accepts too many refugees. 73 percent were worried that radical Islam is growing in importance. Yet Germany’s elite continue to insist that there is nothing to worry about and that the worriers are either misinformed or else racist, xenophobic, and far right.
What accounts for the elite attitude—an attitude that is shared by many, if not most, Christian leaders? The interior minister’s accusation that PEGIDA are “Nazis in pinstripes” provides the answer in a nutshell. Germany, along with much of the rest of Europe, is still haunted by the specter of Nazism and anti-Semitism. The general consensus after the war was that Nazism—or anything like it—must never again be allowed to rise. And, thanks to the work of liberal historians, Nazism came to be looked upon as a strictly right-wing movement (although, as Jonah Goldberg points out in Liberal Fascism, it was in many respects a liberal and socialist movement). Nazism was also associated with nationalism, extreme patriotism, and, of course, racism.
Thus, any organization that presents itself as patriotic (recall that the “P” in PEGIDA stands for “patriotic”) or conservative (PEGIDA is opposed to the watering down of Christian culture and tradition) is suspect. Moreover, PEGIDA is critical of immigrants who refuse to assimilate and, as far as the European establishment is concerned, this can only be construed as racist—and dangerous. The only lesson that European leaders seem to have taken away from the Hitler years is the dubious proposition that any criticism of minorities leads straight to the concentration camp. In short, according to the dictates of conventional wisdom, PEGIDA is an incipient Nazi movement that must be nipped in the bud.
PEGIDA is doubly unfortunate in having focused its attention on Europe’s most favored minority group—Muslims. Initially, “never again” meant that Jews should never again be subject to persecution, but eventually it came to mean that no minority should experience discrimination of any sort. What is Europe’s most visible minority? It’s certainly not the Jews. In fact, Jews in many parts of Europe have taken to concealing their Jewish identity. To publicly wear a yarmulke or to display a Star of David is to court considerable danger. Muslims, on the other hand, seem to have adopted an in-your-face insouciance when it comes to displaying hijabs, burqas, and multiple wives. The Muslim immigrant motto might well be “When in Rome, do as the Arabs do.”
The response of the European elites to multiplying Muslim demands has been to escalate the appeasement of those demands. That may be because demands aren’t the only thing that’s been multiplying. In the “fruitful and multiply” department, Muslims are without peer. For example, the Muslim population of France is ten times the size of the Jewish population. And Muslims in Germany are forty times more numerous than Jews.
These numerical disparities have not been lost on Europe’s ruling class. And so, by one of those strange ironies that history occasionally serves up, the Muslims have been unofficially designated as the new Jews. Paradoxically, the biggest beneficiaries of all the guilt Europeans feel over the Holocaust are not Jews, but Muslims. It’s particularly paradoxical because polls have consistently shown that Muslims are far and away the most anti-Semitic group on the Continent. When Europeans worry about minority rights, they don’t worry about the minority rights of Jews (who really are an endangered minority), but of Muslims. When European elites went looking for a poster child minority to protect from a future holocaust, they settled on the minority most likely to perpetrate one.
European elites are supposed to be sophisticated, and sophisticated people are supposed to have a highly developed sense of irony, but the ruling class’ Nazi-prevention policies are about as subtle and sophisticated as a Three Stooges comedy. Here are some ironies the elites seem to have missed:
- During the real Holocaust, the biggest booster of the Final Solution was Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Husseini was one of the most admired Islamic leaders in the Middle East, yet he was friends with Himmler and Eichmann and spent the war years in Berlin at the expense of the Nazis. His chief obsession was to find ways to speed up the Holocaust.
- Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s “Shariah and Life” TV program reaches an estimated worldwide audience of sixty million. He is, by any measure, one of the most influential Muslims in the world. In a 2009 statement, Qaradawi called the Holocaust “a divine punishment” of Jews and prayed that, “Allah willing,” the “believers” would finish the job started by Hitler.
- Hitler’s Mein Kampf has long been a bestseller in the Muslim world.
- The preamble to the Hamas charter calls for the obliteration of Israel and Article Seven envisions the extermination of all Jews. Yet European politicians and pundits are more supportive of Hamas than are most Arab governments.
- Anti-Semitism in Europe has reached a level not seen since the Nazi era. In May 2012, a Muslim gunman in Toulouse killed seven people at a Jewish school. Two years later, another Muslim assailant killed four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. In July of 2014, a mob of hundreds of Muslims surrounded a synagogue in Paris, trapping the congregants inside. In another part of Paris, a synagogue was firebombed, and 400 protesters shouting “Death to the Jews” attacked numerous Jewish-owned business. Meanwhile, Muslim rallygoers in cities across Europe called for the “slaughter of the Jews.”
The reason that Muslims are the “new Jews” in Europe is that there aren’t too many of the old ones left. The real Jews have seen this movie before and they’re not sticking around to see how it will end. The elevation of Muslims to the status of “new Jews” is not the end of the ironies. If you’re going to have “new Jews” you also have to have “new Nazis,” as well. And who might they be? Well, the Jews, of course. Who else? According to the new narrative, the tactics used by the Israeli government to protect its citizens from Palestinian terrorists are no different from the tactics used by the Nazis. The idea that the “Zionists” are the new Nazis is now widespread. Of course, the Jews who live in Europe aren’t Israelis, but, after all, they are Jews and are therefore suspect.
Inconveniently, there aren’t enough Jews in Europe to convince anyone except the most rabid anti-Semites that they constitute a Nazi-like threat to Europe. So it’s necessary to identify other “new Nazis” to fill up the empty spaces in the narrative. And for this purpose, PEGIDA can be made to fit the bill. Archbishop Schick says that they “spread racial hatred” and the Interior Minister calls them “Nazis in pin-striped suits.” Which is about all the evidence that the Euro elites require.
So the “new Jews” are Muslim anti-Semites and the old Jews—the actual Semites—are the “new Nazis.” And the middle-class burghers of Dresden are also the “new Nazis.” It’s confusing, I know, but it seems that politically correct narratives needn’t be consistent as long as they serve politically correct ends.
There is one other irony that ought to be mentioned. The chief street-level foes of PEGIDA are the “Antifas”—which is Newspeak for “Antifascists.” It’s ironic because the Antifa gangs are arguably the most fascist group of thugs in Europe since the heyday of the “Brownshirts.” They specialize in denying a public platform to critics of Islamic extremism. And they do it with bricks and bottles and beatings. When groups like PEGIDA rally, they are typically met with much larger Antifa “counter-demonstrators” ready to do battle. Sometimes police protect the demonstrators—and sometimes they do not. Sometimes, it is alleged, the police provide the Antifas with useful information about the demonstrators’ departure plans. According to a popular slogan, “Fascism will come to Europe in the name of anti-fascism.”
If any group in Europe deserves the title “new Nazis,” it’s the Antifa. But the Antifas are mostly militant left-wingers. And, as we all know, left-wingers can’t possibly be Nazis. They can employ Nazi tactics, but according to the rules of political politeness, they can’t be called Nazis. As I said, it’s confusing and also ironic—if you have a taste for irony. But the Euro elites are about as plonkingly literal as one can get. Since designating diverse groups as the “new this” or the “new that” seems to be all the rage, I’d like to take the liberty of designating Europe’s current ruling class as the “new bluebloods.” And like the bluebloods of old, they seem to suffer from a hereditary hematological disorder. This time around, it appears to be a bad case of irony deficiency.
It would be funny, except that this is a case of tragic irony—not unlike those Greek tragedies in which mistaking one thing for another results inevitably in death and destruction. One of the chief ironies is that European elites are caught up in the very same totalitarian role they assign to others. Thanks to the enlightened views of the ruling class, free speech in Europe is more or less a dead letter—with some exceptions, of course. You can say what you like about Christians and you can shout “death to the Jews” with impunity, but criticize Islam or Muhammad and you end up in court. Or, if you’re lucky, you only lose your job. Thilo Sarrazin, for example, was forced to resign his prestigious position at the Bundesbank after his opinions on immigration became public. After all, he was, from the Islamic point of view, guilty of slander. And the Islamic point of view is fast becoming the mainstream point of view. Archbishop Schick, who criticized PEGIDA for its violation of humanistic values, has also called for “blasphemy laws” in Germany. There should be, he said, “a Law against the derision of religious values and feelings.” That, of course, is what the Muslims have been saying all along.
It’s probably no coincidence that the PEGIDA movement was born in Dresden—a city that was formerly part of the Soviet empire. Unlike the West Germans (who have had little success in mounting PEGIDA-type movements), those living in the East have experienced life under communists as well as under Nazis. Moreover, their experience of left totalitarianism is of very recent vintage. It’s not surprising that they would be the first to notice the arrival of a new form of tyranny.
In her New Year’s speech, Chancellor Merkel warned Germans not to participate in PEGIDA’s weekly Dresden rallies. PEGIDA’s rallying cry is “We are the people”—the same motto used by East Germans in 1989 in their opposition to communist rule. According to Merkel, what the protesters really mean when they chant “we are the people” is “you don’t belong—because of your religion or your skin color.” Well, maybe. Or maybe what they mean is that they don’t want to see the introduction of another repressive social system that takes away freedom of conscience and freedom to criticize, and subjugates ordinary people to the dictates of a totalitarian ideology. To Euro elites, sharia-compliant Muslims may be the new Jews, but to many German citizens of a former Soviet satellite, they’re beginning to look like the old communists.