Not often does a book come along that questions one’s deep, inner views on macro-political topics, culture, and human empathy. This is the central case of Douglas Murray‘s new book “The Strange Death of Europe”, an impressively researched and confrontational book surrounding the causes, social impacts, and potential future of immigration into Europe. Focusing, for the most part, on the current migrant crisis facing Europe in a way that is rarely detatched from politics. Murray discusses the crisis from various view-points, using anecdotes, statistics and discussions. The book takes the reader through a pan-European voyage to several locations in an attempt to humanise but not simplify the European migrant crisis. These locations include stories surrounding the locals and migrants in coastal Mediterranean towns such as Lampedusa [beginning on p. 62] and Lesbos [beginning on p. 76] which reveals the multiple failings, on both a local and international level, that led to the current-day issues in Greece, Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy. These sections were the most hard-hitting to me. Reading the stories of migrants fleeing the Islamic State (ISIS), superimposed onto a succeeding section covering the European Union’s failure to help local officials properly document and process these incoming migrant created a difficult situation for me as a reader and at many points I was torn between conflicting empathy and common sense.
The book is political, as is to be expected, and a few times during the book I felt that it often felt biased towards a Conservative or neo-Conservative standing, as I had also expected. Murray balances an empathic and confrontational attitude throughout, squaring his sights on politicians and public figures that have made “excuses” for the rapid influx of migrants into Europe. The most politically-charged sections come in the form of Murray’s observations of the effects that migration from majority Muslim regions has had in Europe, using events such as the Rushdie affair [p. 128] and murder of Theo Van Gogh [p. 139] as well as statistics of violent crime, rape and anti-Semitism to drive the point that, as David Cameron pointed out: “The doctrine of state multiculturalism… [has failed]”. Murray embraces the often unpopular fact that migrants from thousands of miles away are bound to be different from European citizens, he also argues that not only has the concept of “multiculturalism” failed the citizens of the state, as many leaders now argue, but also the migrants that come to those states, as exemplified in the traitourous attitude of many “progressives” towards the “model migrant” Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was forced to departure from The Netherlands after being the subject of a European Islamist fatwa.
Self-procaliming progressives and liberals may have already thrown out the idea of reading the book. However, I would urge anyone with even the slightest, sternest stance towards the three core topics in the book: Immigration. Identity. Islam, to take the time to read even a small section of the fully-packed 320-pages. Many of those that choose to ignore or trash the idea of the book without reading it are often going to be the group that resembles the individuals that are scrutinised within. Chancellor Merkel, Cecilia Malmstrom, The Blair Goverment and many more liberal figures are under fire in the early sections of the book for a multitude of reasons, whilst Murray argues that groups like Pegida, The English Defense League (In Luton) as well as individuals like Ray Honeyford are unscrupulous demeaned by the Western media and political figures for even suggesting that there might be a problem. This is where many individuals may lose touch with the book, in moments of unwaivering political commentary. This peaks in a section of the book detailing two best-selling works of dystopian fiction: Jean Raspail’s “Le Camp Des Saints” (The Camp of Saints), and Michel Houellebecq’s “Soumission” (Submission), both of which detail an apocalyptic future involving immigration and Islam as core, fundamental principles behind the apocalypse. However, both are blatant works of dystopian fiction and, especially in the case of Houellebecq, should be seen as dark, humorous, and tounge-in-cheek. Murray’s use of these books is to show the thin-skinned nature of politicans, public figures and other individuals towards any opposing idea on immigration and religious debate, who hold a fervent attitude against any such author or spokesperson, playing directly into the hands of radicals that seek to condem people like Houellebecq and Rushdie to a life of security protection.
The book details a variety of points: between immigration, religion, arts & culture and political discussion. This raises one of my major issues with the book. Whilst variety can (sometimes) be the spice of life, it is sometimes unnecessary. This is shown in the latter section dedicated to the discussion of art and culture in 20th century Europe. Whilst I understand the point of the section, showing the degradation of art and culture from the viewpoint of a staunch neo-Conservative (including an interesting section about an art installation reciting the popular motet Spem In Alium) and driving the incredibly poignant vision of a tired civilisation’s reactions to difficult issues, but I felt that it could have been downsized to a footnote or additional mention. I find that Murray’s discussions of immigration statistics, migrant anecdotes and Islamist reactions to minorities to be of grave importance. However, there is a huge amount packed into a short space of time, leading to a lot of difficult questions and a lot of unanswered (and arguably unanswerable) questions. Towards the end of the book my lust for answers to these difficult topics grew – sadly, the book ends rather abruptly with a less than convincing line that, in my opinion, reveals the crushing reality that nobody knows truly what will become of this continent, leading to a public that do not know what they want and have no idea what they will get. Douglas Murray’s final words cement this view, that we, as Europeans, are not victims, but prisoners, of this crisis: “The public may want many contradictory things, but they will not forgive politicans if – whether by accident or design – they change our continent completely… Prisoners of the past and of the present, for Europeans here seem finally to be no decent answers to the future. Which is how the fatal blow will finally land.”
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