Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who was responsible for the massacre of 76 innocent people, was motivated by his belief in Eurabia. This, as the name suggest, is a political neologism that predicts that Europe will become a majority Muslim continent in the next few decades. It cites Muslim immigration and high birth rates amongst Muslims to back up its claims and often uses quotes from extreme Islamist organisations to lend itself credibility.
In my view, proponents of this theory are partially responsible for creating an atmosphere of fear and suspicion that is eroding cohesion in European societies and creating animosity towards Muslims. This atmosphere is also fuelling the far-right in Europe and encouraging them to direct their vitriol towards Muslim communities and those who support the existence of multi-faith communities in Europe.
The term 'Eurabia' was initially popularised by Bat Ye'or, a pseudonym for Giselle Littman who is a British Egyptian political commentator, in her book 'Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis' published in 2005. In this book, Ye'or argued that European states and Arab states had colluded to create a joint foreign policy based on hostility to Israel and competition with the US. However, this term was later co-opted by other prominent anti-Islam critics to refer to the dystopian fantasy that Europe is being systematically 'Islamified' by Muslims who harbour a covertly anti-western agenda. Such critics include Robert Spencer, Mark Steyn, Geert Wilders, and Nick Griffin.
Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, has stated 'Europe is going to become Islamic virtually without a fight'. In a similar vein Mark Steyn argues that 'On the Continent and elsewhere in the West, native populations are aging and fading and being supplanted remorselessly by a young Muslim demographic'. Other Eurabia theorists have also made such sensationalist claims with some going as far as suggesting that Europe will be 40% Muslim by 2020. So the question arises - to what extent are these claims true, and more importantly, what underpins them.
In early 2009, we at Quilliam published a report entitled 'In defence of British Muslims: A response to BNP racist propaganda'. In this report, author Lucy James comprehensively debunked the Eurabia myth by showing how the entire thesis rests on manipulated statistics and speculation. The facts are that currently only 4% of Europe is Muslim, this number could rise to 6% by 2020 and possibly to 10% by 2110. Furthermore, studies have shown that whilst birth rates do tend to be higher amongst Muslims and non-Muslim immigrants from developing nations in the first generation, these usually level out by the second and third generation.
Eurabia theorists also assume that Muslims in Europe are a culturally and politically homogeneous bloc, who, when sufficient numbers are achieved, will seek to challenge the secular and democratic framework of the continent. This is far from the truth. Muslims in Europe are culturally, linguistically and politically diverse with the vast majority being law abiding and accepting of the democratic framework. They are, therefore, able to interact in public life as secular democrats who are not seeking to the challenge the values of European society. Moreover, the Muslim presence in Europe is not new. Muslim communities have existed peacefully and positively contributed to European culture for hundreds of years, in places such as Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania and Bulgaria.
However, in the minds of Eurabia theorists the facts may be irrelevant. What really underpins their paranoia and dystopian fears is a much broader and deep rooted anti-Muslim sentiment which sees Muslims as posing an existential threat to Europe as we know it. This requires taking al-Qaeda propaganda against the west and then generalising it in a way that all Muslims are viewed as being covertly sympathetic to the al-Qaeda political agenda. The increasingly Muslim presence in Europe is therefore, seen as a sinister plot by Muslims to undermine and change the fabric of European society from within.
Breivik also subscribed to Eurabia. He believed that his actions would spark a 60-70 year revolution in which Muslims, and those who tolerate the Muslim presence in Europe, would be fought and defeated, reverting Europe back to a white Christian continent in the process. Furthermore, unlike his non-terrorist counterparts, he decided that change could only come about through direct action. His stance is reminiscent of al-Qaeda leaders such as Anwar al-Awlaki, who gave up on a non-violent struggle to bring about Islamist revolution in favour of terrorism. But just as challenging al-Qaeda requires deconstructing key tenets of the al-Qaeda ideology, challenging the likes of Breivik requires challenging the Eurabia myth and all those who promote it.