The political climate this year in Europe was foreshadowed by an uproar in France over fast food. Months before burqa hysteria boiled over, a restaurant in the Quick burger chain decided to replace the bacon burger on its menu with an acceptably Islamic offering: smoked turkey on halal beef.
That was in November 2009. Four months later, the local mayor swung into action. (An American politician would have said he “hit the ground running.”) He criticized Quick for discriminating against non-Muslim customers and emphasized the importance of sharing France with the French. “Yes to diversity, no to exclusion,” said René Vandierendonck, Socialist mayor of Roubiaux in northern France. “I congratulate Quick for adapting its offer to consumers by providing halal, but it goes too far when they propose only that.”
Eight restaurants in the Quick chain, in fact — out of 362 — had decided to remove bacon from the menu and shift to halal beef for all their burgers because of the proportion of Muslims who lived in their neighborhoods. Quick argued that the restaurants hadn’t converted to Islamic standards as a whole because non-halal products, including fish and cheese and beer, were still available. But far-right populist Jean-Marie Le Pen pounced on the Roubiaux story, claiming that halal menu items amounted to an “Islamic tax” on the French people — because Quick is a nationalized chain controlled by a state investment arm.
“There are regional elections,” the UK’s Independent newspaper wrote helpfully at the time, “in France next month.”
The episode raised fears of “Eurabia” — that cherished fantasy of the European far right and branches of mainstream American conservatism — which predicts a cultural takeover of Europe by quick-breeding Muslims. “Islam is the Trojan Horse in Europe,” said Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician, to the Dutch parliament in 2008. “If we do not stop Islamification now, Eurabia and Netherabia will just be a matter of time. One century ago, there were approximately 50 Muslims in the Netherlands. Today, there are about 1 million Muslims in this country [out of 16.5 million]. Where will it end?”
Wilders called the Quran “the Islamic Mein Kampf” in the same speech. He’s a bottle-blond populist who dyes the dark hair he inherited from Indonesian ancestors. Last week he won three times the number of seats predicted by pre-election polls for his far-right Freedom Party, or PVV. He may join the new government as a junior minister, and if he does, he’ll be the highest-ranked Eurabist in the continent — the first European cabinet member to make a career of invoking an Islamic Europe by about 2050, with shuttered gay clubs in Amsterdam, white women in burqas and minarets over the Seine.
Eurabists predict a demographic time bomb because Muslim immigrants tend to have babies faster than educated, liberal Europeans. That much is true, and the U.S. National Intelligence Council says the Muslim population of Europe could (at the outside) double by 2025 — from about 4.5 percent today to somewhere under 10 percent.
These trends will change Europe, but they won’t make it Eurabian. The NIC also argues that “political Islam will continue to appeal to Muslim migrants who are attracted to the more prosperous West for employment opportunities but do not feel at home in what they perceive as an alien and hostile culture.”
In other words: Muslims are far from “mainstream” in Europe, far from accepted, as Wilders’ victory in the Netherlands makes clear. But immigration to Europe is a market force, like immigration to the United States, and if European societies fail to integrate their newcomers — that is, make them more European — then problems with racial violence and radical Islam will grow.
In that sense, a few halal restaurants here and there might help. Halal chicken nuggets at a McDonald’s in Dearborn, Mich., have been available for about 10 years. In 2006, they spread to Detroit. It’s like dim sum in Chinatown or a kosher deli in New York. They haven’t become a national scandal because no major politician has yet tried to exploit them — though maybe that time will come in America, too. I hope not.
Founded in late 2007 by philanthropist Sara Miller-McCune, Miller-McCune is a nonprofit print and online magazine harnessing hard data and breaking research to support journalism that focuses on finding solutions to social problems. Supported by a combination of grants and advertising, Miller-McCune rejects any overriding ideology, believing that the best answers can come from anywhere.