Rip Van Winkle syndrome

Western leaders are in a deep slumber and may wake up to discover their societies have changed beyond recognition

Remember the story about Rip Van Winkle, the likable fellow of Dutch descent who slipped away from a nagging wife and bedded down for a nap under a shady tree in the Catskills? After 20 years in the arms of Morpheus, old Rip awoke to find himself in a different world - one he was completely out of touch with. I thought about the Catskill snoozer while reading a story in The Washington Times recently. It concerned the US State Department's unease about what it dubbed the Muslim "nativist surge" in Western Europe. In an article titled "Europe's Muslims Find Ally in US," Nicholas Kralev reported that "Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said US embassies and consulates in Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and other countries will decide what exactly they can do" to help Europe solve its problems with disenchanted Muslim immigrants. Fried called Europe's growing Muslim presence "a fascinating issue and one that the American government is just now trying to get its mind around." He said, "It's a huge problem, we are thinking about it seriously, and we've tried to do some intellectual framing up." This appears to be State Department-speak for, "We just noticed that Europe might have a problem with radicals." If this sounds a bit Van Winklish to you, it certainly does in this corner. And just why does this newly discovered Muslim disenchantment exist? In the words of France's ambassador to Washington, Jean-David Levitte, "The unrest that existed in poor neighborhoods had nothing to do with jihad and much to do with social conditions. That's why we have to put the emphasis on improving the social conditions - schools, better housing - and hopefully all this will trigger better absorption in the social fabric of France of this minority." Kralev reported that Fried believes a "process of alienation" is occurring between Muslims and their host countries, which Fried said have "no sense of integration." All of which leads to a "nativist surge," causing a sizable number of Muslims to embrace radicalism. And who is ultimately to blame? Why, European host countries, of course. Just what does the American State Department intend to do to change the direction of these "unintegrated masses" that murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh in Amsterdam and are turning to rioting, bombing subways in London, and other jihadist acts? The question seems superfluous because the answer will be what it always is: Give them what they want; buy them off. THERE ARE two issues here, and neither has anything to do with genuine solutions to the problems. First, there's the incomprehensible confession of surprise that this violence is going on. Where have these officials been? In Europe, with its rampant anti-Semitism and Christian bashing, Islamists have been declaring their intent to create a caliphate on the continent for years. It is common knowledge to virtually anyone who cares to notice. Anyone that is, except some American and European bureaucrats who should, of all people, know what's happening. Does their defective analysis prove the thesis - in the tangle of the war on terror - that many in places of Western leadership just don't get it? Or perhaps they have chosen to operate under some form of denial, the most devastating aspect of which is the fiction that the war Islamists have forced upon us has nothing to do with religion but everything to do with a lack of material and social resources. Such a view is a prescription for disaster. Then there is the issue of what radical Islamic forces in Europe actually want for themselves and the countries which now have large numbers of Muslim immigrants who, in all fairness, have lived in conditions much worse than those in the countries they have adopted. Do they wish to be integrated into Western democratic lifestyles? Undoubtedly, some do. But from all appearances, they remain purposeful outsiders. Their radical clerics and would-be Islamist mentors make it clear that they have no intentions of integrating into European society. Rather, they intend to transform it into an Islamostate dominated by the trappings of Shari'a law and the ways of Islam. The idea that Western diplomats and politicians can talk or bribe such ideologues out of their plans is not viable. The fundamental issue rests first and foremost on religious commitment, not material or societal disenfranchisement. Those matters are incidental to the overall objective. If Westerners refuse to face reality, they are playing Rip Van Winkle and will suddenly awake in a far different world. The transformation has already begun. The writer, a pastor, is a leader of the Christian Zionist movement in the United States.