The term Eurabia characterises a hypothetical construct promoted by conspiracy theorists which alleges a subtle Islamisation and Arabisation of the European continent planned and facilitated by both European and Arab political elites since the early 1970ies. This theory narrows Islam to the Arab states, sometimes even further to those Arab countries neighbouring the Mediterranean, and ignores e.g. European or Asian Muslims. It also perceives a monolithic Islamic world and ignores resp. denies existing religious, social, and political disparities and conflicts between countries of Islamic heritage. In a similar way, the hypothesis choses to ignore existing divergencies in interest and politics between European states. The hypothesis is received positively largely by the extremist and populist political Right in Europe and in the USA.
Origin of the Term
In general, coinage of the term is ascribed to the author Bat Ye'or whose real-life name is Gisèle Littman who also uses the nom-de-plume "Yahudiya Masriya" (Arab.: "Egyptian Jewess").
Littman was born Gisèle Orebie in Cairo in 1939. Following the Suez Crisis, the family went to London in 1958; some sources say the family had been expelled from Egypt and thus lost their Egyptian citizenship, while others state the family left Egypt and held a status as stateless refugees in London. Littman initially began a course of studies in archaeology in London and got married in 1959; the family moving to Switzerland in 1960 where she is said to have held employment with the University of Geneva. Apparently, Littman never finished a course of studies and never held an academic position. Through her marriage with British historian David Littman, she holds British citizenship.
In various publications, Littman claims the alleged influence of Islam, antiamericanism, antisemitism, and anti-Zionism over European culture and politics was a product of a collaboration between radical Arabs and Muslims on one hand with fascists, socialists, Nazis, antisemitic rulers of Europe on the other hand. Her "Eurabia" scenario, however, she attributes to an "alliance between ... the nine countries of the European Community (EC) which, enlarged, became the European Union (EU) in 1992 and on the other hand, the Mediterranean Arab countries".
Respective alliances and agreements, Littman claims, were elaborated at top political levels of EU countries and the countries organised in the Arab League, with the system being synchronized by the association of Euro-Arab Dialogue (EAD) founded in Paris in 1974, and originating from the 1973 oil crisis and subsequent dialogues between European Economic Community and Arab League. Littman views this as a primary cause of an alleged European hostility towards Israel and perceives Euro-Arab foreign policies as anti-American and anti-Zionist.
She views France and Arab countries as the leaders of the conspiracy which does not only aim at Islamising and Arabising Europe, but at the same time weaken its existing culture and its alignment with USA and Israel. The role of European countries is characterised as "dhimmitude" by Littman, i.e. European countries allegedly accepting the role of a mere vassal or even serf.
Muslim imigration is seen as another cornerstone of Islamisation within this hypothesis, as this allegedly introduced a "process which then allowed Muslims to establish power bases for 'jihad' in most major cities". Promoters of the hypothesis also often claim that, due to alleged exorbitant rates of reproduction of Muslim imigrants, they will make 25% of the European population by 2025, and Europe will soon be faced with a majority of its inhabitants being Muslim. At the same time, due to this hypothesis, a preemptive control on minds and thought was initiated, converting European media, universities, and schools into channels for Arab propaganda which then purportedly saw to it that Islamic contributions to European civilisation were exalted, while the European Judeo-Christian heritage was negated. At the same time, dissenting opinions were allegedly purged from European academia and media.
These efforts, according to Littman, were flanked by the creation of an allegedly non-existant Palestinian people who were no more than a propaganda fiction. In Littman's view, and that of other authors supporting the Eurabia hypothesis, all this instilled in Europeans a hatred for their own values and the wish to destroy their origins, reducing Europe to a sinking continent. The hypothesis also claims that European universities were being controlled by Palestinians. Apparently, when it comes to an alleged and unlawful control, the Palestinians' purported non-existence does not matter any longer. Littman also contends European churches were colluding with Muslims and were reading the bible "with a Koranic understanding", thus European Christians were "more inclined to follow the Koranic Muslim Jesus, called Isa, than the Jewish Jesus".
Supporters of the hypothesis also claim the creation of so-called 'Islamic zones' in European countries resp. towns, in which the authority of police and secular state had been substituted with that of the Imam and the Mosque. These alleged zones are then taken for evidence of a capitulation to Islamic terrorists and a betrayal of the European population by their politicians. Although the hypothesis accepts just Arab countries as participating in the conspiracy, when it comes to the alleged existence of 'Islamic zones', proponents feel free to include Muslim migrants originating from other regions, too, while vastly exaggerating the actual numbers of Muslim populations in an attempt to support their argumentation.
The reception this hypothesis met was rather diverse: while generally refused in academia with a few exceptions, it has been taken up by various groupings of the political right, populist movements and parties, Islamophobic tendencies, up to the extremist right.
Correspondingly, honourable scholars have criticised the hypothesis in various, but fundamental ways. Prof. Robert Wistrich, head of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, said: "Up until the 1980s, she [Littman] was not accepted at all. In academic circles they scorned her publications… A real change toward her emerged in the 1990s, and especially in recent years."
American historian Prof. Robert Brenton Betts who worked for the Library of Congress and the Department of State criticises: "The general tone of the book is strident and anti-Muslim. This is coupled with selective scholarship designed to pick out the worst examples of anti-Christian behavior by Muslim governments, usually in time of war and threats to their own destruction (as in the case of the deplorable Armenian genocide of 1915). Add to this the attempt to demonize the so-called Islamic threat to Western civilization and the end-product is generally unedifying and frequently irritating."
Professor Michael Sells of the University of Chicago writes: "By obscuring the existence of pre-Christian and other old, non-Christian communities in Europe as well as the reason for their disappearance in other areas of Europe [due to Christian persecution], Bat Ye’or constructs an invidious comparison between the allegedly humane Europe of Christian and Enlightenment values and the ever present persecution within Islam. Whenever the possibility is raised of actually comparing circumstances of non-Christians in Europe to non-Muslims under Islamic governance in a careful, thoughtful manner, Bat Ye’or forecloses such comparison."
Reception in the European political Right
The Eurabia hypothesis, on the other hand, has experienced a favourable reception in populist to far right environments in Europe who employ it for fear-mongering.
US TV-pundit Steven Emerson employed such ideas in a TV interview in 2015, when he contended there were no-go-areas in European cities which christian citizens are best advised not to enter, and that he allegedly had not been able, despite being accompanied by police officers, to do TV coverage in what he described as a completely Muslim quarter of the British town of Birmingham.
Dutch politician Geert Wilders, head of Partij voor de Vrijheid [Party for Freedom], sent a message from his twitter account reading:
- "Donner van Christenen Dienen Allah (CDA) zit er faliekant naast. ISIS = islam dus anti-shariaverklaring noodzakelijk!" [Donner from Christians Serving Allah (CDA) sits there in misery. ISIS = islam therefore anti-Sharia statement necessary!]
In another incident, Wilders claimed:
- "This government is enthusiastically co-operating with the Islamization of the Netherlands. In all of Europe the elite opens the floodgates wide. In only a little while, one in five people in the European Union will be Muslim. Good news for this multiculti-government that views bowing to the horrors of Allah as its most important task. Good news for the CDA : C-D-A, in the meanwhile stands for Christians Serve Allah (Christenen Dienen Allah)."'
Wilders deliberately distorts the name of the Dutch Christian Democrats (Christen Democratisch Appèl), alleging their participation in a conspiracy to have not only the Netherlands, but all Europe subdued by Islam.
Andreas Mölzer, a long-standing member of Austrian Freedom Party and belonging to its "pan-German" wing, published a book titled: Eurabia. The nightmare of Europe's Islamisation. Mölzer served in the European Parliament for two election periods. He withdrew from running for another period in 2014 in reaction to media reports on statements in which he had described the EU as far worse than National Socialist Germany which, according to his view, was relatively "informal and liberal", since it knew less "regulations, prescriptions, commands, and proscriptions". Mölzer initially strictly denied another statement claiming EU was a "conglomerate of negroes", until confronted with audio material confirming this phrase.
Italian author Oriana Fallaci after 9/11 published three books with Islamophobic views in which she e.g. claimed that "the sons of Allah breed like rats" and that Europe had become "Eurabia". Fallaci also contended that Europe suffered a demographic infiltration by Muslims and that Islam, as was allegedly proved by 9/11, not only engaged in open, but also in covert warfare. Fallaci had also defended holocaust deniers like Robert Faurisson stating it was no problem to give an alternative view of history, and similarly defended the views of Brigitte Bardot who received several court sentences for instigating racial hatred.
Reception in the far right was enthusiastic. Neonazi platform Altermedia UK published an article titled "Eurabia - the nightmare has begun", also claiming the existence of so-called 'Islamic zones' in various European countries, in which the authority of police and secular state allegedly had been replaced by "the Imam and Mosque", and that European politicians betrayed their populations in the name of "tolerance" and "multiculturalism".
Norwegian blogger Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen, going by the alias of "The Fjordman", spoke of a renewed Jihad against Christendom after it had been brought to a close at Vienna in 1683 and compared the upcoming demise of Europe to a second fall of Rome.
The Fjordman blog later became a source for the 1.500-pages manifesto "2083: A European Declaration of Independence" authored by Anders Behring Breivik, the perpetrator in the 2011 Norway attacks, who copied and pasted long parts of Fjordman Jensen's articles, as well as of articles authored by Bat Ye'or. The term "Eurabia" is said to appear more than onehundred times in Breivik's manifesto.
Belgian separatist party Vlaams Belang [Flemish Interest], founded in 2004 as a successor of "Vlaams Blok" and often viewed as populist and even far right, also use the label of "Eurabia" in their propaganda, warning of an imminent Islamisation of Europe.
In the German-language regions in Europe, the "Eurabia" hypothesis has been taken up by a broad range of political parties, groups, individuals, internet projects, media etc., covering an area from so-called populists to the far right and including Third Positionists aiming at syncretising political left and right ideologies. Among these are Politically Incorrect, the sites of two PI authors (Michael Mannheimer and Gudrun Eussner), krisenfrei.de whose author Dieter Sordon is a Libertarian and member of "Partei der Vernunft" [Party of Reason], Gloria.TV which is a multi-language clerical fascist internet TV station, Pro-Deutschland-Online.de which is maintained by Nazi multi-functionary Manfred Rouhs, the 'Honigmann' blog maintained by Ernst Köwing, a racist conspiracy theorist who was sentenced for incitement of popular hatred, or populist site paxeuropa.de.
The concept is also being promoted by newspaper "Junge Freiheit" [Young Freedom] which is part of the New Right and by publishing house Kopp Verlag covering the segments of far right esotericism, pseudo-science, and conspiracy theories.
Recently emerged movement 'Pegida' (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) similarly insinuate Europe's Islamisation by being overflooded with Muslim migrants; the movement being particularly successful in the German federal state of Saxony where it drew the largest number of participants in its protest marches, despite only 0.2% of the state's population being Muslim. A similar stance was taken by the Islamophobic movement "Hogesa" [Hooligans against Salafists].
Further alliances include fundamentalist Christians in the Catholic and Lutheran churches who share Islamophobic points of view. Articles in New Right and Third position newspapers like "Junge Freiheit", magazine "eigentümlich frei" or blog "Politically Incorrect" are being promoted by fundamentalist media of both denominations, and New Right media also canvass for fundamentalist Christian readers and authors.
Criticism and Shortcomings
The hypothesis requires several prerequisites not in accordance with facts. As mentioned above, one prerequisite is the alleged existence of a monolithic bloc of Islamic resp. Arab countries which ignores existing disparities regarding religious, political, social and other differences and conflicts. At the same time, the hypothesis needs to narrow Islam on the Arab countries, ignoring the existence of Islam in other regions of the world. It also makes no distinctions between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism, while on the other hand, Christian and Jewish fundamentalist tendencies are not perceived in a similar way and do not seem to get mentioned at all. The equation of Islam with fundamentalism furthermore serves to portray Islam as the problem per se, again unlike other religions, without offering any proof whatsoever why Islam should differ from other religions in this respect. This equation therefore takes on the character of a basic dogma of the hypothesis, same as the perception of persons of Muslim faith as inferior in comparison to others.
At the same time, the hypothesis requires the existence of a monolithic European bloc, ignoring religious, political, social etc. differences between the individual European countries within EU as well as externally with Muslim resp. Arab countries. The hypothesis does not only deny disparities between those countries forming EU during the 1970ies. As since the fall of the Eastern bloc several countries formerly belonging to COMECON or having been part of the Soviet Union joined EU, this hypothesis apparently expects these countries to have joined a community which subjected itself to Islam and Arab countries. It is hard to imagine that such an EU would have been attractive to countries just having left such a hegemony. The hypothesis does not reflect political facts of today or during the 1970ies, nor the political development taken in both Europe and the Muslim countries over the last 40 years.
The hypothesis alleges a cooperation of European politicians and elites of a secular EU without wasting a thought on why they would work towards an Islamisation of the continent. Some Eurabia proponents contend these were and are cultural Marxists aiming to destroy Western civilisation and merely using Islam as an instrument. This of course conveniently ignores that part of the political parties represented in the European parliament as well as in the governments, past and present, of member states embrace political views quite opposed to Marxism. Littman, on the other hand, views the conspiring European politicians and elites as an alliance of "fascists, socialists, Nazis, antisemitic rulers". This perception once more is not congruent with facts.
The only documentary evidence cited for Eurabia is the 1975 "Strasbourg Resolution," a non-binding declaration on Euro-Arab co-operation. The document has a mythical status among Eurabia proponents, but its text does not substantiate any conspiracy theory. Supposedly they ignore the major European-Israeli free trade deal made that same year. The theory gives no plausible reason why European elites and a — ostensibly notoriously secular — EU would want to Islamise the entire continent. A few Eurabia proponents suggest that these elites consist of cultural Marxists, whose real goal is to destroy Western civilisation, and that Islam is simply their instrument.
The hypothesis designs an alleged reality of multiple conspiracies, like a concerted Islamic plot to subdue Europe in which all Arab governments participate notwithstanding any disparities. It further suggests that European governments during the last 40 years unanimously supported this conspiracy, regardless of political parties being voted out and into office with varying political coalitions. At the same time the hypothesis necessitates a secret panel with the ability to transform political, economic, and cultural institutions of all European countries into compliant instruments of an alleged Arab conspiracy, and all this additionally without European press or institutions taking notice or finding out. It is therefore no surprise that neither Ye'or or other proponents of this hypothesis present any proof, and Ye'or's allegations have been labeled as "ridiculous", or "flat-out barking gibberish"
Additionally, the hypothesis needs to employ falsifications of historical events and developments. As one example, Littman alleges in an interview that, during the Arab conquest of Jerusalem in 638, the invaders "devastated the country, massacred and enslaved the population and expropriated the Jewish and Christian indigenous populations, as is related by contemporaneous sources". This is quite dramatically against the facts: during the siege of Jerusalem in 637, the Arab caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab gave Patriarch Sophronius the guarantee that Christian holy places and populations were protected under Muslim rule. A further offer said that Christians were free to leave the city during the siege, which was accepted only by a minority of Christians. The Arab conquest also ended a phase of some 500 years of Jewish banishment from the town, as after the conquest, Jews were again free to settle down in Jerusalem. The Christians' preference of Muslim over Byzantine rule is explained by the fact that the Christian population predominantly belonged to denominations viewed as heretic and had been subject to harassment, while Islam tolerated them as belonging to the 'Family of the Book' of religions with a holy scripture.
In the interview, Littman also claimed:
- "I wrote these books because I had witnessed the destruction, in a few short years, of a vibrant Jewish community living in Egypt for over 2,600 years and which had existed from the time of Jeremiah the Prophet."
With this description, Littman choses to ignore the fact that of these 2,600 years of Jewish history in Egypt, some 1,300 years were spent under Muslim rule which in Egypt began in 639, during which - even according to Littman's view - the Jewish community enjoyed a "vibrant" life.
It must be particularly noted that Littman also employs, and distorts, religious doctrines to serve her ideology. She alleges that European Christians were following "the Koranic Muslim Jesus, called Isa, [rather] than the Jewish Jesus". Both Judaism and Islam do not view Jesus as the son of god but emphasise his human nature, both reject the notion of Jesus being part of a divine trinity which they both view as heretic. Both Judaism and Islam reject the notion Jesus is to be seen as a Messiah. While in Jewish tradition, the last prophet was Malachi (about 420 BCE), Islam sees Jesus as a prophet sent to spread a message which, however, was misrepresented later on, necessitating another, last prophet in the person of Muhammad. However, while there are basic differences in the perception of Jesus between these three religions, they considerably predate any alleged conspiracy concocted during the 1970ies. Littman must be aware of this, and it is therefore far more likely that she presents this argumentation to once more vilify Islam and Muslims.
Versions of this article in other languages
- DER SPIEGEL No. 9, February 21, 2015. "Fromme Radikale" [Pious Radcials], p. 38