'The Strange Death Of Europe' Warns Against Impacts Of Immigration NPR's Robert Siegel talks to Douglas Murray about his new book, The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam. He argues that European civilization is dying as a result of immigration.

'The Strange Death Of Europe' Warns Against Impacts Of Immigration

'The Strange Death Of Europe' Warns Against Impacts Of Immigration

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/534597202/534597203" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

NPR's Robert Siegel talks to Douglas Murray about his new book, The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam. He argues that European civilization is dying as a result of immigration.


The way the British writer Douglas Murray sees it, European civilization is in the process of suicide by immigration. Western Europe in particular, after encouraging immigration to fill low-wage jobs, now finds itself defending traditional values against those of largely Muslim immigrants and their descendants. Mr. Murray's new book is called "The Strange Death Of Europe," and he joins us from London. Welcome to the program.

DOUGLAS MURRAY: Very good to be with you.

SIEGEL: First, what does it mean in your view for Europe to die as opposed to change with changing populations?

MURRAY: We're used to the idea of slow, incremental cultural and societal change. I use the famous example of the ship of Theseus. As bits fall off, you put bits on, but it remains recognizably the ship of Theseus. That isn't the case when you have migration at the levels at which Europe has had it in recent decades, particularly not at the level of 2015, when Germany added an extra 2 percent of - to its population in a single year alone. And it's also very unlikely, it seems to me, that people who come with very different attitudes are not going to change the continent significantly.

SIEGEL: Very different attitudes, you believe, being essentially Muslim attitudes, is what you're - what you're writing about here?

MURRAY: That is obviously the one that is - that Europe is finding it hardest to digest, yes.

SIEGEL: Let me cut to what, for me, is the chase here. As a Jew, I mean, I have to ask you - what is so different about contemporary opposition to Muslim immigrants from 19th and 20th century European anti-Semitism? Things were said about the Jews - that they wouldn't fit in or would bring radical ideas from Eastern Europe with them into the West.

MURRAY: Well, the difference is the facts, isn't it? That's the first thing - and secondly, of course, the numbers. Take an example like - let's say 2015 across the continent of Europe. The numbers that came that year from across sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Middle East and the Far East were far in excess of any of the migration that was seen during the Jewish migrations into Europe.

And secondly, that the claims that were made about Jews were erroneous claims, whereas the people who did warn that some - obviously not all, but some - of the Muslim immigrants will bring serious security challenges with them has been demonstrated time and again by events. So, you know, you can hear ugly echoes whilst also being able to differentiate the difference between facts and lies.

SIEGEL: One fundamental difference that you write about is - you write that for, well, going on two centuries, in Britain and other parts of Europe, religious faith has been moving from the literal to the metaphorical.


SIEGEL: And the people arriving are bringing a very literal faith with them.


SIEGEL: And that seems to be one of the basic dissonances that you're writing about.


SIEGEL: Do you feel that's what makes you and the people you grew up with fundamentally different from many of the people arriving now?

MURRAY: Let me give you one very quick example. In Britain, we, some decades ago, came to a fairly straightforward accommodation and belief towards tolerance towards people who were of sexual minorities. If you - if you look now at all opinion surveys of the people who've come in most recently, they have very, very different views. A poll carried out a couple of years ago found that among U.K. Muslims there was zero - zero - belief that homosexuality was a permissible lifestyle choice. And a poll taken just last year in Britain found that 52 percent of British Muslims wanted being gay in the U.K. to be made illegal now.

Now, there are people who won't bake your wedding cake if you're gay. There are some ultra-Protestants who won't marry you in their churches. But these are people who actually want to make it a crime punishable in law in the 21st century in Britain. So I'm afraid that everyone has to concede - liberal or conservative or whatever - that some of the people who the liberals and their attitude towards immigration have brought here have more illiberal attitudes than anyone else in the country. And this is a big problem.

SIEGEL: Yeah. And you represent the other side of that coin, which is someone taking what would be described as a very - your critics would say a very intolerant attitude of immigrants. But you're openly gay and...

MURRAY: Well, I am intolerant - I have to say, I am intolerant of people who want to put me, as a gay man, in prison. Yeah. Yeah, I'm intolerant of that.

SIEGEL: Yeah, there's no - fair enough. But as a gay man, one of the - one of the traditional values that you're saying is under assault is a degree of tolerance that's developed in Britain and other European societies.

MURRAY: Of course. We all - we all know - it's a grade-school question of the level at which you can decide to be tolerant of an intolerant belief.

SIEGEL: Do you accept, though, that there's something odd and almost comical about a Brit saying, we never asked for Pakistanis to come to our country en masse when, in fact, no one on the Indian subcontinent, to my knowledge, ever asked Britain to come and set up an empire there and decide that it was fit to rule over hundreds of millions of people in that part of the world?

MURRAY: It's one interpretation and usage of the word comic. Ironic, perhaps, you'd say. But no, if that is the comparison you'd like to make, then I would throw a question back to you.


MURRAY: Which is everyone agrees that the colonial era was wrong. I'm not an apologist for empire. But in that case, how long does the reverse colonialism happen for? And if you see it as some kind of blowback for colonialism, then what is the end point of this anti-colonialism?

SIEGEL: Well, you're using the construct of punishment. I was saying it's a fairly natural consequence, just as the French have a very large population that are - originates in North Africa, where they had decided for some time they should rule.

MURRAY: Yeah, but this doesn't - this doesn't work...

SIEGEL: It's human nature to do that.

MURRAY: The problem is that this isn't borne out by the facts across Europe. For instance, I mean, where was the Swedish empire across Africa or in the Middle East? Where was it?

SIEGEL: Fair enough. That's not the same.

MURRAY: And so why did Sweden take in 2 percent of its population in addition in one year alone, 2015? It makes no sense. We can all find excuses and reasons for why this is happening. I think it's much better to look at it in the round and see the very complex picture this actually presents and the very complex future it's setting up for us.

SIEGEL: If what you call the strange death of Europe is - if it remains a process rather than a condition, what would be your solution to reverse the process?

MURRAY: The first solution is very straightforward. It is that you slow down the flow. I don't say no migrants into Europe. I don't say that at all. But you've got to massively slow down the flow because a society doesn't have a hope of remaining cohesive when you have migration at these levels. The second thing is you work on the people who are already here more. The third thing is that you make it clear that as well as speaking the language of inclusion in our politics, we have to speak the language of exclusion - what it is that we won't tolerate as well as what it is that we do and what it is we will be tolerant of.

There's a whole set of other things. One of them is a very basic one, which is to try to shrug off what I diagnose as, among other things, the guilt-ridden complex that Europe has. I'm not advocating that we become sort of, you know, patriotic nationalists. You've got to find a balance here. And one of the balances has to be arrived at by recognizing a very simple fact, which is that Europe cannot be the home for everybody in the world who wants to move in and call it home.

SIEGEL: Douglas Murray, author of "The Strange Death Of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam." Thanks for talking with us today.

MURRAY: Great pleasure.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.