In this short book, journalist Doug Saunders takes issue with the idea that Muslim immigrants present an increasingly real threat to Western values and sovereignty. In his introduction, Saunders claims that “this book is not a defence of Islam, and does not contain a dissection of the teachings of the Koran” (p.6). Instead, Saunders uses a handful of anti-Islam writers, who have developed the so-called Muslim-tide argument, against which he offers a different perspective on the issue. Among others, these include Christopher Caldwell, Mark Steyn, Bruce Bawer, and far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, all of whom argue that an influx in Muslim immigrants ultimately presents an existential threat to the ways in which Westerners live their lives.
Because I don’t particularly disagree with the substance of Saunders’ argument, it’s worthwhile to dwell on more problematic parts of the book—his methodology and structure. As far as a sourcebase is concerned, Saunders heavily relies on quantitative data in the form of demographic statistics. In his chapter “The Facts,” he outlines claims made by a number of Muslim-tide advocates and systematically employs demographic data to contest each of his opponent’s claims. For example, he refutes the arguments made by both Thilo Sarrazin and Mark Steyn, which suggest that Muslim immigrants in the West are destined to reproduce faster than the people around them, by citing articles and polls of varying quality (p.48)
But the more serious issue with this methodology is that Saunders hopes to contest an overwhelmingly qualitative idea (or fear) in a dominantly quantitative way. Whether or not the fertility rates of immigrants are less than or equal to autochthonous Britons, Canadians, or Germans is largely irrelevant in the debate. One’s opinion on the issue depends on experience over “the facts,” regardless of how illogical this might seem. If, for instance, one queues up for a bus in Mississauga, just outside of Toronto, or Rotterdam in the Netherlands, one might very well be convinced based on their own empirical experience that they are becoming a minority in the country in which they reside—and this is particularly true for those living in densely populated and urban centers.
Some of the content Saunders includes later in the book helps remedy this methodological problem. Chapter Three, for example, entitled “We’ve Been Here Before,” details some historical parallels in which influxes in immigration have contributed to a perceived threat to Western stability and sovereignty. These include American fears of Catholic domination immediately following the Second World War, as well as the immemorial fears of Jewish immigrants in Europe and North America. In each of these cases, Saunders persuasively shows that the perceived threat of Muslim immigration is part of a broader and historical Western experience. In this way, Saunders’ decision to place this material near the end of the book is curious and weakens the thrust of his argument.
On the whole, however, Saunders’ book provides a concise rebuttal to a series of books and opinion pieces that express an unfeigned fear of the Islamicization of Europe and beyond.