“Anti-U.S. Uprising Widens in Iraq; Marines Push Deeper into Fallujah’– headline in today’s Washington Post

We’ve been here before. It’s not politically correct to say so, of course, but Niall Ferguson does in a brilliant piece that appeared recently in the New York Times.’If the French had failed to defeat an invading Muslim army at the Battle of Poitiers in A.D. 732,’asks Ferguson,’ would all of Western Europe have succumbed to Islam?

Ferguson quotes Edward Gibbon on the subject:”Perhaps,’speculated Gibbon with his inimitable irony,’the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.”

Ferguson points out that when Gibbon wrote these words in 1788, the possibility of a Muslim Oxford was’fanciful,’while today it is’less risible.’Simple demographic changes are one reason. We’re all aware of the huge Muslim immigration into Europe. Europe probably can’t afford to decrease it — with the medial age of European populations rising, and the birth rate falling, Europe will be dependent either upon a tax rate of something like 75 percent or immigration to keep its vast array of social programs, especially for the retired, afloat.  Where but from Muslim countries will this come? But demographic shifts aren’t the only reasons that Europe today could reverse Poitiers:

‘The prospect is all the more significant when considered alongside the decline of European Christianity. In the Netherlands, Britain, Germany, Sweden and Denmark today, fewer than 1 in 10 people now attend church once a month or more. Some 52 percent of Norwegians and 55 percent of Swedes say that God did not matter to them at all. While the social and sexual freedoms that matter to such societies are antithetical to Muslim fundamentalism, their religious tolerance leaves these societies weak in the face of fanaticism.”What the consequences of these changes will be is very difficult to say. A creeping Islamicization of a decadent Christendom is one conceivable result: while the old Europeans get even older and their religious faith weaker, the Muslim colonies within their cities get larger and more overt in their religious observance. A backlash against immigration by the economically Neanderthal right is another: aging electorates turn to demagogues who offer sealed borders without explaining who exactly is going to pay for the pensions and health care. Nor can we rule out the possibility of a happy fusion between rapidly secularized second-generation Muslims and their post-Christian neighbors.’