Minarets again ...

On the issue of minarets again ... I now remember something I heard from Phillippe de Villiers, the leader of our local government in the La Vendee. It was at the time of negotiations on the EU constitution (from which a 'Judeo-Christian' preamble was dropped to appease the Turks). The pro-Islamicisation prime-minister of Turkey, Erdogan is supposed to have said: “The minarets are our bayonets, the domes our helmets, the mosques our barracks and the faithful our army.”

In this context, this poster of the Swiss People's Party (above) was not so much of an exaggeration as many people supposed. Moderate islamic statesmen are allowed to speak of minarets as a symbol and tool of a programme for the islamicisation of Europe, but when the Swiss say the same thing, they are accused of over-reacting.

Politicans in other countries (Holland and Italy will probably be the first) are talking of introducing similar referenda. What is one to think? Minarets are not the main point, I think. But the question of cultural identity is.

One can be in favour of religious freedom and tolerant of immigration, but one may also stand up for the rights of an indigenous people. In north America and Australia there is a new culture of breast-beating over the treatment of the indigenous populations by white settlers, and over the way in which native cultures were destroyed. We are right to apologise, because the white settlers, then their governments, and indeed their churches, were involved in indefensibly inhumane policies aimed at the domination and oppression of these peoples.

And yet, having learnt these lessons, it would be unwise of us not to apply the same lessons in Europe in the current cultural context. The traditional European peoples have a right to live and defend their culture. They have a right for their values and traditions to be the dominant ones in their home.

We bewail the destruction of the Celtic languages by the incoming English-speaking settlers in Wales or the Hebrides; we bewail the destruction of picturesque African and Indian tribes by contact with 'westernisation' of the worst kind. Is it not also time now to look at what is happening to English culture, to French culture, to Dutch culture? Not as a result of choices made by the indigenous people, but as a result of immigration without assimilation.

A number of years ago another Vatican document, and a letter from the Italian bishops' conference, drew attention to the rights of indigenous peoples in the whole area of immigration.

This is an issue that the large and unwieldy united states of Europe, with its new President and Foreign Minister, will now have to address, before it tears us all apart.

Closing our eyes to demographic and cultural change, and the tensions they create, is not an answer. In a few years (20, 30 or 40, depending on the country) many European nations are going to discover that most of their young people are completely alien (or even hostile) to the traditional values and culture of their country. That is not a recipe for justice and peace.

The long-overdue debate about European cultural identity has now begun.

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