The Nation has a great article up about the rise of the international Religious Right movement. It's been fomenting for several years now, and I'm sure we're all familiar with the rhetoric that Europe is dying because of women's rights and permissive sexual legislation, that Muslims are taking over, and that the only solution is for white people to have more babies.
What's interesting is that one Bruce Bawer gets a tiny mention in this long article. Bawer is a gay man who made a name for himself by moving to the Netherlands then to Norway to escape religious fundamentalism in America only to start turning out books about the Muslim fundamentalist take-over of Europe (the reason he's mentioned in this article). His argument is that with more and more Muslim immigrants with socially conservative values moving into Europe, they're going to start changing Europe into an anti-gay place to live.
That Kathryn Joyce, the author of the Nation article, includes him in a longer list of those pushing this rhetoric along with Pat Buchanan, Focus on the Family members, and the Quiverfull people, betrays how indistinguishable his politics are from the right-wing version of this argument. That is, if he's arguing that Muslims are going to take over Europe demographically and make it anti-gay, the Religious Right argument that gay rights and feminism are decreasing the number of white people in Europe isn't all that far behind.
This line of argumentation isn't anything new to the gays. We've heard it from Jamie Kirchick and the Gay Patriots and Jeff Gannon and, to a lesser extent, Andrew Sullivan. And the argument's around because it's pretty useful - the idea that queers should ally with those who hate them to fight those mysterious people from the East who hate them even more short-circuits any ability to develop a comprehensive and intersectional gay rights politic, prevents us from thinking about full equality and freedom as we're simply pawns to negotiate between two larger queer-phobic populations, and turns gays into foot-soldiers in the war for tax breaks. The fight for gay rights should be separate, they argue, from any other minority's struggle because, well, the only people who can put up with us in the end are white.
It's a bizarre alliance, and even as conservaqueers are quick to decry the "pro-family" take-over of the Republican Party (they really love that take-over/perpetual victim rhetoric, don't they?), Joyce points out that the origin of their Islamophobic discourse is in fact homophobic as well, that it started with a hatred of feminism and gays that took advantage of growing nativist sentiment and latent authoritarianism in Eastern Europe and repackaged the whole thing as something different, something more logical, something with more dire impacts.
It's hard to see this:
The comeuppance has a name, one being fervently hawked among a group of Christian-right "profamily" activists hoping to spark a movement in secular Europe. It's called the "demographic winter," a more austere brand of apocalypse than doomsayers normally trade in, evoking not a nuclear inferno but a quiet and cold blanket of snow in which, they charge, "Western Civilization" is laying itself down to die.
How so? Europe is failing to produce enough babies--the right babies--to replace its old and dying. It's "the baby bust," "the birth dearth," "the graying of the continent": modern euphemisms for old-fashioned race panic as low fertility among white "Western" couples coincides with an increasingly visible immigrant population across Europe. The real root of racial tensions in the Netherlands and France, America's culture warriors tell anxious Europeans, isn't ineffective methods of assimilating new citizens but, rather, decades of "antifamily" permissiveness-- contraception, abortion, divorce, population control, women's liberation and careers, "selfish" secularism and gay rights--enabling "decadent" white couples to neglect their reproductive duties. Defying the biblical command to "be fruitful and multiply," Europeans have failed to produce the magic number of 2.1 children per couple, the estimated "replacement-level fertility" for developed nations (and a figure repeated so frequently it becomes a near incantation). The white Christian West, in this telling, is in danger of forfeiting itself through sheer lack of numbers to an onslaught of Muslim immigrants and their purportedly numerous offspring.
as too different from this:
These criticisms, offered in a fizzing firecracker polemic, fit into an intriguing pattern, whereby some of the most vociferous critics of the swelling jihadism in Europe—from Pim Fortuyn to Peter Tatchell—have been gay men, well attuned to the rise of fanatical faith. But as his book progresses, Bawer’s polemic shifts from being a carefully reasoned work in the civil-war school into a sloppy, shrill work in the clash-of-civilizations school. He begins to doubt that there are any moderate Muslims at all, except for a few shimmering exceptions: “if that silent majority existed at all, it had to be one of the most silent majorities ever.” He begins to present Europe’s Muslims as a homogenous herd slowly trying to conquer the continent. With spine-chilling incidental music, he reveals the fact that the most popular name for baby boys in Amsterdam is no longer Jan but Mohammed.
Indeed, he shunts aside the examples of heroic moderate Muslims he has listed and proceeds to present the growth of the Muslim population—moderate or jihadist, who cares?—as a problem in itself. He writes, as so many of the American writers on this subject do, of a demographic time bomb sitting underneath Europe:
Today, in Western Europe, the Muslim share of the population is somewhere between 2 and 10 percent. In France, it’s 12 percent. In Switzerland, it’s an astonishing 20 percent. A glance at the relative rates of reproduction suggests this percentage will rise precipitously over the coming generation. Among native Western Europeans, the fertility rate ranges from 1.2 to 1.8 percent—well below the “replacement rate” of 2.1. This means the native populations will decline considerably over the next generation . . . and the number of Muslims will increase dramatically.
He even uses the same 2.1 children replacement rate that the Religious Right uses.
The answers to these bigger questions are definitely hard and a whole lot more complicated than the "with us or against us" rhetoric that that the Right, whichever faction of it, is so fond of using. But something to ignore is the constant assertion that whatever we like, whatever we see as good, whether it's moral goodness or social liberalism, is more associated with "white" and "European" than it is with people of color.