Years ago, perhaps at the very beginning of graduate school, I bought and read a book entitled Allahs Sonne über dem Abendland (“Allah’s Sun over the West,” or, more literally, “Allah’s Sun over the Evening Land”).
Much has been written about the demographic decline of Europe (which is far more threatening to the continent than its current economic woes, awful as they are) and there have been several discussions in print about its seemingly impending Islamization.
I don’t intend to rehearse any of the really striking statistics right now. But I want to offer some impressions.
Years ago, during a trip that took me to some really off-the-beaten-path towns in central and northern England, I was very surprised to see evidently substantial Muslim populations in areas where I wouldn’t have expected them. London, of course, in the vicinity of Hyde Park (for example), has long had visibly Muslim areas (and excellent Middle Eastern restaurants). But seeing halal butchers’ shops and veiled women pushing prams in even very remote and nondescript English towns was something I hadn’t expected.
I’ve now, on this trip, been in German-speaking central Europe for a week. When I lived in Switzerland as a missionary, back in the dimly-remembered 1970s, I met — I think — one Muslim, a Pakistani banker. (Thereby hangs a tale that I may or may not have told on this blog, and won’t recount now, but have told elsewhere. It’s not exactly flattering to me.) During the past week, though, I’ve seen many heavily covered Muslim women with their husbands and children. (The husbands and children are less obviously Muslim in appearance.)
I would guess that roughly a third to a half of the customers that we’ve seen during our forays into the local supermarket here in Maria Alm have been Muslims. We’ve seen them at every site we’ve visited. We saw them in our first hotel, near Munich. We saw them in Lauterbrunnen.
A couple of nights ago, sitting out on our patio, I distinctly heard the first line — though, oddly, only the first line — of the Muslim call to prayer, the adhan.
This is, I know, anecdotal evidence. It proves nothing. But, on a day when I’ve been reading about the coming to power in Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood, it certainly illustrates vividly for me, at least, the increasing international reach and assertiveness and presence of Islam, and specifically of a rather conservative form of Islam. (I’ve seen more severely veiled women in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria over the past week, I think, than I did in four years of living in Egypt between 1978 and 1982.)
Incidentally, my wife and I drove over, today, to the town of Sankt Johann im Pongau, which is near Bischofshofen. We have friends who will be staying there next week, and we were resigned to the thought that their place would probably be nicer than ours. I’m happy to say, though, that, even though Sankt Johann is pretty, Maria Alm is prettier. We win.
Maria Alm, Austria.