There’s no doubt that because of internal movements of peoples within the Eurozone, urbanization and changing social mores in the age of globalization, as well as immigration and the flight of refugees from Africa and war-torn countries in the Middle East, demographics – including the growth of Muslim communities – have been changing Europe over the last couple of decades.
The Europe of our grandparents – a continent of homogenous nation-states where the Catholic Church still had somewhat of a privileged place in public life – doesn’t really exist anymore. The EU member states today are secularized and have a religious, ethnical and racial diversity that would have been unimaginable for my parents, who didn’t emigrate from Portugal until the early 1970s.
Immigration is also often a controversial political issue because it introduces large numbers of people who have cultures, languages, religions and customs that are very different than their host country. The reason why immigration can trigger nativist impulses is because we fear “outsiders” moving in and changing our neighborhoods and communities with their “foreign” ways of life and “strange” ways of doing things.
The anxiety of being “replaced” by a foreign other is reflected in the document that articulates the vision of the nativist “America First Caucus,” which holds up “Anglo Saxon traditions” as ideal and denigrates immigrants who arrived in this country after 1965 – that would include my family – as a drain on the nation. One of the leading figures of that so-called “Ango Saxon Caucus,” by the way, is Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Q-Anon sympathetic congresswoman who was recently portrayed in an EWTN news report as a courageous pro-life witness.
You throw in factors such as race and Islam – which is often depicted in Western media as a violent Jihad-obsessed religion of terrorism – and you can have a real political powder keg on your hands.
Muslim Communities At Risk
Duffner told me that Arroyo and Kreeft, in the beginning of their conversation, were echoing the “great replacement theory,” which she noted has fueled right-wing anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic attacks in a number of places, including the Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019 that left 51 people dead and another 40 wounded. It’s the same kind of rhetoric that can animate a white Texas man to pick up an AR-15 and shoot Mexicans in an El Paso Walmart in order to stop the “Hispanic invasion” of the United States.
“I’m most troubled by (Kreeft) talking about birth rates as a way that Muslims are ‘conquering’ Europe,” Duffner said. “When I heard him say that, I couldn’t help but think of all of the Muslim mothers who have been physically assaulted in the presence of their children in the US and Europe.
“I find it troubling that the great replacement theory has been normalized in so many Catholic settings,” Duffner added. “Not just EWTN, but also the fact that Turkson would show that video.”
Duffner was referring to a 2012 episode where Cardinal Peter Turkson came under fire for screening a controversial video critical of the growth of the Muslim population in Europe. Cardinal Turkson, a native of Ghana, later apologized and said his intention was not to denigrate Islam but to raise legitimate concerns about the future of Christianity in Europe.
By the way, the Pew Research Center has crunched the numbers in analyzing potential demographic scenarios in Europe. A “high” projection where Muslim refugees continue to flow into Europe indefinitely into the future would have Muslims making up 14 percent of Europe’s population by 2050; nearly triple the current share but still considerably smaller than the populations of Christians and non-religious people in Europe.
As for Kreeft, he’s been known in the past to be gracious when speaking of devout Muslims, often emphasizing their sincere devotion and love of the Blessed Virgin Mary, among other things that Catholics and Muslims hold in common. I think that’s why it might be surprising for some of his longtime admirers to hear Kreeft warning viewers of Arroyo’s EWTN show that Muslims are “conquering” Europe through their mothers.