With a new round of violence hitting the news every week, it's all too easy to think of practitioners of Islam as a singular group of people sweeping out from the mysterious corner of the world where they belong to try to take over Western culture. They have odd ways of dressing that imply things about women that we've gotten over generations ago. They have odd words that don't get spelled the same way every time. They revere and protect a prophet who can't be pictured, let alone subjected to satire. Best-selling books about what a threat those people pose to our way of life come out with almost the same frequency as the news reminders of how bad it can get.
Doug Saunders has watched this tide of fear for eight years from London, at the European Bureau of the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper; he's now the Bureau chief. His second book, The Myth of the Muslim Tide, reflects his own and scholars' analysis of the situation and provides statistics about how the majority of Muslim immigrants really behave in the West. It also reviews North America's prior experiences with frightening waves of immigrants that were profoundly "other," and enumerates "what we ought to worry about." Richly sourced with 11 pages of end notes, and an index that runs from Anders Breivik's manifesto on the threat he perceived to Europe to Emile Zola, Saunders' book should provide a clearer grounding to meet a global change that's already too big to stop.
I say "should provide" because I haven't read the book yet. A week into the latest horrors of Muslim resentment, I heard Saunders on NPR's Fresh Air With Terry Gross. I was impressed with his calm authority and deep knowledge of his subject, so I went straight out to buy the book (a slim, efficient trade paperback, also available for e-readers). The purpose of this article is to invite you to read it with me and collaborate on a rolling review. We can go chapter by chapter or read and discuss each of the four sections. I do ask that you be familiar with the book and able to tell us where in it you found what you like or don't. The same goes for evidence you offer from other sources to support or argue with Saunders's ideas. I'll offer my own review of each part we read, and then try only to moderate the discussion. Send me private messages if you think I need moderating, or of course flag me. I'm excited about the possibilities!