F. Roger Devlin, American Renaissance, August 22, 2017
Since the 1980s, Bruce Bawer has been well-known as a literary and cultural critic. In 2006, with the publication of While Europe Slept, he also emerged as a critic of creeping Islamization. In his latest offering, he issues a similar warning, but in fictional form. The Alhambra is a first novel, written to sound the alarm about Islam to people who might otherwise be inclined towards sympathy for it.
Steve Disch, the hero of the story, is, like Mr. Bawer, an American homosexual living as an expatriate in Europe. Not long after his arrival in Amsterdam, Steve gets an offer to sublet an attractive apartment in the center of town. As soon as he moves in it becomes clear that the building’s owner, Ahmed, is very hostile. The Dutchman from whom he is subletting explains that Ahmed associates with gangsters and is trying to drive all “infidels” out of the building. Having fled the supposedly excessive power of the “religious right” in the US for the famed tolerance of the Netherlands, Steve is shocked to hear the Dutchman call Ahmed a “filthy Muslim.”
Rather that live where he is clearly not wanted, Steve takes a smaller apartment in a less desirable part of town. Downstairs from his new lodgings is something called a “community center,” with a Turkish flag in front. At night, the sound of men conversing in a foreign language wafts up to him through the loosely laid wooden floor. One night, the men switch to broken English, apparently to accommodate a new arrival, and Steve is terrified to hear them discussing plans for a terrorist attack. When he tries to alert the police, they appear more interested in the legal technicalities of his own residence in the country, dismiss his concerns about the men downstairs as “prejudice,” and tell him he does not understand “Dutch values.”
Steve goes to an English-language bookstore in Amsterdam to look for reading material about Islam in Europe. He finds just one title, written by a columnist for The Guardian. The author, an Englishmen named Watson — not himself a Muslim — argued that Islam is “a rich new source of spiritual nourishment for a continent that has become far too secularized.” Watson says critics of Islam and Muslim immigration are bigots and fearmongers, singling out a Dutch politician named Jeroen Schrama for special vilification as a “fascist.” Steve’s interest is piqued when Watson casually mentions that Schrama is gay and once had a Moroccan boyfriend. Watson quotes Schrama’s denunciation of “Islam’s brutal oppression of women and gays [as] a threat to the proud Dutch heritage of liberty.” Steve is mystified as to what could be “fascist” about such sentiments. (Schrama is obviously a stand-in for the pioneering Dutch anti-Islamic politician Pim Fortuyn, who was assassinated in 2002.)
He questions one of his Dutch friends, who agrees to discuss Islam with him only after he promises the conversation will be private and off the record:
It’s very hard to talk about it [Islam]. The reigning idea is that it’s racist even to contemplate it critically. After all, we’re talking about people who are poor and downtrodden, people who have maybe been victims of Western colonialism. People whom we may owe something to. A new life. The possibilities we enjoy here. We have to hope that these people who come here will change over time, with our influence.
Steve cautiously asks about Jeroen Schrama:
He’s actually an old friend of mine. We were students together. We were very involved together in some of the early gay-rights stuff. He’s immensely charming. And smart.
How do you feel about what he’s doing these days? Do you consider him a fascist or a racist or anything like that?
Of course not, that’s all a bunch of nonsense. He stands for everything I stand for. He believes passionately in freedom. He’s a very good man and a lot braver than I am.
Another Dutch friend named Joop explains that the political tradition of the Netherlands places a premium on consensus and mutual respect between groups.
[Consensus] got to be important here because we had a lot of groups with very strong and different opinions. Calvinists, Catholics, Jews, Atheists, everything. We saw other countries going to war over these kinds of differences. We didn’t want that. . . . [Now] the Muslims [have] become an official group here. And the most unacceptable thing in this country is to be against any of the accepted groups.
Steve persuades Joop to come to his apartment and listen with him to the disturbing discussions in the community center below. Steve mentions that after being mugged by a Moroccan in central Amsterdam, he has obtained a gun — which shocks Joop. That night, the men downstairs get right down to business:
[They] devoted much of their time to a highly technical discussion about explosives. They talked about flights between Amsterdam and Munich, and about the Munich tram and subway systems. One of them said a person’s name in passing. Schrama. Then there was silence.
Steve suddenly notices that his feet are wet. He has knocked over a bottle of wine and it is covering the floor. He realizes the danger that some may drip through the floorboards, alerting the men below to their presence. He reaches for his gun.
Suddenly there came the sound of the door downstairs being smashed open and then a sound like that of cattle stampeding madly up the steps. A half second later, the apartment door crashed open and two bearded men rushed into the room. They both charged directly at Steve. With a presence of mind that shocked him, Steve raised the pistol to waist height and squeezed off one shot, then another.
With some help from Joop, he kills both men. Then they run off into the night, finding their way to Joop’s apartment.
The next morning, Steve’s face is all over the morning news. The men who had tried to kill him are described as “family men and regular mosque-goers who were highly respected members of the community.” The reporters interview a professor from the University of Amsterdam, who explain to Dutch viewers that the
heartless double murder was the result of the kind of anti-Muslim bigotry spread by the likes of Jeroen Schrama. It only serves to remind us that, Schrama’s racist lies to the contrary, it is not Muslims who have brought violence to the Netherlands but Americans who spread violence all over the world.
Wondering why the men downstairs had been talking about Schrama and Munich, Steve and Joop — at least temporarily safe in Joop’s apartment — scour the internet. They discover an upcoming First Annual International Conference on the Islamization of Europe to be held at an undisclosed location near Munich. Jeroen Schrama is listed as one of the speakers. Steve sets off for Munich to warn Schrama of the danger facing him — and to escape the intense manhunt for him in Amsterdam.
As with most thrillers, the plot becomes increasingly complex — and implausible. Steve meets interesting characters along the way, including a Muslim homosexual who is hoping Allah will let him escape hellfire if he helps his co-religionists murder Western infidels. He also meets a Turkish homosexual named Muhammad who has rejected Islam and broken with his family:
My parents sent me to universities where I learned everything about genome sequencing and the theory of special relativity and so on. And yet they expected me to keep believing that the Earth was flat, that it was the center of the universe, that Allah had dictated the Koran personally to the Prophet, and that a woman should be punished by death for being raped.
Muhammad explains to Steve how Muslim immigrants view the West:
People like my parents came to Europe viewing native Europeans as mere infidels, a lower class of humans than themselves. Haram: unclean. Other people might call European women strong and independent; people like my father saw them as whores who didn’t know their place. And saw their fathers and husbands as weaklings incapable of taming them. As for European freedom, all they could see when they looked at it was heresy — a violation of the proper Islamic order. And the welfare state, of which they took full advantage? As far as they were concerned, it was nothing but the creation of suckers — idiots begging to be exploited.
Muhammad also has considerable insight into the weakness of Europeans:
They’ve never believed in anything themselves, so they’re constitutionally incapable of understanding just how radical Islam is at its heart, how seriously its adherents take it, how it governs absolutely everything they think and do.
I will not spoil the story for readers by explaining how it ends; I will say only that this is an action novel. I would also note that the gay theme is very prominent in The Alhambra; much more so than I have indicated.
This may limit the book’s appeal to the general public, but the permissive cultural left is likely to be an essential partner in any effective response to the Islamic threat. Mr. Bawer’s novel should help forge that partnership — if leftists can open their minds enough to take in its message.