The Report on the Evolution of the Family in Europe 2008, published by the Institute for Family Policies in Madrid, suggests that the family is being closed down and sold off at bargain-basement prices.  In Europe there is an abortion every 27 seconds and a divorce every 30.  There are nearly one million fewer births today than in 1989.  Abortion is the principal cause of death in Europe.

The percentage of young people in Europe is falling massively.  There were 94 million people under the age of 14 in 1980, but only 74 million in 2007—a net loss of 20 million young people.  By contrast, the number of people over the age of 65 was 57 million in 1980; it reached 80 million in 2007.  The inverted demographic pyramid means that the young are being increasingly burdened by the need to maintain the old.  Europe seems destined to transform itself into a huge retirement home.

A strong policy to encourage people to have children would be one way to confront the demographic collapse.  But this would mean returning to traditional morality and abandoning the antinatalist and Malthusian policies of the last 30 years.  Another way—the path chosen by the European Union and by the majority of its member-states—is to encourage immigration.  Europe is on its way to becoming a hybrid and multicultural society.

Today, young Europeans are immersed in that “liquid modernity” of which sociologist Zygmunt Baumann has written, which dissolves all truth and all certainty.  They live in broken families incapable of transmitting traditional Christian values.  The transmission of values takes place over a long period of time, from one generation to the next.  Grandparents play a fundamental role; they stand for experience and conservation.  Paradoxically, our society is characterized by an increase in the number of old people and a decrease of their role in it.  Young people today know nothing of the past or the values of the past.  They live in an ephemeral present, completely immersed in today’s liquid society.  They are unable to receive or to transmit, since their own moorings have been cut loose from tradition.  They live in what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) and Marcello Pera (then president of the Italian Senate) termed, in the title of their 2004 book, a society Without Roots.

The second- and third-generation immigrants of non-European origin who live on the outskirts of Europe’s large cities and in urban ghettos are also rootless.  Though they have been transplanted into European soil, they do not integrate into Western society.  Instead, they burn with hatred and frustration against it.  The casseurs, as the French call them, are a radical expression of this violence and nihilism.

There is, however, a fundamental difference between deracinated people of European origin and those of non-European origin.  While deracinated Europeans are deaf to the call of their Christian heritage, immigrants remain sensitive to the call of the religion of their fathers.  This is the fruit of multiculturalism in Europe, which creates a strong connection between ethnicity and cultural identity, leading to the proliferation of ethno-cultural “ghettos.”  Muslim political scientist Bassam Tibi calls them “parallel societies.”

Multiculturalism is a form of racism because it insists that there is a correspondence between ethnicity and culture, an indivisible ethno-cultural identity.  If a multiethnic society is transformed into a multicultural society, if ethnicity becomes culture, then ethnicity will become the dominant factor, and conflict between ethnic groups will ensue.  By contrast, if a multiethnic society is monocultural, the common bond of shared values will reduce the likelihood of clashes.

The creation of these conflict-prone parallel societies is encouraged by the fact that, in Islam, identity is not personal but collective.  The call of the ummah, the Islamic religious community, has a tight grip on the fragile psychology of deracinated people.  According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, today’s European immigrants are more preoccupied with their work and their families than with religion, but they all consider themselves Muslims first, and Belgians, Germans, or Frenchmen second.

Even if they are not practicing Muslims, second- and third-generation immigrants represent an important power base for the advancement of Islamic interests in Europe.  In Islamic doctrine, jihad and egira are complementary concepts, as Bassam Tibi explains.  Egira means migration, and it includes the duty to propagate Islam.  The doctrine of egira implies the expansion into Europe of the Dar al-Islam, and it coincides with what Bat Ye’or calls “soft jihad.”  And soft jihad is no less dangerous than militant, insurgent jihad.

We might make a distinction between a Gramscian Islam and a Leninist Islam.  In Leninist Islam, Muslims seek to conquer Europe through war and terrorism.  In Gramscian Islam, “moderate” Muslims attempt the same by means of demography, the Islamicization of the public sphere, and the introduction of sharia into Western institutions.  Leninist Islam is the Islam of Osama bin Laden, while Gramscian Islam is well represented by the Muslim Brotherhood and such figures as Tariq Ramadan.

The religious doctrine of egira and the ethnicization of Islam are an explosive mixture in the hands of deracinated second- and third-generation immigrants.  Violent clashes and perhaps even war in Europe now seem inevitable.  The revolt of the French banlieues has given us a taste of what may be in store.

Europe must return to its identity and roots.  The greatest enemy we face is not Islam but relativism, which opens the door for Islam.  Relativism is not so much an ideology as a habit, a mentality, a practical fact.  It is a part of daily life; it is widely disseminated; it is in the very air we breathe; it has been absorbed into our mores.  This relativism does not spread into the atmosphere by natural means; it does not flow like a river from a natural spring.  It is disseminated from central ideological laboratories, such as the European institutions, and in its militant form it is often anti-Christian.

If our response is to be successful, it must come from a Christianity that is just as complete and as militant, and just as much a part of our daily life, as the relativism that threatens us.  We must reaffirm the value of the natural law, the unique and shared nature of all human beings.  And we must redouble our efforts to preserve the family, private property, the state, and the Church—particularly the Catholic Faith, precisely because its message of salvation has both a spiritual and a visible and institutional dimension.  That is why the role played today by Pope Benedict XVI is so precious.