Who captains this continent nowadays? Is it the richest, Germany, or is it the UK, which only linked itself geographically, belatedly, by the building a rail route under the English Channel? France insists on having its own path regardless.
The European countries cannot be lumped together. The countries of the European Union [EU] are not culturally homogeneous. The Euro-Zone countries are economically separated from those outside this zone. Members of NATO -- even the expanded NATO -- are viewed differently militarily than those outside the organization. There are also, of course, distinct differences between the Eastern countries of the former USSR and its satellites, and Western democracies; between monarchies and republics; between Catholics and Protestants; between Muslim Europe (e.g. Albania, European side of Turkey, parts of Bulgaria and Bosnia-Herzegovina) and Christian Europe.
These differences were resolved partially or totally, permanently or temporarily, to allow "business to go on."
Then entered another variable: the Islamization of previously-Christian Europe. Before developing a severe headache by pondering that, we should be prepared to learn more of the history of Islam: its previous conquests, the Islamic Empires, its decline -- and more about these recent inhabitants of the continent to which they immigrated and which many of them say they hope to Islamize. This is urgent, as many Muslim countries are stuck in the thought processes of a millennium or so ago. The hiatus is often so great that it defies rationality. We cannot expect an instant change just for our convenience. The ingredients of Europe's newest melting pot either cannot or will not "melt," even for the sake of living together in peace and working towards prosperity.
Even presuming that the majority of Muslims in Europe wish to adapt and blend in with the "natives" and live not only side by side, but totally intermingled in all aspects of life, they are hampered by the violent minority. Many immigrants, also, have a hard time moving away from their past. They can feel lost. They have left behind their origins and heritage but are not in tandem with their progeny, even though they were the ones who willingly and deliberately sought this monumental change. Actually, their offspring frequently reject their values as well as them, mostly because they simply don't comprehend them. It is equally true of the "natives." The "generational gap" is not often bridged for the sake of peace and harmony.
The militant minority, though, have a totally different agenda. They are hell-bent on the Islamization of every single person in Europe, which is the same across the globe. They are a power to be reckoned with because they are recruiting other newcomers from all corners of the earth, and the prize they offer is so temptingly salacious to youths with still-confused emotional needs. The guiding and funding sources are mostly away from the scene of the fray. If these sources could be dried up, there would be more hope for a peaceful resolution. The politics of separateness -- whether churning up racial divisions in America or separating Muslims in Europe from their non-Muslim hosts -- is now a big business and will not easily be given up.
One unanswered question is whether Islam is a religion of peace. First, the Arabic word Islam does not mean "peace" but an act of subjugation to God (Allah) and His will. Second, the basis and teaching of Islam is understood universally to consider non-Muslims as infidels. Third, infidels have to be wiped out. There is no gainsaying the word of Allah in the Koran, the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad and the shari'a. Thus, Muslims by birth or conversion, regardless of whether they are ultraconservative, moderates or secularists, are trapped in this vise-grip of enforcing the will of Allah on everyone, non-Muslim or Muslim, if they veer away from the straight and narrow.
What is poignant to me, an Egyptian Coptic Christian who has lived and worked as a physician in Muslim and non-Muslim countries, is the abysmal lack of understanding of Islam by the Western media, leaders and the man-on-the-street. It is mind-boggling to see the degree of ignorance of blatant truths and facts in the way many policies are handled.
Europe is in the middle of a civil war like no other -- for the grand prize of religious dominance by the few over the many. Regardless of the denials of many Europeans and observers from around the world -- who say that the terror acts are not related to Islam, or if in any way Islamic at all, are merely committed by deviants from the "true" origins of Islam -- in reality, the mayhem we see currently is generated by jihadist Islam. This minority is bolstered by others of a similar conviction, but with even more militant ideas and deeper purses.
The rest of the world is at risk of the same fate. There is chapter and verse, other than 9/11, 7/7, the Madrid train bombing and attacks in India, Argentina, Russia, Israel, Canada, Belgium, Australia, Britain and France, among others. As first steps, governments in the West need honestly to study Islam; and an ominous force must confront, contain and cut off the supply of jihadists and their sources of funding.
If European Islamists wish to leave the continent to fight in Syria and Iraq, that should be allowed to exit, but they should not expect to be allowed back. In addition, lawmakers need to enforce laws prohibiting cooperation with designated terrorist organizations. They might also remind people that if they cooperate with designated terrorist groups, they might be subject to arrest upon returning to their home countries, or possibly barred from entering at all. Captivating tax incentives for economic growth and upward mobility might also, in addition to addressing the economic malaise in disadvantaged areas, begin to revive at least some of the economies of Europe.
The Dutch-Turkish jihadist known as Yilmaz, who left the Netherlands to fight in Syria, has proven adept at the use of social media in Dutch, English and Turkish for jihadist "public relations" and recruitment.
If Europeans practice delusional denials, they are surely marching toward defeat.
Saba E. Demian, M.D., is a retired Professor of Laboratory Medicine at the Medical Schools of USC and LSU, and resides in South Carolina.