Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sample Chapter--Twilight's Last Gleaming: Part One

[I'm back. I missed a couple of the monthly updates, due to the Christmas holidays and other demands on my attention during January. This is another selection from my future history, Twilight's Last Gleaming. In fact, it is the very first chapter of the entire history. In my history, and the novels I'm basing on it, the United States is defeated in a war with the Islamic Federation of Europe. In reading or viewing fiction about future societies, one is often given pause to ask, "How does something like this get started?" (Logan's Run is a good example here.) I've endeavored to create a plausible scenario based on present day events. Copyright 2008 by Charles Hoffman]


In the year 2076, the United States of America was preparing to celebrate its Tercentennial (or “Tricentennial”, as it was commonly referred to.) At this time, the greatest external threat facing the United States was the Islamic Federation of Europe. The Islamic Federation had existed as a formal political entity for less than two decades, but its roots went back much further.

At the dawn of the 21st Century, considerable Muslim populations already existed in almost all European nations. For the most part, they were concentrated in Eastern European areas such as the Balkans. Albania’s population of over 3 million was 70 percent Sunni Muslim. Bosnia was home to a million and a half Muslims, or 40 percent of its population. The Kosovo region’s population of 2 million was 90 percent Muslim. Turkey, linking Europe and Asia, had a large population of almost 70 million, 99 percent of whom were Muslim. These areas had once been a part of the Ottoman Empire, or had been in close contact with it. Islam had predominated there for centuries.

By the late 20th Century, however, Islam had made remarkable inroads into Western Europe as well. Sizable Muslim minorities existed in France, Germany and the United Kingdom, in the Alpine nations of Austria and Switzerland, and even the Scandinavian countries of Denmark and Sweden.

The once-formidable Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) had straddled half of Europe and all of Asia like a vast colossus. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia relinquished its hold on over a dozen smaller nations that reasserted their autonomy. These included such Islamic Asian countries as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. In Russia, Christians and Muslims had co-existed for centuries. With the fall of communism there came a resurgence of ethnic and religious identity among the various peoples. Approximately 20 million Muslims lived in Russia, a million or so residing in Moscow.

Of the Western European nations, France had the largest Muslim population. Official French government estimates placed the figure at 4 to 5 million, or approximately 8 percent of the total population. However, many analysts regarded these figures as misleading. In accordance with French law, census figures did not identify citizens by race, religion, or ethnicity. The actual number of French Muslims in the year 2000 may have approached or even exceeded 8 million, close to 12 percent of the population. The majority traced their ancestry to Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, formerly North African colonies held by the French.

Germany’s 3 million Muslims accounted for 4 percent of its population. Most were descended from Turks who arrived as early as the 1960s under a “guest worker” program and had not been expected to become permanent residents. Their ranks were further swelled by refugees from the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Balkan refugees, as well as others in flight from Iran, Iraq, and Somalia, also sought asylum in Denmark during the `80s and `90s. There they joined Muslims who had come from Yugoslavia, Turkey, Morocco, and Pakistan in the 1970s in search of work. By 2000, Muslims from many nations comprised 5 percent of the Danish population. An additional million Muslims accounted for 6 percent of the population of the Netherlands. They had begun to emigrate there half a century earlier from former Dutch colonies, and tended to congregate in the larger urban centers. By 2015 they had achieved majority status in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague.

Muslims also gained strong footholds in Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and other Western European states. By 2020, they were enjoying a remarkable resurgence in Spain, where the Moors had ruled throughout the Middle Ages. Once they became the majority in Spain and Portugal, additional waves of African Muslims surged up through Morocco into Spain, and from there into the rest of Europe. From the East, Asian Muslims passed through Turkey on their way to the Balkan states and points west.

By and large, European Muslims did not assimilate into the cultures of their adopted countries. They retained the cultural identities of their ancestral homelands. More often than not they congealed into ghettos to form a disadvantaged underclass. This inevitably led to social strife. Disenfranchised youths were drawn to the militant tenets of Islamic fundamentalism, which had seen a resurgence during the latter part of the 20th Century. This pairing of alienation with religious and political extremism bore bitter fruits as the 21st Century dawned.

In March 2004, bombings of four commuter trains in Madrid killed almost 200 people and wounded hundreds more. A radical Islamic group with roots in Morocco came under investigation. Taking place three days before a national election, the Madrid bombings had an intimidating effect on Spanish foreign policy that resulted in a curtailment of support to American military efforts in the Middle East.

In September 2005, Muslims took to the streets throughout the Islamic world in violent protest over editorial cartoons published in a Danish newspaper that many deemed blasphemous. Riots in Nigeria, Libya, Pakistan, and Afghanistan killed 139 people. The Danish and Norwegian embassies in Syria were burned. The cartoonists were forced into hiding.

In October and November 2005, riots broke out in the heavily Muslim suburbs of Paris due to widespread dissatisfaction among disgruntled Muslim youths. The rioting quickly spread to Marseille, Cannes, Nice, and many other French cities and towns. Churches, schools and businesses were vandalized. The rampage went on for nearly a fortnight before French President Jacques Chirac declared a national state of emergency. When the violence subsided, several people had been killed, hundreds had been injured, and over four thousand arrests had been made.

In September 2006, remarks by Pope Benedict XVI sparked another spate of violent protests. In a lecture on theology, the Pope quoted a 14th Century Byzantine Emperor who had made remarks critical of Islam. Thousands erupted into protest and the Pope was burned in effigy. Churches were firebombed and a nun was killed.
Reaction to the rising Muslim tide in Europe by indigenous Europeans was muted. Official government policy and media commentary concerning both Muslim immigration and subsequent social problems tended to be circumspect. This may have owed something to a collective guilt over Europe’s history of imperialist exploitation of former colonies, various pogroms, and, in the case of Germany, history’s most notorious attempt at total genocide. Socially liberal countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands adopted a policy of multiculturalism, essentially conferring a validity to the foreign cultures of recent immigrants that was equal to the long-standing indigenous cultures. In Germany and Austria, Islam was included in the public school curriculum.

Islam gradually achieved greater and greater prominence in all areas of public life throughout the European states. This trend did not go unprotested by concerned citizens of old European ancestry, even if such voices were frequently stifled one way or another. Brigitte Bardot, a French former actress of once-great renown, was tried and convicted for “inciting racial hatred” in such writings as an article entitled “An Open Letter to My Lost France” and her best-selling book, Un Cri Dans le Silence (A Cry in the Silence). Bardot lamented the demise of indigenous French culture, citing among other things the proliferation of mosques in France while Christian congregations dwindled. Payment of hefty fines allowed the then-elderly Bardot to avoid prison incarceration.

Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was not so fortunate. Van Gogh had directed a documentary depicting the oppression of Islamic women. He was shot and stabbed to death in the streets of Amsterdam in broad daylight by a young Dutch Muslim who had taken offense at the film. Van Gogh was a descendent of the brother of painter Vincent van Gogh, and a fairly well known figure in his own right. His death incited violence between Christians and Muslims that caused both mosques and churches to go up in flames.

In the final analysis, however, the occasional voice crying in the dark could do little to forestall the inevitable. Islamic culture came to supplant Western culture in Europe. Even as Muslim populations soared, the population of indigenous Europeans went into steep decline. By the turn of the 21st Century, birthrates among indigenous peoples had fallen to below replacement levels in every European nation. Replacement level was determined to be an average of 2.1 children per woman. In 2006, the German government’s Federal Statistics Office reported that the decline of Germany’s population was “irreversible.” Also in 2006, the Brussels Journal predicted that one third of all European children would be born to Muslim parents by 2025. The Journal estimated that there would be 100 million European Muslims by that year.

As it turned out, such estimates proved to be altogether too conservative. The actual Muslim population of Europe in 2025 was closer to 150 million. Two additional factors accounted for this. The greater by far was an ever-increasing number of immigrants from the traditional Islamic world. As indigenous populations aged, the old came to far outnumber the young. With more of the former retiring every year, a further influx of immigrants was actually needed to shore up the tax base and maintain essential services. By 2025 it was common to refer to the indigenous peoples of Germany, France, Austria, etc., as “the Elder Races.” The Muslim citizens of those same nations referred to themselves as “the New Breed.” The term “Elder Races” was occasionally diplomatically employed in official channels to convey some measure of respect and appreciation. In common usage, however, it carried connotations of antiquity, frailty, senility, and irrelevancy. “The New Breed,” on the other hand, denoted the strength, boldness, and vitality of youth.

This undoubtedly contributed to the secondary factor underlying the spread of Islam throughout Europe: conversion. The dwindling population of young indigenous Europeans felt alienated from what they viewed as a staid and dying culture. Consequently, they converted to Islam in great numbers.

Even as early as the turn of the 21st Century, when they still comprised an ethnic and religious minority, European Muslims were already making their presence felt throughout the public sector. Able to vote and hold office in their adopted countries, they began to sway elections and determine government policy. As a result, they were granted concessions that further enabled them to increase their numbers and influence. The historic rivalry between Islam and Christianity, dating from the Middle Ages, was the basis of an inherited grudge on the part of Muslims towards the society they were infiltrating. Combined with exposure to the secularized, socially permissive culture of late 20th Century / early 21st Century Europe, this engendered a deep-seated contempt for the mores and values of Western European civilization. Subsequent generations of Muslims, born and raised in Europe, absorbed this sense of hostility in their cradles. For the most part, the New Breed had little use for the traditions and institutions of the Elder Races.

In 2033, Germany became the first Western European nation to designate itself an “Islamic Republic.” France and Russia soon followed suit. Previously, a number of the Eastern Balkan countries had formally declared themselves to be Islamic theocracies.

The Islamic Federation of Europe grew vine-like upon the framework of the old European Union. In doing so, it inherited an efficient bureaucracy already in place. This was the legacy of a century of military and commercial alliances.

The first attempt at European unification came about as a result of the World Wars that were waged between 1914 and 1945. The whole continent had been ravaged, with tens of millions killed and cities reduced to rubble. Statesmen and intellectuals sought diplomatic means to forestall further devastation. Western European nations entered into a military alliance with the nations of North America as a deterrent to possible aggression by the Soviet Union. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established in 1949. The notion of a separate European union to allow nations to pool resources and address common problems was first proposed by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman in 1950.

The first step towards what would become the European Union was the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951, followed by the European Economic Community (EEC), to regulate commerce. In the meantime, West Germany joined NATO in 1955, prompting the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites, including East Germany, to join a military alliance known as the Warsaw Pact.

In 1967, the ESC and the EEC merged and became known as the European Community. This body successfully standardized exchange rates and other economic practices. In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and the Warsaw Pact fell apart. The following year, the Treaty of Maastricht established the European Union. The Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) and the Treaty of Nice (2003) streamlined the organization and created provisions for a common European citizenship, a common currency, and a constitution. In 2002, the Euro replaced the national currencies of most of the member nations. Initially comprised of Western European nations, the Union began admitting Eastern European nations in the early 21st Century.

The admission of Turkey to the European Union in 2015 added 70 million Muslims to the population of the Union. As citizens of the EU, Turks could cross over all of Europe’s international boundaries in search of work and other opportunities. As a voting block 70 million strong, they tipped the scales decisively in favor of Muslims in Union-wide elections. Turkey also served as the bridge by which many Asian Muslims found their way into Europe. The population of Europe had already begun to shift in favor of the New Breed as the Elder Races began dying off. The evolution of the European Union into the Islamic Federation was inevitable.

The final transformation and the establishment of the Islamic Federation of Europe (IFE) as a formal political entity was the work of many hands. However, two remarkable figures stand out; Abdullah Al Hamza, a Frenchman, and Yar Ali Ghazi, a German. Abdullah Al Hamza was a professor of Islamic Studies at the Sorbonne. He also held advanced degrees in economics and political science, was widely published in academia and the popular press, and was regarded as one of Europe’s leading intellectuals. Yar Ali Ghazi was the forceful and dynamic president of the Islamic Republic of Germany.

The New Breed’s most eminent political theorist, Abdullah Al Hamza became the chief architect of the Islamic Federation of Europe. It was he who coined the widely quoted maxim “Retain and modify what is useful” in regards to Elder European social, political, scientific, and philosophic institutions. Al Hamza was the key figure at the yearlong Berlin Conference (2056 – 57) that oversaw the metamorphosis of the European Union into the IFE.

In his opening address to the Conference, Al Hamza asserted that Europe had been a Muslim-majority continent since the admission of Turkey to the EU, and that Muslims were now the majority in nearly all of the individual European nations. Indeed, many had already been reconstituted as Islamic republics. The character of European civilization had undergone a profound change in the last century, and the political structure of a unified European state must reflect the new order.

The work of the Conference consisted largely of dismantling all the previous European alliances that were still extant and subsuming the component bureaucracies into the auspices of the Islamic Federation of Europe. Member nations were required to subordinate their national sovereignty to the central government of the Federation. In several European nations, such as the United Kingdom, Muslims were still minorities, albeit sizable ones. Such nations were not excluded from membership, provided that the nation as a whole relinquished its sovereignty and submitted to the rule of Islamic law. No European nation with an indigenous majority elected to do so, but by the 2050s these were few in number. The only Western European countries to remain outside of the Islamic Federation were the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.

On January 1, 2058, the Islamic Federation of Europe took its place among the great nations of the world. Yar Ali Ghazi was sworn in as its first president, and Abdullah Al Hamza became Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Thanks to the efficiency of mid-21st Century telecommunications, the problem of which city should serve as the Federation capital was avoided. Instead, various arms of government were headquartered in Berlin, Paris, and Geneva. The triple capitals were linked by special bullet trains that affected convenient rapid transit for officials. As president, Yar Ali Ghazi welded the Federation into a band of steel. Power was consolidated under the strong central authority of the chief executive and the ruling council. More ominously as far as the Western Hemisphere was concerned, the IFE inherited the formidable arsenals of both the former NATO powers and the Warsaw Pact nations.