By Daniel Pipes
July 2, 2018
On being designated prime minister of
Poland last December, Mateusz Morawiecki made the extraordinary statement that
he and his government want to "transform [the European Union], to re-Christianize
Struck by this grand vision of Poland's
destiny, and particularly interested in the near-total ban on Muslim migrants
(Morawiecki again: "we will not accept migrants from the Middle East and
North Africa in Poland"), I just spent a week in Warsaw to understand why
that country differs so sharply from Western Europe and what this implies.
I found a raging debate over the country's
civilisationist (usually and inaccurately known as "far-right")
party, called Law and Justice (PiS, pronounced peace). More precisely, Poles
disagree on: Did PiS foment or respond to anti-Muslim feelings?
PiS critics portray it (like other
civilisationist parties) as riding imaginary fears and specious emotions to
political power. Other than the 1683 siege of Vienna, they point to Poles'
historic good relations with Muslims, including seven centuries of exemplary
ties with the tiny Turkic-speaking body of Muslims living in Poland, the Lipka
Tatars; the Polish nobility's romantic notions of their Iranian ("Sarmatian")
origin; the Ottoman Empire refusing to recognize the partition of Poland; and
PiS itself warmly welcoming Chechen immigrants to Poland in the early 2000s.
In this interpretation, PiS and compliant
media raised the spectre of violence and other tensions concerning Muslims in
Western Europe, scaring sufficient numbers of Poles that it could form the
first single-party government of the post-Communist era. Critics argue that PiS
demagoguery debases and endangers Polish democracy while undermining the European
PiS supporters reverse this account. In
their telling, a steady diet of news from Western Europe of Jihadi violence, Taharrush,
"grooming" gangs, honour killings, female genital mutilation,
criminal activity, welfare fraud, and cultural aggression prompted a demand
from below for the party to adopt an anti-immigration and -Islamisation
platform. The Merkel Tsunami of 2015-16, with its million-plus Muslims walking
through Europe, frightened Poles. Accordingly, some 75 percent of them reject
Muslim immigration. So, even if PiS' main rival reaches power, they note, the
Muslim ban will stay.
Of these two interpretations, I find the
second far more convincing. PiS is no more responsible for the fears of
immigration and Islamisation than Europe's other civilisationist parties, such
as Austria's Freedom Party or Italy's League. They all respond to a growing
unease, mainly from the bottom of the socio-economic spectrum. They represent
Europeans who fear for their civilization.
That said, there is much to criticize about
PiS. It lavishes money on welfare payments the government cannot afford and has
adopted the idea of "dependent market economies" from the
anti-capitalist economic theorist Thomas Piketty. In a surprising nod to the
Communist past, PiS wants to make the state more powerful, for example, by
taking control of the judiciary. It engages in conspiracy theories (especially
about the airplane disaster in Smolensk in April 2010). It sponsored the
idiotic law that would land someone in jail for referring to "Polish death
camps" then made things worse by talking about "Jewish
perpetrators" of the Holocaust. (Though, under international pressure, it
did back track last week on the threat of prison.)
Noting these problems, I maintain that the
party should be educated and monitored, not demonized, so it can learn from its
errors while protecting the country from the potentially existential threat of
Islam's intrinsic drive for power.
Why have Poles responded so differently
from Western Europeans to Muslim migration? The homogeneity of the country and
its precarious history (it disappeared from the map for over a century) are
both factors but what I found decisive was Poles coming late to the game,
seeing the massive errors of their western neighbours, and resolving not to
What are the long-term implications of
excluding Muslim migrants? That Poland avoids Western Europe's looming crisis.
As countries, starting with Italy, try to control their borders and expel
illegal migrants, tension, insurrection, and violence will follow. In contrast,
Poland (and its former Soviet-bloc neighbours) will sit out that crisis and may
take in expatriates from Western Europe.
Though those expatriates head primarily to
Australia, Canada, and the United States, Poland might soon – given its
proximity, personal security, and inexpensive cost-of-living – become an
attractive destination, especially for pensioners and for Jews, singled out as
targets in Europe's West but increasingly safe in Poland.
So, while the EU won't be re-Christianized
anytime soon, neither will Poland be Islamized.
Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org,
@DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2018 by Daniel Pipes.
All rights reserved.