The Qu'ran at Notre Dame?

God’s Continent
Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis
Philip Jenkins
Oxford University Press, $28, 352 pp.

Brooding in 1938 about the degree to which the future has a distressing way of taking us by surprise, the Anglo-French author Hilaire Belloc, so admired by his English Catholic contemporaries, ventured the startling prediction that the principal unexpected development lying in wait for the Europeans of his own day was nothing other than “the return of Islam,” “the most formidable and persistent enemy which our civilization has [ever] had.” At the time, with Nazi, Fascist, and Communist totalitarianisms casting an ever-lengthening shadow across the continent, that prediction must surely have smacked of the eccentric. But not today, as Philip Jenkins makes abundantly clear in this stimulating, informative, meaty, and judicious book, the third in his much-praised Future of Christianity trilogy.

On this matter, gloomy talk (à la Samuel Huntington) about an impending “clash of civilizations” would indeed appear to be rife. “Jihad in Europe,” “Eurabian civil war,” “Islamism as the new Nazi-Fascism,” a “Eurabian nightmare” of “rapid Islamization” destined “within a few” decades to produce nothing other than “a Muslim continent”-book titles and pamphleteering slogans scratch away obsessively at what seems now to have become an exceedingly widespread itch. As recently as 2004, an Arabist of even Bernard Lewis’s stature could bluntly assert that “current trends show Europe will have a Muslim majority by the end of the...

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About the Author

Francis Oakley is president emeritus of Williams College.