The coming religious war in Europe and how it may be averted

Subhash Kak
8 min readApr 19, 2024
The Phantom Horseman, 1870–93 by Sir John Gilbert (d. 1897)

(Note: This is the third part of an essay. Read the first part here, and the second part here.)

The Pew Research Center estimates that by 2050 Europe’s Muslim population in several countries could approach 20%, and for Sweden the figure could be as high as 30%. While one may celebrate it as a sign of diversity, history informs us that such percentages are likely to trigger social and political conflict, and even war.

This essay presents factors that will make it difficult for Europe to assimilate this minority (unlike others) but also speaks of reforms that may lead to conciliation.

Islam and non-Muslims

The word Islam means submission and in it the believers are enjoined to follow the Shari’ah (Islamic law), wherein lies the call for an unceasing conflict with the non-believers.

Pew research informs that most Muslims support Shari’ah. In many Muslim countries more than 80% want it to be the law of the land with many agreeing that it should apply to all. There is general backing for a single interpretation of Shari’ah with no room for dissent. The support for death penalty for leaving Islam is as high as 86% in Egypt, 82% in Jordan, 79% in Afghanistan, and 76% in Pakistan. Many migrants in Europe come from countries with extremely regressive views on religious freedom.

Pew Research

Shari’ah includes penalties such as whippings or cutting off the hands of thieves and robbers. The support for stoning for adultery is as high as 89% in Pakistan and 85% in Afghanistan. It is true that some other religions also have books that speak of violence, but leaders of these other religions have generally disavowed the material that is offensive to the spirit of modernity, but this has not occurred in Islam as we can see in the Pew Research figures.

Pew Research

The danger of war is also due to a profound misunderstanding of Islam in Europe by governments leading to policy decisions that have ended up strengthening the extremists. This was pointed out most notably by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, foreign minister of UAE at a conference in 2017. He said:

There will come a time when we will see far more radical extremists and terrorists coming out of Europe because of a lack of decision making and trying to be politically correct or assuming that they know the Middle East and they know Islam and know the others far better than we do. I’m sorry but that is pure ignorance.

Below are some main points from an excellent summary of Islamic law prepared by the US military (I have not changed the spelling convention used in this document). This highlights theological beliefs that lead to extremist behavior [Ref 1].

Framework for Shari’ah (Islamic Law).

Islam defines itself as a complete way of life — social, cultural, religious, military, and political — governed by Islamic Law (Shari’ah). The Shari’ah is primarily derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah (the collection of the Hadith and sayings about the prophet’s life).

There are hundreds of thousands of Hadith, which have been evaluated by Islamic Legal Scholars (Jurists) as to their validity based on their chain of transmission from the Prophet to the reporting author. The Hadith are categorized as mawdu (false), munkar (ignored), da’if (weak), hasan (good), sahih (sound), and mutawatir (strongest, most rigorously authenticated).

There are six primary Hadith and they are, in rank order, Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, ai-Sugra, Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah, of which the first two (Bukhari and Muslim) are considered the most reliable. In Islamic Law, Mutawatir Hadith from Bukhari rises to the level of being second only to the Qur’an.

Dar al Harb / Dar al Islam. In Islamic Law, the entire world is divided into the Dar al Harb, “the house or abode of war,” and the Dar al Islam, “the house or abode of peace.”

All lands which are not under Muslim control and ruled by Shari’ah, are considered Dar al Harb — enemy lands. All non- Muslims, not submitted to Islamic Law in Muslim lands are considered “enemy persons, persons from the territory of war.” The term “non-combatants” does not exist in Islamic Law. All lands occupied by Muslim forces at any time in history are considered “Muslim Lands.”

Relations with non-Muslims. It is a permanent command in Islam for Muslims to hate and despise Jews and Christians and not take them as friends. This comes from both the Qur’an as well as from the sacred hadith scholars Bukhari and Muslim.

The Prophet said, “The hour [of judgment] will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them. it will not come until the Jew hides behind rocks and trees. it will not come until. the rocks or the trees say, ‘0 Muslim! 0 servant of God! There is a Jew behind me. Come and kill him.’” [Sacred Hadith, Bukhari, 103/6, number 2926]

Jihad. Jihad is a permanent obligation on the Muslim community until the entire world is made the Dar al Islam.

Islamic Law provides three options for ‘People of the Book’ (those who had a holy book prior to Muhammad): (1) They may convert to Islam; (2) they may be killed; or (3) they may pay the jizya (non-Muslim tax) and be subjugated to Islamic Law having little rights as non-Muslims under the law.

Pagans and others who had no holy book prior to Muhammad must either convert to Islam or be killed.

Slander and apostasy. in Islamic Law, anyone who criticizes a Muslim, Islam, or the Prophet is guilty of slander. The punishment for slander in Islamic Law is death.

Apostasy is when a Muslim leaves Islam. This is a capital crime and is punishable by death. There is a requirement for the Muslim to be advised of his error before he is killed.

The quandary of the religious man

The Shari’ah framework otherizes the non-Muslim who is called by the pejorative term “kafir”. It is natural, therefore, for the observant Muslim to remain in continuing conflict with non-Muslims.

Praying aggressively in public spaces in non-Islamic countries is one consequence of this framework. It also explains why Charlie Hebdo murders took place, or why ISIS established its reign of terror.

The Hadith contain material that extremist preachers use to provoke their congregants to fight against real or perceived injustice.

Most significantly, Muslim migrants in the West do not wish to assimilate in the host culture.

Polygyny as a significant reason

Scholars have argued that scarcity of mating partners for many young males due to the practice of polygyny in Islamic societies creates the perfect conditions for extreme violence. If some people have multiple wives, then there will be sharply reduced number of available mates for non-alpha males.

According to Thayer, “Scarcity of food is one thing, but a different type of scarcity is even more explosive: scarcity of mating partners. Polygynous primate groups have the highest level of social violence, because non-alpha males are threatened with complete reproductive failure due to monopoly of females by elite males. There are few things more motivating to a young adult male than the threat of complete reproductive failure.” (Thayer 2009)

Polygyny creates pressures both on males who have multiple mates to increase their social status, making it even harder for have-nots to be successful, and on those who have no mates to do extraordinary acts to rise above others. The low status males are sometimes ready to sacrifice their life in a suicide bombing and become shaheed (martyr) for the promise of many virgins in heaven. According to Miller and Kanazawa (2007): “[Polygyny is] also often associated with lack of female autonomy in marriage and the union of older men with much younger wives, both of which trends are also associated with less female choice in the use of contraception and abortion… Across all societies, polygyny makes men more violent, increasing crimes such as murder and rape, even after controlling for such obvious factors as economic development, economic inequality, population density, the level of democracy and political factors in the region.”

The Koranism reform advocated by MBS

A good sign is that the current ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman, is in favor of fundamental reform and discarding most of the Hadith and other post-Qu’ran material. He speaks of the need for a new contemporary “interpretation” of the Koran (the alternate spelling “Koran” has been used in reports on MBS). In the reformed version of Islam, there will be no more stoning, scourging, killing apostates and homosexuals.

The reformed version is being called Koranism; it is a view that rejects the authority of the hadiths and supports the idea that interpretations of Koranic texts should be consistent with scientific knowledge, humanism, and values of the host culture. Koranism is in favor of each country having its own Islam that is assimilated into the host culture.

According to MBS, “The government, where Sharia is concerned, has to implement regulations and teachings based on mutawatir hadith (with multiple narrators), and to look into the veracity and reliability of ahad hadiths (with only one narrator), and to disregard khabar hadiths (based on hearsay) entirely.” [Ref 2]

MBS presents a powerful argument. He says that if modern Muslims continue to be guided by scholars and jurists of the olden times, they are then privileging or even deifying human beings. He is thus arguing for a direct connection between God and man, wherein the individual retains the agency to reach his or her own understanding.

I think there will be inter-religious harmony if the Islamic world adopts MBS’s reforms. But there is no certainty that this will happen, and the Islamic world most likely will have conflict between its sects over any proposed changes. Furthermore, given that in many countries there is support for continuing with the single interpretation of Shari’ah, it is unlikely that reforms will be easily implemented.

In any event, a conversation on reforms as advocated by MBS can become a catalyst for change.

If nothing is done, change may be forced on Islamic society as has happened in Xinjiang.

Governance models

Another possibility is that Europe will transition away from liberal democracy to a Singapore style governance in which there will be restrictions such as prohibition of speech that breeds ill will or causes disharmony within the multiracial, multi-religious society.

In this governance there will be stiff fines or even jail for minor misdemeanors and frequent use of capital punishment for murder and drug trafficking.

It is possible that Europe will use massive surveillance to nab bad actors to keep peace. But that will succeed only so long the number of such actors is small.

After massive demographic transformation, Muslims may wish to carve out separate lands for themselves in Europe, and there may transfer of population as happened during India’s Partition.

Part 4 — From prosperity to despair


1. Executive Services Directorate of US DoD document on Islam

2. Mohammed Bin Salman’s proposed reforms

3. Thayer, B.A. 2009. Considering population and war: a critical and neglected aspect of conflict studies. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 364(1532), 3081–3092.

4. Miller A. S., Kanazawa S. 2007. Ten politically incorrect truths about human nature. Psychol. Today, 40, 89–95.