Meet Bat Ye'or. According to her, "Muslims in general deny the Shoah [Holocaust] and make Hitler their super hero". She thinks the High Level Group of the United Nations' Alliance of Civilisations set up by Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, would "doubtless" be in favour of "the rehabilitation of Nazism". The European Union has orchestrated a "brutal and totalitarian campaign of hatred against Israel", and has at last succeeded in turning even the US against the Jewish state (she can't have heard US President Barack Obama's extraordinary ode to Israel in New York last month). EU leaders have secretly been plotting to "Arabise" and "Islamise" their continent for decades. Oh, and they have also been "concocting transnational structures that tomorrow will bring a worldwide caliphate to power". "It is to this end that the blind termites in the chancelleries of Europe and America are today working so assiduously," she writes. Indeed, this will be the "crowning achievement of almost a century of the Palestine-Nazi alliance, reminding us of the time when Christians followed Jews into the extermination camps".
It would be tempting to dismiss these outrageous statements as the ravings of a deranged mind. But although her name is unknown to the wider world, Bat Ye'or's work has had tremendous impact on those who wield considerable influence in North America and Europe, especially at certain upper echelons of the media and politics. She has been praised by the historian Sir Martin Gilbert, the American think-tank director and author Daniel Pipes, and the British columnist Melanie Phillips. Of her last book, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, the US critic Bruce Bawer wrote: "It's hard to overstate [its] importance ... for anyone seriously interested in understanding Europe's current predicament and its probable fate". Pipes and Phillips are both right-wing polemicists, a caveat that does not undermine the extent and reach of their readership. But perhaps her most notable and credible cheerleader in recent years has been the prize-winning Harvard history professor Niall Ferguson. "No writer has done more than Bat Ye'or to draw attention to the menacing character of Islamic extremism," he says. "Future historians will one day regard her coinage of the term 'Eurabia' as prophetic. Those who wish to live in a free society must be eternally vigilant. Bat Ye'or's vigilance is unrivalled."
Her vigilance has come to the attentions of others, too. While none of the above can be held responsible for his actions, one man who took Bat Ye'or's writings seriously turned not to chilling words but to fatal action - Anders Behring Breivik, who murdered 77 people in a bombing and shooting rampage in Norway last July, and whose manifesto cited her conclusions approvingly numerous times.
So who is she? Gisele Littman, to use her real name, is an Egyptian-born Jew whose long-term home is in Geneva. Writing mainly in French, she made her name in 1980 with The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam and expanded on her thesis that it was a myth that non-Muslims were treated benignly under Islamic empires, such as that of Andalusia in Spain and that of the Ottomans, a decade later in The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam:From Jihad to Dhimmitude and then in 2002's Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilisations Collide. She has never held an academic position, but was lent the mark of intellectual respectability when the Princeton professor Bernard Lewis, an eminent historian of Islam (and the man who came up with the term "clash of civilisations") began referring to her work in his own.
Her books thus possess a scholarly veneer, which has led many on the forums of the internet where those who obsess about the perceived threat of Islam gather to quote her words as though they were of unimpeachable authority. Given the handful of her sentences I have listed at the beginning of this review, it is not hard to imagine how inflamed the subsequent discussions are