Meanwhile, in a short essay published in the current issue of the Atlantic, Mr Kaplan goes on to consider an even more sensitive theme, under the teasing title of “How Islam Created Europe”. As a description of what happened in the early Middle Ages, when Christian rulers forged new alliances as they teamed up against the forces of Islam, that title may not be very original, but Mr Kaplan believes that the catchphrase also has some relevance to modern history. For most of the time since 1945, he argues, democratic Europe was cosily circumscribed and sheltered: not just from communism by the Iron Curtain, but also from the world of Islam by the authoritarian secular regimes which held sway in North Africa and the Middle East. He writes:
With those dictatorships holding their peoples prisoner inside secure borders…Europeans could lecture Arabs about human rights without worrying about the possibility of messy democratic experiments…Precisely because the Arabs lacked human rights, Europeans felt at once superior to and secure from them.