Professor Akbar S. Ahmed’s Journey into Europe is a multi-levelled endeavour. It is a journey into the soul of Europe undergoing its latest upheaval in which the values underpinning pluralistic democracy have been put into question; it is an exploration of the roots of terrorism within a ruptured society; it is a foray into the origins of the respective intellectual paradigms of both sides of the cleavage, paradigms twisted today under the stresses of high unemployment and a refugee population that is not socially integrated. Akbar brings together these various dimensions of the journey through a living human contact with the Muslim community in Europe. A community that is estranged from its own tribal tradition of social cohesion but is yet to find an identity as citizens within a democratic state. This direct contact gives a sense of immediacy to the historical examination. By weaving into his exploration these individual narratives, a moment of existential choice, Akbar brings a sense of the dramatic to what would otherwise have been a detached analysis. The empathy with which he understands those suffering and bewildered individuals, informs his articulation of the historical, social and intellectual context of both the plight of the refugees and the inability so far of the European state to address it. In the course of the journey these multiple levels are integrated: the narratives of individuals setting the stage for the social, and the historical. Thus, the architecture of the book signifies Akbar’s own multi-dimensional sensibility: compassionate, artistic and scholarly. The curtain opens to a scene in a dark and dingy garage in an underground parking lot in Athens. This is a city which represents vividly the encounter between refugees broken away from their tribal background and a polarised European society divorced from its Enlightenment tradition: roving gangs of neo-Nazis terrorise the Muslim immigrants. The Greek state is tottering under the political stresses of high unemployment and a bankrupt government unable to provide citizens with the economic cushion that characterises a democratic welfare state. It is a Greek tragedy reminiscent of Sophocles as Akbar reminds us. The narrative of the migrants makes palpable the poignance of this historical moment: “the neo-Nazis….(are) threatening to slaughter us like chickens and burn down the mosque if we did not leave the country”, said a young immigrant shivering with anxiety, Akbar reports.In the latest wave, immigrants from North Africa imbued with tribal values have encountered a modern society predicated on the norms of democracy. The former is characterised by the idea of social cohesion through lineage, tribal loyalty and a sense of honour defended by the impulse of revenge. The latter is defined by the principles of equality, reason, individual freedom and lawHere in a brutally inhospitable environment is lit the cauldron of anger and desperation in which individuals, without the anchor of their traditional identity, can be driven to violence by charismatic figures propounding a self-serving ideology. This distorted notion is bereft of compassion and reason which are essential to Islam, and inform the quest of Muslims for a humane society of justice and peace. It could be argued that having extruded the kernel of love and knowledge from Islam, it becomes an empty shell of mere form. It is then wielded to wreak violence and terror against the other. So, what is articulated and practiced in the name of Islam by the militant extremists is actually its very antithesis. Akbar’s camera then pans across the historical sweep in which Muslims came to Europe in different periods. When Muslims first established their rule there in the 8th. century, the great civilisation of al-Andalus emerged. At that time, Muslims were ” associated with art, architecture, literature and philosophy”. Learning, creativity and tolerance were the hall marks of that civilisation.In the latest wave, immigrants from North Africa imbued with tribal values have encountered a modern society predicated on the norms of democracy. The former is characterised by the idea of social cohesion through lineage, tribal loyalty and a sense of honour defended by the impulse of revenge. The latter is defined by the principles of equality, reason, individual freedom and law. Akbar argues that this latest contact between Muslim migrants and European society is taking place in an environment of economic deprivation and growing inequality with the state financially unable to fulfil its welfare obligations. There is an associated social intolerance and widespread hostility towards immigrants. In this context, the modern value system of both the European society and the ancient tribal culture are weakening. The Europeans are tending to move away from the norms of a pluralist democracy and reasserting imagined racial identities. The immigrants, finding their traditional tribal values ineffective modes of survival in a hostile environment, are liable to adopting identities constructed by the narratives of violence. To be continued.The writer is a distinguished Professor and Dean School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Information Technology University Published in Daily Times, March 6th 2019.