It has become commonplace, in some circles, to seal an argument with a reference to "what is happening in Europe." Many things are happening in Europe, but you know it isn't a reference to the Eurovision Song Contest or the Swedish gender-equality laws or full employment in Germany.
No, "what is happening in Europe" implies that whatever collection of bad-news headlines you've seen involving bombs and riots and crime gangs and far-out political parties shouting about the collapse of Western civilization, are caused by the presence of darker-skinned Europeans with minority religious beliefs.
That was the non-subtle suggestion when the U.S. President deployed the phrase in one of his tweets last year: "Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe." It's the subject of popular books such as The Strange Death of Europe by the right-wing British author Douglas Murray, which uses random anecdotes and factoids to persuade the reader that everything was grand and harmonious in Europe – during some non-conflict-dominated era that is hard to find in history books – until those Muslims arrived, at which point "the culture" fell apart. Many of his arguments resemble German author Thilo Sarrazin's Germany Abolishes Itself, which additionally used long-discredited racial-science concepts to claim that Turks had lowered his country's IQ.
A version has seeped into more moderate conversations. Many people now believe what British author David Goodhart coined the "Progressive's Dilemma" – the notion that growing ethnic diversity inevitably erodes civic trust and support for social programs, because we don't want our tax money going to people not like us. Of course, you have to believe that darker-skinned Europeans are "not like us."
This all ignores what is actually happening in Western Europe – which is one of the most successful and rapid stories of cultural and economic integration the world has seen.
There certainly are many white Europeans who think their brown-hued neighbours are poorly integrated aliens. The migrant influx of 2015 and 2016 didn't help – those hundreds of thousands of lost souls stole attention from Europe's tens of millions of immigrants and minorities, whose stories are entirely different.
We now have very comprehensive data showing just how well-integrated Europe's minority groups are becoming. Most recent, published late last year, is a big study of Muslim populations by Germany-based Bertelsmann Foundation. It was preceded by an even larger-scale study of integration by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The German study found that "religious affiliation does not impede integration" in European countries. Not only that, but, as the OECD observed, "integration challenges do not increase with the share of immigrants in the population" – in fact, the countries with the largest immigrant populations tend to have the most total cultural and economic integration.
Immigrants and their offspring in Europe almost exclusively feel loyal to – and connected to – the country where they live; only 3 per cent of German and French Muslims and 8 per cent of British Muslims identify with their countries of ancestry (this is a lower rate than, say, European immigrants in Canada).
And they're not forming "parallel societies": Three-quarters of European Muslims spend their free time daily with European Christians, Jews and atheists – and that rate of contact increases with each generation.
Education is where Europe has often lagged: Its school systems often contain built-in incentives for minority children to fall behind or drop out. The Bertelsmann study found that the best educational integration is in France, where only 11 per cent of Muslims leave school before turning 18 (not much more than the ethnic-French population).
Germany and Switzerland, with their rigid and old-fashioned systems, have higher dropout rates – but they make up for this in employment, as immigrant-descended citizens in those booming economies have employment rates identical to the established population. Across Europe, the OECD says, immigrant employment is only three points lower than among the native-born.
Both studies found gaps and shortcomings in some places, especially educational success – but those are caused by European failures in policies and tolerance, not in lack of immigrant ambition.
Notably, both studies found populations who urgently want to be European, not "multicultural." That's a big difference: As historian Rita Chin observes in her book The Crisis of Multiculturalism in Europe, multiculturalism has largely been opposed by Europe's minorities because of its "surprisingly undemocratic effects" – they've seen it as a barrier to integration; as a result, she writes, we now see "former colonials, guest workers, refugees and their descendants … woven into virtually every aspect of European public life."
That – more than anything else – is what is happening in Europe.