More than a few sources–the Economist, Douglas Todd’s blog The Search, the Globe and Mail, the New York Times–have reported on a recent report by the Pew Research Group observing that Muslim population growth is slowing, and certainly Muslims won’t become majority populations in any European country.
At the heart of its analysis is the ongoing effect of a “youth bulge” which peaked in 2000. In 1990 Islam’s share of the world’s youth was 20%; in 2010, 26%. In 2030 it will be 29% (of 15-to-29-year-olds). But the Muslim world is slowly heading towards paunchiness: the median age in Muslim-majority countries was 19 in 1990. It is 24 now, and will be 30 by 2030. (For French, Germans and Japanese the figure is 40 or over.) This suggests Muslim numbers will ultimately stop climbing, but later than the rest of the world population.
The authors call their calculations demographic, not political. Drawing on earlier Pew research, they say conversion is not a big factor in the global contest between Islam, Christianity and other faiths; the converts balance out. Nor do they assess piety; via the imperfect data of the United Nations, the European Union and national statistics, they aim simply to measure how many people call themselves Muslim, at least culturally, if asked.
New numbers, they say, will change the world map. As Indonesia prospers, its birth rate is falling; South Asia’s remains very high. By 2030, 80m extra mouths in Pakistan will boost its Muslim numbers to 256m, ousting Indonesia (with 239m) as the most populous Islamic land. India’s Muslim minority will be nearly as large at 236m—though growth is slowing there too. And in 2030 India’s Muslims will still constitute only a modest 15.9% of that country’s swelling total, against 14.6% now.
The report asserts no causal link between Islamic teaching and high fertility rates, although it notes that poverty and poor education are a problem in many Muslim lands. In Muslim countries such as Bangladesh and Turkey, it observes, the lay and religious authorities encourage birth control. Better medical care and lower mortality boost poor-country population numbers too.
[. . .]
The total Muslim share of Europe’s population is predicted to grow from 6% now to 8% in 2030: hardly the stuff of nightmares. But amid that are some sharp rises. The report assumes Britain has 2.9m Muslims now (far higher than the usual estimates, which suggest 2.4m at most), rising to 5.6m by 2030. As poor migrants start families in Spain and Italy, numbers there will rocket; in France and Germany, where some Muslims are middle-class, rises will be more modest—though from a higher base. Russia’s Muslims will increase to 14.4% or 18.6m, up from 11.7% now (partly because non-Muslims are declining). The report takes a cautious baseline of 2.6m American Muslims in 2010, but predicts the number will surge by 2030 to 6.2m, or 1.7% of the population—about the same size as Jews or Episcopalians. In Canada the Muslim share will surge from 2.8% to 6.6%.
But then, that doesn’t bother people like Glenn Beck, who predicts an Islamic caliphate covering the Middle East and parts of Europe based on …. what numbers?
Why all this talk about Eurabia? It’s been an in thing over the past decade, inspiring any number of hysterical posts about the imminent end of civilization. My first big blog post disproved the idea of an inevitably Muslim France, and I’ve revisited it later, both in connection to Europe again and in relation to South Asia (again, fears of an Islamic Caliphate of India, equally without grounds).
Eurabian theory starts from the premise that Muslims aren’t normal people, specifically that they won’t respond to social and economic change by reducing their completed fertility like every other demographics, more generally that they’re utterly unassimilable, that it’s impossible to interact with them without losing one’s own core identity. It needn’t be said how dangerous this is.
And then, there’s the matter of some conservatives–for Eurabia is a conservatives’ fantasy–who seem to envy Muslims their sustained conservatism, as I wrote earlier.
One thing that has constantly popped up in scare talk about population trends [. . .] is the way that the superfecundity and ultratraditional family orientation of these other groups is made an object of fear and envy. The fear comes from a supposed recognition that these outsiders possess a population dynamic that is unstoppable, rooted in an unyielding tradition that is set on the destruction of our culture. The envy, well, it comes from a desire on the part of these terrified commentators to have the old-time family values reinstalled at home, traditional gender relations and economic structures and all. Take the Archbishop of Guam, who recently dispatched a letter praising Islamic fundamentalists, with their fervent belief and attachment to values of family and self-sacrifice, as an example of this sort of phenomenon.
Matt Carr’s take on Christopher Caldwell’s soft Eurabianism is worthwhile.
In Caldwell’s estimation, Europe’s misguided promotion of multiculturalism is a consequence of a self-loathing and loss of confidence that extends to religious, cultural and even sexual matters. Not only do Europeans no longer believe in anything, but immigration has made them feel ‘contemptible and small, ugly and asexual’. Little evidence is offered to prove this ridiculous generalisation, beyond a few quotes from the misanthropic French ‘post-humanist’ novelist Michel Houllebecq and others. But Caldwell clearly likes to have his Eurabian cake and eat it. If Europeans are asexual and unconfident compared with the more virile immigrant hordes, they are also having too much of the wrong kind of sex, in societies marked by ‘the pierced navel, online gambling, a 50 per cent divorce rate, and a huge rate of anomie and self-loathing’.
One minute Caldwell is suggesting that immigrants share a puritanical aversion to Europe’s depraved sexual mores that might make them reluctant to integrate. The next he is explaining that ‘Europe’s Third World immigrants, and particularly its Muslims’ might not undergo the ‘same demographic transition that their Western hosts did’ and have smaller families, because ‘Muslim culture is unusually full of messages laying out the practical advantages of procreation’. One of these ‘messages’ consists of a verse from the Koran, the other is a quote from Yasser Arafat that the wombs of Palestinian women should be a ‘secret weapon’ against Israel.
And then, there’s the motive of revenge against those countries that have done terrible things. France and Germany are most common targets of this, their refusal to back the Iraq War having enraged conservatives so much that some would like them destroyed, their short-sighted populations left to suffer under the rule of the very same people whose lives they want to protect. They loathe themselves and their civilizations, they are decadent and weak, thus they’ll get what they deserve. In some cases it takes on pornographic qualities, the sexual and other sufferings of young European women forming a disgusting presence.
The shame of all this is that Eurabia is a fantasy immune to facts. Again and again, people have demonstrated that the basic facts are against the idea, but this is a fantasy that exists despite facts, an ideology, really, an unshakeable worldview. A terrible shame, this. What will come of it?