Friday, October 30, 2009

A brief note on demographics and sex and fear and envy

I'd like to thank Conrad from Facebook for pointing me to this Asia Times article, " India lost in 'love jihad'". The Indian state of Kerala, with its population both multiconfessional and well advanced in its demographic transition, is seeing some unusual tensions.

As part of an organized campaign, young Muslim men are deliberately luring women from different faiths into marriage so they will convert to Islam, say radical Indian Hindu and Christian groups in south India.

The alleged plot has been dubbed "love jihad". It first surfaced in September, when two Muslim men from Pathanamthitta town in the southwestern state of Kerala reportedly enticed two women - a Hindu and a Christian - into marriage and forced them to convert to Islam.

The women first claimed to have became Muslims voluntarily, but after being allowed back to their parents' houses said they had been abducted and coerced to convert. The men were reportedly members of Campus Front, a student wing of radical Muslim group the Popular Front of India (PFI).

The Pathanamthitta incident was followed by an avalanche of media reports on "love jihad". Some described it as a movement, others claimed that forced conversions through marriage were actually being run by an organization called Love Jihad, or Romeo Jihad.

Hindu and Christian groups have weighed in with their own "facts" on the "love jihad".

The Sri Ram Sene, a fundamentalist Hindu group, now claims thousands of girls were forcibly converted to Islam in the past few years after marrying Muslim men. It says that after conversion the women were "trained in anti-national activities". India's main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has said "love jihadis" have receiving foreign aid - from the Middle East - for the campaign.

Senior Christian leaders are now campaigning against the alleged threat.

"Around 4,000 girls have been subjected to religious conversion since 2005 after they fell in love," Father Johny Kochuparambil, secretary of Kerala Catholic Bishops Council's Commission for Social Harmony and Vigilance, wrote in an article in the church council's newsletter.

One thing that has constantly popped up in scare talk about population trends, not only in the discourses surrounding Eurabia (tackled here and here) and an Islamized India (here) but in relation to other disliked population groups, 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.

Never mind if the reality fits, of course (people have been known to convert for love, and there are 30 million people in Kerala; methinks a Family Values Panic is ongoing); the threat is at least as effective a way to mobilize followers. Here, claiming that your group's young women are being enticed or worse abducted into the enemy's camp is as good a way of achieving this mobilization as any.


Anonymous said...

Whether consensual or not it might be counter productive. There is some suggestion that while Islam sees the male as setting the religious rules for the family - which is why Islam permits Muslim men to marry non-Muslim women but not Muslim women to marry outside the faith - it is actually women who are more important in transmitting religious beliefs. I seem to remember a study of mixed marriages between Christians and Muslims in a region of Indonesia where the adherence rate of Children to the Islamic faith was around 70% if the mother was Muslim but about 50% for male Muslim mixed marriages. My that's a lot of m's.

If the women are converts for love or compultion they will likely not have either the will or ability to fully transmit any passion for the faith.

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember a study of mixed marriages between Christians and Muslims in a region of Indonesia where the adherence rate of Children to the Islamic faith was around 70% if the mother was Muslim but about 50% for male Muslim mixed marriages.
If the women are converts for love or compulsion they will likely not have either the will or ability to fully transmit any passion for the faith.

It would be interesting to see if those percentages are different in predominately non-Muslim Kerala vs. 90% Muslim Indonesia. It wouldn't surprise me if they were either much higher, or much lower.


Anonymous said...

I would like to see that information also but if it exists it is not easy for a layman to find. I suppose that if you do that kind of research (or publish it) and you find too many converts away from Islam, you open yourself up to charges of triumphalism over Islamic apostasy or risk stirring up trouble for secular Muslims and apostates and placing pressure on kids from mixed marriages. Or if you find too few secularists/converts from Islam you could be accused of Islamophobic fearmongering against mixed marriages. If all possible finding can cause controvery there is a strong motivation to avoid looking for any findings. I seem to recall hearing it suggested that Indonesia stopped asking religious census questions because they found the small but fast growing Christian population to be disturbing and figured it was better to not know than to have to answer questions about the trend from hardliners.

john said...


Granted that the discourse about the other out-breeding one's own population is ugly, isn't it also sometimes true? Not in Kerala, surely, or 'eurabia', but, Lebanon, (possibly) Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Macedonia, Iraq... Israel, down the road? Especially in places that aren't modern liberal states/societies, the anxiety this causes is real, and often well-grounded.

What do you say to a Lebanese Christian or an Iraqi Sunni? 'too bad for you guys' is all I can think - 'don't worry and live your life' or 'don't be paranoid' may work for Anglophones in Quebec, but not in lots of other places...

Anonymous said...

Iraqi Sunni's and Christian Lebanese were always not the majority.

What was the retention rate for kids with protestant parent that became catholic for love (or vice versa) in traditional societies?

Randy McDonald said...


I can't speak to religion, but I know that similar phenomena operate in regards to language. In linguistically mixed households, the language and speech forms of the mother tend to take priority over those of the father, explaining why the Normans ended up assimilating.

My personal experience is that regardless of confessional identity, the children might stop being religious altogether or opt for third forms, especially if their parents' union is at all controversial.

As for the question that you and ironweightsironrails raised, I'd also be interested to see those statistics, but I'm not sure that even Canada keeps them. I'd expect relatively smaller minorities to tend to assimilate all the more quickly, but that's it.


Shifts in relatively marginal and underpopulated areas are always possible. That's how Siberia became Russian, the pampas Argentine, the Prairie provinces Canadian, et cetera. From my knowledge of Kosovo's history, the shift to an Albanian majority took place in the 19th century at the latest, in an area of the Balkans that was sparsely populated and subject to involuntary and voluntary population exchanges.

As for other situations, Lebanon would still be a Christian-majority areas as a whole, as msot of the Christian-majority areas still are, but for the Mandate's addition of the Bekaa Valley in order to make Lebanon self-sufficient agriculturally in the wake fo the evastating First World War-era famine. There was a shift towards a Shi'a majority in the past couple of centuries in Iraq, but that was a product of missionary work, with demographic differences playing a marginal role.

In other cases, differences will lead to population shifts--a disproportionate number of young Europeans are of one Muslim background or another, say--but these will most likely be limited as convergence to pervasive gender norms and economic conditions continue. In Israel, Christian and Muslim Arab TFRs are falling quickly towards and perhaps below the level of Jews.

My objection to the groups mentioned here is that they take what by all appearances is a pretty small and voluntary trend, make this trend a product of a malign conspiracy aimed against their way of life, and then set about trying to implement policies which will do little to advance communal relations. If you're worried about people marrying outside of their ethnoreligious community, trying to make said community more attractive is probably a more viable strategy than placing all your hopes on the sorts of confrontational strategies that tend to undermine your community in the long run. Also, again, it politicizes communal relations in bad ways.