Tuesday, February 08, 2011

On the Pew Forum's disproof of Eurabia

My latest post at my other group blog, History and Futility, was entitled "Why Eurabia?" Why, in the face of the abundant evidence that the prospect of a Muslim majority in any European country--indeed, of particularly large Muslim minorities anywhere--do large numbers of people (like Glenn Beck) predict an imminent caliphate in Europe?



Eurabia's fundamentally an ideology of revenge ("Ha, ha, you didn't support us, now you're going to get raped by Muslims!") as well as an ideology of envy. Muslims, imagined by Eurabianists as beings somehow completely resistant to the influences of modernization and post-modernization etc., are imagined as perfect conservatives, retaining the superfecundity of old and maintaining the traditional family. Why them? some ask. Why not us?

Eurabia's all the more ironic since many 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%.


The report in question--"The Future of the Global Muslim Population: Projections for 2010-2030"--makes for very interesting reading. Suffice it to say that although Muslim populations are growing more quickly, it is a consequence of relatively higher fertility--declining notably, however, for the same reasons as in Iran or Turkey or Tunisia or any other country where urbanization, the liberation of women, and economic pressures has pushed fertility down--and a relatively large proportion of young people of childbearing age. In the case of Europe, the projections suggest that a tenth of the populations of France, Belgium, and Sweden will be Muslim by 2030, that the proportion in western Europe as a whole will rise from 4.5% now to 7.1%, noting additionally that right now Muslim fertility is below replacement levels in Germany, Italy, and Spain, the gaps between Muslim and non-Muslim populations continuing to close. Russia, notably, is and will be home to one-third of Europe's Muslims, but even there proportions won't change overmuch (~11% to ~15%). And in case you're worried about India, the projections suggest a rise in the Muslim proportion of the Indian population from 14.6% to 15.9%.

The study's methodology looks fine to me: conservative, well-grounded in facts, not making the sorts of sweeping predictions of radical transformation that always merit the most stringent skepticism. Notably, projections are made only two decades into the future, roughly one generation, beyond which point much happens. Are radical changes possible? Sure. Are they likely? No. One may as well predict a huge surge in non-Muslim fertility as not, or mass Christian immigration into Muslim lands. (The latter is possible, by the way; the huge disparities in income between North Africa and the Middle East to the north, and sub-Saharan Africa to the south, could drive interesting population movements.)

Alas, this fine report won't be considered by the prophets of Eurabia. Eurabia is a fantasy, product of an ideology that imagines the punishment of errant nations by a terrifyingly perfect, inhuman conservatism. Envy and revenge fantasies can't be defeated so easily as all that. Pity, not least since these fantasies can lead to any number of horrifying outcomes.

16 comments:

Wise Bass said...

Eurabia's fundamentally an ideology of revenge ("Ha, ha, you didn't support us, now you're going to get raped by Muslims!") as well as an ideology of envy.

I think it's a call to arms. Basically, they're stoking fears of racial and cultural pollution (they'll deny calling it that, but it's what it is) in the hopes of promoting a return to nationalism and "traditional values".

I agree that it's rather disturbing how much the Eurabia folks admire conservative Islam and muslims. It's like the old joke about going so far to the extreme left (or right) that you come out the other way.

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.

That's minuscule. Isn't the UK's population supposed to rise to 71 million by then?

yogi said...

I'm not sure if numbers are so important in this matter.

The question is what is the cultural impact of Islam on democratic host countries, and this is not necessarily linked to population size.

Also, immigration and assimilation policies will have much to do with the way things turn out, culturally and demographically.

Randy said...

@ Wise Bass: Something like that, yes.

@ yogi: Numbers may not be relevant to the perception of Eurabia, but they are quite relevant to the real-world existence of Eurabia.

I have to admit to a certain confusion when people talk about the impact of Islam on European cultures. Leaving aside the numerous, popular, and sustained measures broadly directed against Muslims generally--legislation against women's clothing, very tight restrictions on immigration, criticism of social conservatism, et cetera--at what point does Muslim cultural influence in Europe become illegitimate, or threatening to European cultural identity? Seriously.

Something I think that at least some proponents of Eurabia see Eurabia as the inevitable product of a Europe that doesn't have heavy armoured divisions occupying Algiers and Istanbul and Cairo.

Anonymous said...

Looks like something was left out of your first paragraph. There's a verb missing?

Cicerone said...

What I find interesting is that they estimated the fertility of muslims in the different european countries. The difference between the high and low-fertility countries seems to be the same for muslims. They are roughly at 2 children/ woman in Germany and Italy and get 3 children in France and the UK.

The low muslim fertility in Spain is interesting, though. Maybe it's because they are very recent immigrants and haven't brought their wifes yet?

Cicerone said...

What I find interesting is that they estimated the fertility of muslims in the different european countries. The difference between the high and low-fertility countries seems to be the same for muslims. They are roughly at 2 children/ woman in Germany and Italy and get 3 children in France and the UK.

The low muslim fertility in Spain is interesting, though. Maybe it's because they are very recent immigrants and haven't brought their wifes yet?

Randy said...

@ Cicerone: In the case of Spain, the sex ratio is quite high and certainly inhibits natural reproduction, but the metric of fertility exists independently of sex ratio.

The Europe-wide gap is relatively small between 2.2 children per Muslim woman versus 1.5 children per non-Muslim woman, the proportion of births to Muslim mothers being not especially high on account of the small Muslim populations. In most cases the gap is considerably less than one children per woman: 1.8 versus 1.3 in Germany, 1.8 versus 1.4 in Italy, 1.6 versus 1.4 in Spain ... The countries with large gaps (0.8 or or greater, say) are home to only a bit more than a third of the European Union's population.

One possible correlation: The countries with relatively large gaps between Muslim and non-Muslim fertility tend to have high fertility generally (Belgium, the Netherlands, the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom, France).

yogi said...

Randy, you said: "at what point does Muslim cultural influence in Europe become illegitimate, or threatening to European cultural identity? Seriously."

That is indeed the heart of the matter.I suspect that when people feel that their relatively liberal customs are threatened, then they will react accordingly.

For some this is expressed in the limitations on freedom of speech (riots after the Mohhamed cartoons, murder of political opponents of Islam and so on).

For others the rise of a parallel religious legal system is seen as a threat to the state and the liberal-democratic way of life.

Personal liberty is important too: should such liberties be extended to the Muslim population, or should we allow female genital mutilation, because it is customary in some Muslim societies? Should blood-vengeance be condoned or condemned? Polygamy? Forced marriages at a young age?and so on.

None of these have easy answers, especially as the extent to which they are practiced in every country is, first, unknown and second, varies greatly since there is a very big difference between Muslim countries of origin.In fact, even lumping all Muslims together in any analysis is pretty off the mark.

jemand said...

I actually wouldn't be surprised if one particular kind of conversion does have a more significant influence over the next 20 years-- deconversion from Islam to atheism, esp. in western Europe.

Many of the immigrants are coming from cultures and societies which absolutely don't accept deconversion to atheism, and are extremely highly religious, like western countries used to be. But then they find themselves in a fairly secular country, in which they *could* change their beliefs and be relatively safe.

I don't think you'll get anywhere near the levels of atheism in descendants of immigrants yet as you do in the native European populations, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was fairly high, possibly 10% or even more. After all, the youth of certain European countries is significantly more than 50% atheist, this peer influence may be substantial.

Even in the US I think we will see significant rises in atheism that is not offset by conversion, partly because the historical group of atheists is fairly small, and so back-conversion is currently limited by those small numbers until an equilibrium is reached, while deconversion basically has no upper limit, demographically.

Randy said...

@ yogi: Yabbit these issues--not intrinsically Muslim, note; Egyptian Copts and sub-Saharan Africans also share many of these practices--is a far thing indeed from the fear of Europe becoming Eurabia. If anything, the hostile reaction to these practices, their commonness or note, is a strong data point against the possibility. IMHO.

@ jemand: Agreed. Why are Muslims supposed to be any more resistant to secularization, of one kind or another, than (say) the Roman Catholics once placed in a similar light? European Muslims may be slower to secularize, owing to their statuses as minorities with discrete boundaries, but still.

snakeoilbaron said...

On of the reasons Eurabia is given such credibility is that so many politicians and academics minimize, deny and often, outright encourage significant problems between this particular immigrant sector and the host population. When decrying honor killing and pointing out violently misogynist attitudes of some Muslim youth gets you an immediate lable of racist Islamophobe, people start to get the message that there are certain groups who are favored by the cultural elite to an irrational degree. It is further reinforced when the rare journalist exposes extreme hate-speech in mosques and the police investigate his employers for enciting hate. Muslims, natives and non-Muslim immigrants are all being given the message of Muslim superiority of worth and entitlement. If saying all this makes one a racist against Muslims, what does it make ex-Muslims when they say all of this?

People see a situation which they find disturbing and can easilly imagine the situation getting much worse even if the evidence shows that not likely.

As for conversions, it was stated that conversions even out. What little information I have seen actually shows significant levels of Islamic apostasy and claims have been made that only a fraction of European converts to Islam remain in the faith after five years. Have I been mislead on this topic?

Randy said...

@ snakeoilbaron: Suffice it to say that communal relations could be much better.

As for apostasy of converts, my impression is that it is fairly common. Conversion to Islam is an experiment, something to try, in keeping with the postmodern ethos of experimentation.

Mass conversions, it's worth noting, are most unlikely, either way. Even if people don't practice their religion, there's still a latent identity that conditions their relationship to spirituality. Shifting camps altogether, well.

Anonymous said...

I agree with many of the main issues of the study, but for Europe, the sourcing seems a bit thin and dated. How was this data normalized to reach a 2010 estimate for each country? Also, what is the source of the Muslim and non-Muslim fertility rates or how were these figures determined?

Anonymous said...

Clearly, there's a problem in Europe. Else why would Merkel, Sarkozy, and now Cameron be pointing out the failings of multiculturalism. I think the recent Channel 4 report on a Muslim school in Britain highlights the problem:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1356361/Shame-Britains-Muslim-schools-Secret-filming-shows-pupils-beaten.html

For some Muslims in Europe, many affiliated with overseas Islamic groups whether in Egypt, Saudi, the Gulf, or Pakistan, are on a mission of conquest, no doubt about it. They believe they have parachuted behind enemy lines and that, with patience, Europe will eventually be part of dar al-Islam.

I think what's happening now is that European populations have begun to buck elite opinion, and this is beginning to be reflected in the politics, rightly so.

Anonymous said...

Oh, one more thing to add to my previous post. Reporter Tazeen Ahmad, author of the Daily Mail report cited above, is a stunner.

Randy said...

@ Anonymous: The figures are inferential in some cases--France comes particularly to mind--but they do fit with other educated speculations. The trend is for convergence towards European levels of fertility, if with a lag explainable by relative isolation.

The thing about Eurabia was that it was never plausible in the first place, the belief resting in lazy assumptions that, "naturally," people in poor countries will all come to live in rich countries and that the virile yet degenerate poor will overwhelm the decadent rich, etc, notwithstanding things like stated (and actual!) policies, actual numbers, actual sources of migrants, actual, well, the actual world, generally.