Sunday, October 16, 2011

Muslim Demographics in Europe: Exaggerated Increase?


Kevin Kim, a friend of mine who once lived and taught in Korea but now does the same in the States, has recently expressed interest about translating a French article in the Courrier International by Pankaj Mishra titled "Le mythe de l’Europe islamisée" (September 17, 2009). Unless Kevin just enjoys doing that sort of thing, there's little need to translate the article into English since Google Translate does it well enough to convey the contents. Here's a sample sentence from "The myth of Europe Islamized," first in French, then in English:
Le taux de natalité chez les immigrés musulmans est en baisse et se rapproche des moyennes nationales, selon une récente étude publiée par le Financial Times.

The birth rate among Muslim immigrants is declining and is close to national averages, according to a recent study published by the Financial Times.
That was surprising to read since most of what I've looked at argues that the Muslim population will rise rather steeply over the next decades, with some scholars arguing that Europe will be largely Islamic by the end of this century. Let's take a look at the article that Mishra refers to. It's apparently from two years earlier, Simon Kuper's Financial Times article, "Head count belies vision of 'Eurabia'" (August 19, 2007), and the money quote is this:
The US National Intelligence Council predicts there will be between 23m and 38m Muslims in the EU in 2025 -- 5-8 per cent of the population. But after 2025 the Muslim population should stop growing so quickly, given its falling birth-rate.
The current population of the EU is around 500 million, so the 23 to 38 million does seem rather small, but one reason for uncertainty lies in the fact that "Few European states ask citizens about religious beliefs," as the article notes. The Financial Times article quotes several scholars, but not Charles F. Westoff and Tomas Frejka, "Religiousness and Fertility Among European Muslims," in Population and Development Review (Volume 33, Number 4 (2007): 785-809), probably because Kuper wasn't aware of their article, for it tends to support the view that Muslim fertility rates are falling throughout Europe. I can't access the entire article directly, but a summary is offered by Mary Mederios Kent in a short article from 2008 titled "Do Muslims Have More Children Than Other Women in Western Europe?" (Population Reference Bureau, February 2008):
Extremely low birth rates in most of Europe have fueled concerns about population decline, yet one segment of the continent's population -- Muslims -- continues to grow. The increasing number and visibility of Muslims in Western Europe, juxtaposed with the low fertility among non-Muslims, has led some Europeans to worry that the region will eventually have a Muslim majority, fundamentally changing Western European society. A new study by demographers Charles Westoff and Tomas Frejka challenges this common perception and suggests that the fertility gap between Muslims and non-Muslims is shrinking.
I have no expertise in statistics, but I see that these studies are expressed rather cautiously, more so than the views of some of those who cite them as proof that Islamophobic alarmists have been exaggerating the expected Muslim increase in Europe. Doug Sanders sounds rather careful, though, citing Westoff and Frejka in his article for The Globe and Mail, "The 'Eurabia' myth deserves a debunking" (September 20, 2008):
A recent study, Religiousness and Fertility among European Muslims, by demographers Charles Westoff and Tomas Frejka, documents this. Populations need to have 2.1 children per family to keep from shrinking. Among Turks in Germany -- one of the longest-standing Muslim immigrant populations in Europe -- the rate has fallen to 1.9 children from 4.4 in 1970. Turks in Switzerland also have 1.9, while those in the Netherlands have 1.6, fewer than white British people do. Muslim women in France have 2.2 children, barely more than non-Muslim women there, and that number is falling.
But Sanders can also sound extreme:
Europe once faced a genuine fundamentalist threat, in the face of a declining population. From 1345 to 1750, the continent's population barely grew, and the church, a murderous, terrorist, woman-hating force, seized considerable power. It was not Christian culture, but rather the opposition to this Christian threat, that made Europe great: The Enlightenment not only destroyed the church as a power, but also created the fertility boom.
I'm not sure how Europe's "declining population" also "barely grew," but Sanders isn't being especially careful in this passage. He uses the 'information,' nevertheless, to project confidence in Europe's secular future:
If Europeans, under similar demographic distress, were able to fend off a threatening political movement within a faith that was then held by almost 100 per cent of the population, they shouldn't have much to fear from a vanishing movement inside a 4-per-cent minority.
So . . . who's right? I don't know. I simply have to confess ignorance on the issue of Islam's future in Europe.

Any experts out there to enlighten me?

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12 Comments:

At 2:30 PM, Blogger dhr said...

Any experts out there to enlighten me?

I recently read an abstract from a research: it tuned out that the birth rate in muslim families should in fact decline, especially as the women get more 'westernized,' schooled etc.

 
At 2:38 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

If the enclaves allow that . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:46 PM, Blogger dhr said...

A reportage from Italy, years ago, showed that second-generation (or third-) teenage muslim immigrants were quite like their non-muslim friends, and basically wanted the same things.

Here's the cover photo, which scandalized some Christian readers.

The whole article, in Italian, can be read here; it was back in 2003.

 
At 3:01 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

What was the scandal?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:05 PM, Blogger dhr said...

It did underestimate the 'muslim danger.'

 
At 3:48 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hmmm . . . possibly, depending on what the article actually stated.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:05 PM, Blogger dhr said...

It was a definitely letfist one.

As to the research I mentioned in the first comment, memory came back at last: it was nothing less than a Pew Research Center projection. This one.

 
At 4:28 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the link. I'd seen references to Pew.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:36 AM, Anonymous Erdal said...

"The birth rate among Muslim immigrants is declining and is close to national averages, according to a recent study published by the Financial Times. That was surprising to read since most of what I've looked at argues that the Muslim population will rise rather steeply over the next decades,[...]"

There is no contradiction whatsoever between these two things. Your intuitions simply underestimate the impact of small differences in exponential settings.

When group A's women had 1.8 children an group B's had 4+, even a fool could see how it would end.

Now that group A has 1.6 children and group B 2.5 and slowly falling, intuition fails.

Take a sheet of paper and a calculator. Give group B 5% of the population and plug in the numbers of the latter setting. Let "slowly falling" mean -0.1 for every generation. The 95% group has their first child at age 30, on average, Group B, 10 years earlier. Calculate the distribution for the year 2100. How many percent of the newborns in that year belong to group A, how many to group B?

Guess first, than calculate. Compare.

 
At 4:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Erdal. I'll attempt those calculations later. I'm still calculating student grades on papers right now . . .

But based on your remarks, I would 'guesstimate' that the growth will be steep over time and significant in absolute numbers.

If so, then several of these articles are seriously misleading since they imply that Muslims will remain a small percentage of the European population . . . if one considers up to 8 percent by 2025 or 2030 to be small, especially depending on where they live.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:54 PM, Blogger YWontU said...

It can be seen that when a muslim population reach about 5% in demographics, they are then emboldened to openly attack the kaffirs and start agitating for sharia courts etc. The muslims even create a parliament in waiting.

 
At 4:04 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I've heard this statistic before. Is there a scientific study supporting this?

Jeffery Hodges

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