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"Alan Cooperman, associate director for research, said the percentages of Muslims in some European populations would rise from 3 to 5 percent to between 6 and 10 percent by 2030. “Those are substantial increases but they are very far from the ‘Eurabia’ scenario of runaway growth,” he said. “We do not see either wordlwide or in Europe runaway growth. The growth rates are slowing.”"
One of the most wrong-headed arguments in the debate about Muslims in Europe is the shrill “Eurabia” claim that high birth rates and immigration will make Muslims the majority on the continent within a few decades. Based on sleight-of-hand statistics, this scaremongering (as The Economist called it back in2006) paints a picture of a triumphant Islam dominating a Europe that has lost its Christian roots and is blind to its looming cultural demise.
The Egyptian-born British writer Bat Ye’or popularised the term with her 2005 book “Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis” and this argument has become the background music to much exaggerated talk about Muslims in Europe. Some examples from recent weeks can be foundhere, here and here.
A good example is the video “Muslim Demographics,” an anonymous diatribe on YouTube that has racked up 12,680,220 views since being posted in March 2009. Among its many dramatic but unsupported claims are that France would become an “Islamic republic” by 2048 since the average French woman had 1.8 children while French Muslim women had 8.1 children — a wildly exaggerated number that it made no serious effort to document. It also predicted that Germany would turn into a “Muslim state” by 2050 and that “in only 15 years” the Dutch population would be half Muslim. “Some studies show that, at Islam’s current rate of growth, in five to seven years, it will be the dominant religion of the world,” the video declares as it urges viewers to “share the Gospel message in a changing world.”
The BBC produced its own video entitled “Welcome to Eurabia?” that gave a point-by-point rebuttal of the video’s claims. Watching “Muslim Demographics” and “Welcome to Eurabia?” back-to-back provides a useful lesson in the dark art of twisting statistics.
Articles defending the “Eurabia” claim have often been so shrill that they essentially discredited themselves as serious arguments. But it could be difficult to find a solid statistics that gave an overall view of what was actually happening. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has stepped up with an impressive study entitled “The Future of the Global Muslim Population” (here’s the press release, report and graphics here). As we summarised it in our report Muslim birth rate falls, slower population growth:
Falling birth rates will slow the world’s Muslim population growth over the next two decades, reducing it on average from 2.2 percent a year in 1990-2010 to 1.5 percent a year from now until 2030, a new study says.
Muslims will number 2.2 billion by 2030 compared to 1.6 billion in 2010, making up 26.4 percent of the world population compared to 23.4 percent now, according to estimates by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life…
“The declining growth rate is due primarily to falling fertility rates in many Muslim-majority countries,” it said, noting the birth rate is falling as more Muslim women are educated, living standards rise and rural people move to cities.
The proven demographic fact that birth rates have been falling among Muslim women, both in Muslim majority countries and western countries where Muslims have migrated, is not new. Nor are articles debunking the idea that Muslims will become the majority in Europe (seehere and here and here). But my own experience in discussing this with non-Muslims in Europe and the United States says this message does not seem to be getting through. The fact that Muslim birth rates, while still higher than those for non-Muslims, are actually falling seems to surprise people who do not follow these issues closely.
There are many legitimate questions concerning Muslim minorities in western countries. Should Muslim women be allowed to cover their faces in public? Do state schools have to provide halal meals? Does sharia have any place in the western legal system? Should Muslims be allowed topray in the streets? What does the decline of Christianity in Europe mean for the continent? These issues have to be debated openly –“The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom,” asYahya Hendi, the Muslim chaplain at the Catholic university Georgetown in Washington put it at a conference at UNESCO in Paris two years ago. But while citizens have a right to have their own opinions, they can’t just make up their own “facts” and expect to be taken seriously. Twisting statistics only distorts the debate and risks leading to unfounded conclusions.
This study raises further questions that the Pew Forum cannot yet answer. The report’s preface asks “Is Islam the world’s fastest-growing religion? If Islam is growing in percentage terms, does that mean some of the world’s other major faiths are shrinking? Is secularism becoming more prevalent, or less?” It doesn’t yet have the data, but it plans to issue a similar report on the prospects for Christianity worldwide next year, followed up by others analysing the trends for “other major world faiths, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Judaism. We will also look at the size and growth of the population that is not affiliated with any religious tradition.”
What do you think? Is this report a surprise? Which interesting trends could the other reports bring to light?
UPDATE: In a telephone conference with journalists later on Thursday, Pew Forum researchers commented on the study. I asked what the results said about the “Eurabia” claim.
Senior researcher Brian Grim said: “Across the next 20 years, we’re only seeing a 2 percent rise in the total share of Europe that is Muslim. We’re projecting that the growth rate is slowing. So this rise is very very modest. It’s a relatively small share of the overall population in Europe… There’s no real scenario that we’ve looked at that this ‘Eurabia’ scenario would come to be.”
Alan Cooperman, associate director for research, said the percentages of Muslims in some European populations would rise from 3 to 5 percent to between 6 and 10 percent by 2030.“Those are substantial increases but they are very far from the ‘Eurabia’ scenario of runaway growth,” he said. “We do not see either wordlwide or in Europe runaway growth. The growth rates are slowing.”
Pew Forum: The Future of the Global Muslim Population
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The number of Muslims in Europe has grown from 29.6 million in 1990 to 44.1 million in 2010.34 Europe’s Muslim population is projected to exceed 58 million by 2030. Muslims today account for about 6% of Europe’s total population, up from 4.1% in 1990. By 2030, Muslims are expected to make up 8% of Europe’s population. Although Europe’s Muslim population is growing, Europe’s share of the global Muslim population will remain quite small. Less than 3% of the world’s Muslims are expected to be living in Europe in 2030, about the same portion as in 2010 (2.7%).
Most European Muslims will continue to live in Eastern Europe, but some of the biggest increases in Europe’s Muslim population in absolute numbers over the next 20 years are expected to occur in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and other countries in Western, Northern and Southern Europe.
The number of Muslims in Europe is expected to grow by about the same amount in the next 20 years as it did in the previous two decades. From 1990 to 2010, the number of Muslims in Europe increased by about 14.5 million. In the next 20 years, the number of Muslims in the region is forecast to increase by roughly 14 million, albeit from a higher base.
In annual percentage terms, Europe’s Muslim population is projected to grow at a declining rate, in part because of falling fertility rates and in part because Muslim immigration to Europe is leveling off (see discussion of fertility on page 132 and of migration on page 133). Nevertheless, Europe’s Muslim population will continue to grow at a faster pace than its non-Muslim population, which has been decreasing. As a result, Muslims are expected to make up a growing share of Europe’s total population.
Sub-Regions in Europe
Eastern Europe will continue to have the largest number of Muslims in Europe, but Western Europe, Southern Europe and Northern Europe are expected to have bigger increases in the size of their Muslim populations – both in absolute numbers and as a share of their total populations.35
Western Europe, which includes France, Germany and the Netherlands, is expected to have the biggest numerical increase in the size of its Muslim population. The number of Muslims living in this part of Europe is projected to increase by 5.1 million, from 11.3 million in 2010 to 16.4 million in 2030. The Muslim share of Western Europe’s total population is expected to increase from 6.0% in 2010 to 8.6% in 2030.
The number of Muslims living in Northern Europe, which includes the United Kingdom, is expected to increase from 3.8 million in 2010 to 7.5 million in 2030. Muslims are expected to make up 7.0% of Northern Europe’s population, up from 3.8% in 2010.
The number of Muslims in Southern Europe – which includes Balkan countries such as Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, as well as Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain – is projected to increase by 3.1 million, from 10.7 million in 2010 to 13.8 million in 2030. Southern Europe as a whole has a higher proportion of Muslims than Eastern Europe; 6.9% of the population in Southern Europe today is Muslim, compared with 6.2% of the population in Eastern Europe. By 2030, 8.8% of people living in Southern Europe are expected to be Muslim, compared with 7.6% of the population in Eastern Europe.
Most of the growth in Eastern Europe’s Muslim population during the decades studied occurred from 1990 to 2000, when the percentage of Muslims in the population jumped from 4.9% to 6.2%. This increase followed the collapse of communism, when religious identity and expression became more acceptable throughout Eastern Europe. The total number of Muslims in Eastern Europe is expected to increase from 18.4 million in 2010 to 20.6 million in 2030.
While many Muslims living in Western and Northern Europe are relatively recent immigrants (or the children or grandchildren of immigrants), most of those in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe belong to populations that are centuries old. Nevertheless, immigration continues to be a factor in the growth of Eastern Europe’s Muslim population, especially as Muslims continue to move from former Soviet republics to Russia in search of economic opportunities.
Muslims in the eastern parts of Southern Europe, including Albania and Kosovo, tend to belong to long-established Muslim communities, while Muslims in the rest of Southern Europe, stretching from Italy to Portugal, tend to be more recent immigrants.
Countries in Europe
Russia has the largest Muslim population in absolute numbers in all of Europe. The number of Muslims in Russia is projected to increase from about 16.4 million in 2010 to about 18.6 million in 2030.
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Russia will continue to be the European country with the largest Muslim population in the next 20 years. (For more information on Russia’s Muslim population, see sidebar on page 128.) The number of Muslims in Russia is expected to grow from 16.4 million in 2010 to 18.6 million in 2030. Muslims are projected to make up 14.4% of Russia’s total population in 2030, up from 11.7% in 2010.
The United Kingdom is expected to have the largest increase in the number of Muslims in Europe in the next 20 years. The number of Muslims in the U.K. is projected to almost double from 2.9 million in 2010 to 5.6 million in 2030. By 2030, Muslims are expected to make up 8.2% of the U.K.’s population, up from 4.6% in 2010. The United Kingdom is forecast to have roughly the same number of Muslims as Germany by 2030.
France’s Muslim population is expected to climb from 4.7 million in 2010 to 6.9 million in 2030. Germany’s Muslim population is expected to increase from 4.1 million to 5.5 million during this period. Although Italy, Sweden, Spain, Belgium and Austria have smaller numbers of Muslims than the U.K., Germany and France, their Muslim populations are forecast to grow significantly in the next 20 years. The Muslim populations in Italy and Sweden are projected to more than double in size, while those in Spain, Belgium and Austria will likely increase significantly.
Though Ireland has a relatively small Muslim population, it is expected to have the largest percentage increase in Europe in the number of Muslims. Its Muslim population is projected to increase by almost 188%. Other European countries expected to have percentage increases of more than 100% include Finland, Norway, Sweden and Italy. Countries projected to have percentage increases of 50-100% include the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland. The Republic of Macedonia is projected to have the largest increase in the portion of its population that is Muslim. By 2030, Muslims are expected to make up 40.3% of Macedonia’s population, up 5.4 percentage points from 2010 (34.9% Muslim). In Sweden, the Muslim share of the population is projected to increase by five percentage points, from 4.9% in 2010 to 9.9% in 2030.
In 2030, Muslims are projected to make up more than 10% of the total population in 10 European countries: Kosovo (93.5%), Albania (83.2%), Bosnia-Herzegovina (42.7%), Republic of Macedonia (40.3%), Montenegro (21.5%), Bulgaria (15.7%), Russia (14.4%), Georgia (11.5%), France (10.3%) and Belgium (10.2%).
One reason the Muslim population of Europe is projected to rise, both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the population, is because Muslims’ fertility rates are generally higher than those of non-Muslims in Europe.
Based on an analysis of current trends in the 25 European countries for which data are available, Muslim women today will have an average of 2.2 children each, compared with an estimated average of 1.5 children each for non-Muslim women in Europe.36 However, the fertility gap between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe is expected to narrow in the coming years. By 2025-30, the average fertility rate for Muslim women in the 25 countries for which data are available is expected to drop to 2.0 children per woman, while the average fertility rate for non- Muslim women is projected to increase slightly, to 1.6 children per woman.
With the exception of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the fertility rate for Muslims is higher than that for non-Muslims in each of the countries in Europe for which data are available. Among the countries where the gap is particularly large is Norway, where the fertility rate for Muslims is 3.1 children per woman, compared with 1.8 children per woman for non-Muslims. Large gaps in fertility rates between Muslims and non-Muslims also exist in Austria, Finland, Ireland, Kosovo, Serbia and the United Kingdom. In countries where the gap is larger, it will likely take more time for Muslim and non-Muslim fertility rates to converge.
The ratio of men to women also will have an impact on Muslim fertility rates in coming decades. When a population has more men than women, the number of births tends to be lower than if the population is more balanced. Immigrant populations, including Muslims in Europe, generally have more men than women, as many male workers leave their families behind when they go abroad in search of better economic opportunities. For this reason, sex ratios tend to be higher in European countries where Muslim immigrants have come primarily in search of employment, such as Spain.
Spain – which has a large number of Muslim immigrants from North Africa, particularly Morocco – now has the highest ratio of Muslim men to Muslim women in Europe (about 190 Muslim men for every 100 Muslim women). That ratio is projected to narrow by 2030, to about 133 Muslim men for every 100 Muslim women, as families join Muslim men who immigrated alone in search of employment.
Italy is expected to have the highest ratio of Muslim men to Muslim women by 2030. Italy now has about 157 Muslim men for every 100 Muslim women. This ratio will drop to about 137 Muslim men for every 100 Muslim women by 2030, slightly above the projected level for Spain. Italy’s Muslim population includes a large number of immigrants from Albania and North Africa.
Not all countries with a high number of Muslim immigrants have a significant imbalance between the number of Muslim men and women, however. For example, France – currently the European country with the second-largest Muslim population, after Russia – has about 97 Muslim men for every 100 Muslim women.
Thanks John. Clearly I need to pay more attention to the Pew Research Centre.
The crucial issue is the tipping point. That is the point at which 1/3rd of the babies are Muslim. From that point, there'll be no going back. Last thing I read, that happens in the UK in 20 years.
The Pew Centres robotic criticism of "shrill" worries of a Eurabia is disappointing. How then do they frame this statement of theirs? "The United Kingdom is expected to have the largest increase in the number of Muslims in Europe in the next 20 years. The number of Muslims in the U.K. is projected to almost double from 2.9 million in 2010 to 5.6 million in 2030. By 2030, Muslims are expected to make up 8.2% of the U.K.’s population, up from 4.6% in 2010."
So thats ok then! They can just keep doubling, and screw the Sikhs, screw the Jews, screw everyone else, what does it matter about them! And as for the earth, screw that as well! Who cares about a profligate and totally irresponsible consumption of the earth's resources - Islam never mentions Gaia! I'm guessing that if we replaced the word Muslims by Fascists or Right Wingers, then the Pew Centre would be screaming in a very "shrill" way themselves.
And did you notice this? "Muslims who could not fit into a small Paris mosque pray in the street, a practice the French far-right has compared to the Nazi occupation". But lots of very ordinary French people are upset about this, for example the people who live there and want to get into their homes. So basically the label "Far Right" simply means "somebody I disagree with" :-)
The pew research is a fail! It has refused to take FACT into account. The muslim birth rate is increaseing, and its predictions rely on future generations of muslims behaving exactly like western non- muslims and start having careers not babys.