Previously by Martin Witkerk: The Philosophy Department Looks at Immigration
I purchased a copy of The Myth of the Muslim Tide on the strength of its title alone. Having seen the photographs of Muslim swarms occupying streets and squares in the capitals of Europe, kneeling and praying in unison toward Mecca, I was genuinely curious as to how anyone would go about trying to persuade readers that the said Muslims were a “myth.”
Author Doug Saunders, [Email him] however, is neither as foolish nor as dishonest as one might gather from his title. He even begins his book with a description of the highly visible changes his own London neighborhood has undergone over the past fifteen years.
His central argument can be stated succinctly: rural peoples tend to be fertile, while cities are population sinks; Muslims moving to the West are usually also moving from rural areas in their homelands to vast urban conglomerations in their host countries, where their fertility tends to fall rapidly. Therefore, estimates of future Muslim population growth based merely on projecting the fertility of first-generation arrivals into the future are wildly exaggerated.
Saunders does a fairly convincing job of demonstrating this thesis. He shows, for example, that Muslim fertility has declined within the Muslim world itself in recent decades in tandem with a marked process of urbanization. Iranian families had an average of nearly seven children in the mid-1980s; by 2010, their fertility had fallen to 1.7, below the rates of France or Great Britain. Turkey has moved away from secularism in recent years, but its fertility rate has also fallen from 6 to 2.15 children per family. North Africa has seen a steep fall in fertility; the worst effected country, Tunisia, is now below the replacement level. Altogether, Saunders writes, “the fertility rate across all Muslim-majority countries has fallen from 4.3 children per family in 1995 to 2.9 in 2010.” Demographers project an overall decline to 2.3 by 2035.
But how about Muslim fertility in the Occident? In the West Germany of 1970, Turkish families had 4.4 children each, while today they have 2.2. Austrian Muslim fertility decline from 3.09 in 1981 to 2.3 in 2001. First-generation Pakistani women immigrants in Great Britain average 3.5 children each, while their daughters average 2.5. Saunders notes a study of the situation in France reporting that Muslim fertility rates are “closely tied to length of residence... the longer immigrant women live in France, the fewer children they have.”
These figures certainly offer a heartening respite to all who cherish the civilization of Europe. The battle is not going to be over within a decade, or even a generation. The Masters of the Universe will have to stay the course for perhaps the better part of a century before they render their nation-breaking project irreversible.
But this is not, to put it mildly, the message which Mr. Saunders intends to convey to his readers. Rather, he wants us to relax. Muslim immigration is no different, he believes, from the Jewish immigration of yore. And, he implies, we all know how unproblematic that turned out to be.
Yet, as Saunder’s own sources show, the Muslim share of the European population is still rising. According to the Pew Research Center, the Muslim population of the European Union, Norway and Switzerland is 18.2 million out of a total population of 405 million, or 4.5%. Extrapolating from current trends predicts an expansion to 29.8 million, or 7.1% of the population by 2030. A US Congressional Research Study produced almost identical numbers: 30 million Muslims representing 7% of the population by 2030.
The one slightly longer-term prediction cited by the author is from British demographer Eric Kaufmann’s 2011 book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? , which estimates that by 2050, the Muslim population of the EU will have risen to 10% (i.e., another 3 percentage points over the forecast for 2030).
Saunder’s point is good enough to qualify the claims of certain over-zealous campaigners, or to satisfy anyone afraid that future of our civilization will be settled in a single generation, i.e. it’s already too late. But I do not see how it gives us cause for complacency.
The Myth of the Muslim Tide is divided into four sections, of which the first contains a very brief account of what he calls “the Muslim tide authors:” Bat Ye’or (Gisèle Littman), Oriana Fallaci, Christopher Caldwell, Robert Spencer and Melanie Phillips, highlighting their more alarmist statements. ( Bat Ye’or is the one who talks about Europe becoming Eurabia, Melanie Phillips is the author of Londonistan .)
The second section is the heart of the book, where Saunders draws upon the best data he can find to counter these authors’ warnings on three subjects: population, integration and extremism.
The population data is the most convincing part of Saunders’ case—see above. Concerning integration, Saunders reports survey data showing that 83% of British Muslims are willing to tell a pollster that they are “proud to be British,” a slightly higher figure than among the British themselves. He also learned that French Muslims give a “95% overall favorability rating to France and its institutions”—although this is hardly a meaningful judgment on the part of people with no history of free institutions.
Moreover, Saunders takes these survey responses entirely at face value. He seems never to have heard of taqiyya, or religious dissimulation, although he might have learned about it from the “Muslim tide authors” he criticizes.
The same reservations should inform our reading of data about extremism among Muslims in the West. Thus, French, British and German Muslims respond very much like their host populations to questions such as whether “attacks on civilians are morally justified” or whether it is “justifiable to use violence in a noble cause.” According to what French Muslims tell sociologists, more of them “have feelings of closeness with French people” (85%) than with their co-religionists (71%). But which is more likely: that Muslims in France get along better with the native French than with each other, or that they tell French pollsters what the pollsters want to hear?
One interesting point the author makes: according to Gallup, a majority of Americans think legislation should be drawn from the Bible and fully 9% of Americans say that the Bible should be the only source of law. These figures are apparently not very different from the percentages of Iranians favoring sharia!
Saunder’s third section provides short accounts of Catholic and Jewish immigration to America and Western Europe, showing that some of the arguments made against it were similar to the arguments of the “Muslim tide authors.”
I do not see how this proves anything.
Section four offers the author’s perspective on what aspects of Muslim immigration we ought to be concerned about—standard liberal pabulum about education, economic opportunity and the need to grant Muslim immigrants citizenship as quickly as possible.
Regarding the question of why we should be burdening ourselves with such problems by admitting significant numbers of Muslims into the West at all, Saunders has nothing to say.
The text on the book’s back cover repeats the conventional lie that such change is “inevitable.”
But it’s not. Ask the Japanese. Or the Israelis.
Martin Witkerk [Email him] is an independent philosopher. This article is excerpted from a forthcoming review essay in the Summer2013 issue of The Social Contract.