A fast-growing Muslim population is a threat to European values, according to the “Eurabianists.” But a culture war in which fundamentalists of all faiths fight secularism is a more worrying trendby E K / March 20, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in April 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
A seven-minute YouTube video, “Muslim Demographics,” took the internet by storm in 2009, attracting more than 10m hits. The video gives the low birthrates of Europe’s native populations and, country by country, contrasts them with the high fertility rates of European Muslims. It then careers off into fantasy, claiming the average French Muslim woman bears 8.1 children (it is around three), and that 30 per cent of French people under 20 are Muslim (the real figure is 5.7 per cent). Even so, the video paints a seemingly convincing picture of a Muslim reconquista by 2050—the point is that Muslims could peacefully conquer Europe by simple demographics, as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi claims. Welcome to the world of those worrying about the creation of a new continent: Eurabia.
Eurabianism abounds online, apparently touching on widely held anxieties. Most of it is exaggeration, and easy for liberal commentators to dismiss as an alarmist fantasy. But those who reject the fantasies often too airily reject more plausible arguments. Eurabia sceptics fail to appreciate that seemingly minor differences in fertility and immigration, if sustained over time, lead to compound effects which transform populations over the span of a century or two.
Rodney Stark, a sociologist of religion, has shown how a slight demographic advantage for early Christians—a function of superior care of their sick, a family-centred ethos and a high percentage of female converts—explains much of the increase in their ranks between 30 and 300AD. Stark says 40 per cent growth per decade is sufficient to account for the expansion of the “Jesus movement” from 40 to 6m converts in the period prior to Christianity becoming Rome’s official religion. The Mormon religion has enjoyed the same rate of growth since its founding in 1830 and, if this continues, it will emerge as one of the major world religions in the next century. More recently, conservative American Protestants have increased from a 40 per cent minority of white Protestants born in 1900 to a two-thirds majority among those born in 1975. The slight fertility advantage of conservative over liberal Protestants accounts for three-quarters of the rise. In the US, the number of Latinos has soared, both because of immigration and a high birthrate. A trace element in 1960, they are now 15 per cent of the population. The US census bureau projects they will make up a quarter of the total in 2050.