I write with reference to an article written by Mr.Rajan Philips in two parts under the titles of “Politics getting nuttier: Muslim Fertility Myths And Misplaced Polygamy Advocacy” (1) and “Politics Getting Nuttier – II: The Impact Of War On Demography And The Implications For Women” (2) which has derogatory references to me and stated that my presentation at the University of Jaffna was crude and a half-clever manifestation. He continued to deplore me as an outside medical professional while the University of Jaffna has “good geography professors all of whom are knowledgeable and responsible in dealing with demographics” and blaming me for “straying out of professional guiderails to make public policy pronouncements”. Ironically, Mr.Philips an engineer by profession whose field has no nexus to demography had decided to write a series of articles in demographics while querying my knowledge and responsibility in dealing with demographics. Since Mr. Philips and another Colombo Telegraph Columnist Mr. Mahendran Thiruvarangan an English scholar whose field again has no nexus to demography had queried my credentials to discuss demographics in his comments (3), I am compelled to state my credentials that I am a Specialist Community Physician having an additional postgraduate qualification obtained with merit directly in demography and not on geography. Further I am a scholar reading for PhD in epidemiology at King’s College, London and I have been presenting research papers in medical demography. I had the rare honor to be invited by reputed geography Professor P. Balasunderampillai then the Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna to read my paper on “Factors associated with the fertility decline of Tamils of Indian Origin” at the Geographic Society of Jaffna and all these testify my standing to be recognized as a medical demographer. Suffice to say that my presentation under reference “Future of Tamils: A Demographic Perspective” and its implications have been well within the broad scope of present day medical demography (4) although for Mr.Philips and other pseudo pundits a medical professional talking about demography sounds as serious anomaly. After 20 years of medical practice and specialized with postgraduate training for 5 years I sometimes come across nutty patients arguing against my advice based on an outdated treatment option which they have read in the Internet. It is in the same way Mr. Philips and his collaborators who have left Sri Lanka long time ago and lost the chance of direct observation of the population dynamics in Sri Lanka argue against my authentic demographic forecasting when they neither have the knowledge on the intricacies of demography nor have the capacity to forecast using demographic techniques but quoting an outdated disproved document published by the PEW forum (5) and challenging my findings. Nevertheless either it is a nutty patient seeking medical advice or a pseudo pundit who argue without the technical knowledge it is my duty to explain the facts behind my conclusions. In this context I will take up the points raised by Mr.Philips.
1. I have already acknowledged that I used part of the “Muslim demographics” Youtube clip to establish that fertility has been the main factor in sustenance of an ethnic group and I wanted Tamils to improve their fertility in the post war scenario following the appreciated ways of Muslims. The positive aspect of the clip was that it vividly explained the concept of replacement fertility and when the western population reached the fifth stage of demographic transition the original population in Western nations have started shrinking because their fertility levels have fallen below the replacement fertility. It is now the migrants who have been moving inside these countries sustain the population of these countries. Among these in-migrants, Muslims account for considerable numbers and their fertility remains higher than the native population of these countries. Although I agree with Mr.Philips that the fertility of Muslims started declining recently the fertility of the non-Muslims continue to decline further and the difference in fertility between Muslims and non-Muslims will persist. Therefore the gradual expansion of Muslims is inevitable as described in that clip.
2. With the values provided on Sri Lanka, I will now examine in detail the “methodologically rigorous report” of the Pew Forum (6) as described by Mr. Philips and used as cornerstone for his arguments to refute the Youtube clip.
The values in Table 1 proves that the estimates provided by the Pew forum underestimated the Muslim population growth in Sri Lanka. I will now examine the percentage values of Muslim population to the total population of Sri Lanka provided by the Pew Forum.
The values in Table 2 proves beyond doubt that the percentage estimates of Muslims in Sri Lanka provided by the Pew Forum is an underestimation and completely erroneous because the 2012 Census confirmed that the percentage of Muslims had already reached 9.2% of the total population whereas Pew forum report estimated the maximum percentage of Muslims in Sri Lanka to be 8.5% even in 2030. Unfortunately Mr. Philips without knowledge on the intricacies of the demography unable to critically examine the validity of the report of the PEW Forum but just repeating what was reported by other lay writers as “methodologically rigorous report”. I will also add a slide from my presentation where the government statistics prove that the percentages of Sinhalese and Muslims in Sri Lanka have been increasing since 1911 while percentages of Tamils have been decreasing continuously (Table 3).
3. Despite the underestimations of the growth of Muslims by the Pew Forum Mr. Philips reluctantly accepted their conclusion “The 2030 projections show that the Muslim component could grow from 1.6 billion to 2.2 billion, from a share of 23.4% to 26.4% of the total world population” though he call “It would be nutty for anyone to think of projecting beyond 2030 or 2040, to a hypothetical long term when the Muslims may overtake the Christians in the world population”. The true fact is that in 2008 Vatican first time openly acknowledged that Islam had surpassed Roman Catholicism based on 2006 data and elaborated that Muslims accounted for 19.2% of the world population whereas Catholics were only 17.4% of the world population (7). Vatican further explained that high fertility of Muslims was the reason for overtaking by Islam leaving aside the religious conversion campaigns used by both religions. Vatican estimated total Christians account for 33% of the world population in 2008. Mr.Philips who did not want to accept the true fact that the projection beyond 2030 would prove the overtaking of Muslims continue with his bluffing English phrase on the old wisdom of Keynes which is technically nonsense in the field of demography because demography is a science developed by the techniques of extrapolation or long term projections (8). If Mr.Philips thinks it would be nutty to project beyond 2030 or 2040 do he assume that the UN and other governments are nutty to spend lot of funds and employ several demographers to project beyond 2050 even up to 2300 (9) (10).
4. Though I did not pronounce polygamy as a solution to the post war scenario marital squeeze and the large number of war widows in my presentation in Jaffna, I believe that the merits of polygyny (a man having more than one wife) proposed by Tamil scholar Dr. J. Arankaraj following my presentation need to be considered for the reasons given below. First of all historically Tamils had practiced polygyny especially by marrying war widows and had children to recover the population lost in war. Even modern times Polygyny has been the solution in several communities when the sex ratio falls with large number of war widows (11). In 2011 two years after the war when already the systematic colonization procedures commenced in Northern Province, Sex ratio was reported as 92.9 and particularly the marriageable age group of females were seriously affected by the post war marital squeeze (12). Polygyny is found to improve the fertility of communities by several mechanisms such as increasing the remarriage of widows and bringing down the age at marriage (13). Government statistics reported 89,000 war widows in the North and East and considerable proportion of them are in the marriageable age (14). On one hand their reproductive needs have to be considered without allowing exploitation. On the other hand restoring their fertility is vital to recover the Tamil population which already encountered serious losses due to the war. Further it is found that in communities practicing polygyny dowry falls (15). Currently a rise in dowry values among Tamils is observed as a consequence of the existing marital squeeze and that impede marriages. Polygyny would help to overcome this problem and enable more females to get married. In the Sri Lankan context when already one community (Muslims) is practicing polygyny I see no reason why Tamils should not practice it to face the current crisis. Because in 1907 our leaders who were brought up in Anglican culture similar to present day Mr.Philips, without knowledge of the original Tamil culture and not anticipating a holocaust after a century agreed for a law legalizing monogamy at that time does not mean we should stick to it in a time when Tamils face systematic demographic changes (16) and their very existence is at stake.
Finally I humbly request Mr. Philips to refrain from
- Insulting other writers without checking their credentials and passing judgment on their presentations without viewing them.
- Writing discourses on a subject without the technical competence especially challenging the technically competent professionals in that field though I am sure that most of the readers at Colombo Telegraph have learnt new English words by reading his stuff.
- Providing hypocritical solutions to Tamils in Sri Lanka without knowing the real situation. For example if he preaches all races in Sri Lanka can live in harmony then he should prove that first by living here.