Colombo Telegraph

Sri Lankan Muslims At The Cross Roads – XVIII – Muslim Population Problem

By Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

I will now substantiate the point I made earlier: the expectation that the Muslims will outnumber all the others and come to dominate the globe within decades is no more than an expression of Islamophobia, which is really a form of racism. That apocalyptic projection is made on the basis of distortions, blatant lies, and zany logic. I have at hand an outrageous example of that zany logic, but before providing it I must make a necessary clarification. Populations usually grow for two reasons: through natural increase, that is the difference between births and deaths, and migration. However a religious group can also grow, sometimes on a massive scale, through conversions. The important point for my present purpose is that we have to be wary in drawing conclusions about population increase through migration. When say a hundred thousand Muslims migrate to Canada, it certainly means that Canada’s Muslim population increases by a hundred thousand. It certainly does not mean that the world’s Muslim population has increased by a hundred thousand. All that has happened is that a hundred thousand Muslims have moved from one place to another.

Those simple facts have eluded one of my readers who is stuck with the notion that there will be huge increases In Sri Lanka’s Muslim population in forthcoming years, which he sees as part of a global process. In support of that apocalyptic vision he has produced the following UN statistics. Since 1989 Islam in North America increased by 25%. During the same period Islam in Africa increased by 2.15%; in Asia by 12.57%; in Europe by 142.35%; in Latin America it decreased by 4.73%; in Australia and Oceana Pacific it increased by 257.01%. The reader will note that the figures for increases in Islam in different parts of the world are wildly disparate. There has actually been a decrease, not increase, in Latin America, while there has been a very modest increase in Africa of just over 2%, in Asia by just over 12%, and in North America by double that figure. It should be obvious that we can draw no valid conclusions about the increases in global Muslim population from those disparate figures. Next, we must note that Islam increased by over 142% in Europe, and by over 257% in Australia and Oceana Pacific. We have therefore a decrease in Islam at one end and an increase of over 257% at the other end. The explanation of course is that there was massive migration of Muslims to Europe, Australia and other countries, which as I have explained in the preceding paragraph merely meant that huge numbers of Muslims went from one place to another, and not that global Muslim population increased by those huge numbers. But my reader speaks of a “phenomenal increase” which he explains by Islamic polygamy, conversion and higher fecundity. He doesn’t mention migration at all, probably because his mind has been blocked by Islamophobic prejudice. In the process he has provided a striking example of the zany logic behind Islamophobic projections of the Muslims becoming the dominant majorities in Sri Lanka and the rest of the globe within a few decades.

I will now provide a few details from Rajan Philips’ two-part article Politics are getting nuttier in the Sunday Island of August 3 and 10. I must make two points before I provide those details, the first of which is that I prefer to cite others on Islamophobia because anything I say on that subject tends to be taken both by Sinhalese and Tamil Islamophobes as highly suspect because I am a Muslim. My second point is that we Sri Lankan Muslims should acknowledge a deep debt of gratitude to RP for his superb demolition job on Islamophobic idiocy regarding Muslim demography. He writes that paranoia about Muslim population growth began with a 2009 You Tube on Muslim Demographics. The seven and a half minute video was designed to rouse fears among Europeans about an impending takeover of their continent within decades by hordes of Muslim immigrants. “The chimera of Eurabia was born and the myth of Islamic fecundity was implanted in racially receptive minds.” The You Tube received 10 million hits in a matter of months and plateaued later at around 15 million hits. A Vatican Cardinal was brought to order after he showed the scurrilous video at a synod of Catholic bishops in Rome. The ripples set off by that video eventually reached Sri Lanka where a lecture was given at Jaffna University on supposedly alarming Muslim population increase.

Rajan Philips provides absolutely convincing data showing up the alarmist nonsense on Muslim population increase. I am not going to reproduce any of that data partly because that will take up much space and more importantly because the facts about the population problem are so well-known. It was thought for several decades after the Second World War that very high population increase in the third world would set off pressures on scarce resources and continue to seriously retard economic development, unless rigorous population control measures are imposed. That bit of conventional wisdom came increasingly under challenge and by the ‘eighties a new commonsensical wisdom on the population problem was established: population control may be necessary or advisable under certain conditions, but as a rule the population growth rate starts declining once an economy reaches a certain level. I recall reading, sometime in the first half of the ’eighties, an excellent essay on that subject by that iconoclastic economist Peter Baur. I have pointed out earlier that the average Muslim family used to have well over five children, but after 1945 the average was between two to four children. That demographic transition among the Muslims took place automatically without any birth control measures being put in place.

Evidently since the ‘eighties of the last century much work has been done on demography and hence we have the more sophisticated theory of Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd in their 2007 book  Le rendez-vous des civilisations. Their focus in explaining the dynamics of population is not on the level of economic development but on literacy – as the main factor though not the only one. More specifically their focus is on female literacy, after the advent of which the number of children per family starts reducing. They are able to show, after scrupulous statistical study, that that dynamic applies to Muslims just as much as to adherents of other religions.

Their book is really on the rendez-vous, that is the coming together, of civilisations and is meant to refute the famous thesis of Samuel Huntington on the clash of civilisations. They begin their book with the statement, “Presenting Islam as a religion that is refractory to modernity has become a banal exercise”. They continue a couple of paragraphs later – to demonstrate their point about the rendez-vous of civilisations – as follows: “To demonstrate it, we have mobilized the tools of demographic analysis on a grand scale. That reveals in effect, not a divergence, but an ample and rapid convergence of models”. After that come two crucially important sentences: “The Muslim world has entered into the demographic revolution, cultural and mental that earlier allowed the development of regions that are today the most advanced. It proceeds in its own way to the point of rendez-vous of a historic process that is far more universal than we have been prepared to admit”.

Why is it that after so many decades of expertise on demography, and so much information available on the Islamic world, Islamophobic idiocy on the supposed Islamic time-bomb has come to prevail to the extent that it has? It seems to me that the most probable answer is to be found in racism. The factor of racism in international relations needs serious study. I propose to devote a few paragraphs to the racism that is behind Islamophobia and thereafter deal briskly with the other less important issues that have been bedeviling Sinhalese-Muslim relations.

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