VIDEO EXPLANATION OF ISLAMIC DEMOGRAPHIC THREAT?
A Youtube video, entitled “Muslim Demographics”, has been doing the rounds since April 2009 and has been viewed more than 16 million times. The video contains startling predictions about Europe and the West being ‘Islamised’ over the next few decades.
The video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-3X5hIFXYU.
CENTRAL CLAIM: According to the video, statistics demonstrate that Islam will ‘overwhelm Christendom’ unless Christians recognise the demographic realities (and begin producing more children).
FACT OR FICTION? MOSTLY FALSE
In 2009, Richard Knight explored the claims of the video in an article for BBC News, which starts with the following ‘highlights’ about the video’s contents:
“This seven-and-a-half minute video ‘Muslim Demographics’ uses slick graphics, punctuated with dramatic music, to make some surprising claims, asserting that much of Europe will be majority Muslim in just a few decades. It says that in the past two decades, 90% of all population growth in Europe has been Muslim immigration. In France, it says 30% of those aged 20 and younger are Muslim, with the birth rate for Muslim families massively exceeding that across all families. It says France will be an Islamic Republic within 39 years. In the UK it says the Muslim population has risen 30-fold since the beginning of the 1980s.”
According to Snopes.com, “much of the information presented in the video is incorrect, unsubstantiated, or misrepresented”. The hoax-verification site offers the following general overview to keep in mind before going into the details:
“The notion that ‘Christendom’ (primarily western Europe, but also North America) is in danger of being overwhelmed within a few generations by Muslim immigrants with comparatively high birth rates (while the natives of the countries they are emigrating to are reproducing at or below mere replacement level) has been a common topic of Western press articles in the last several years. However, such articles (and examples like the video linked above) often suffer from flaws that tip them more towards being alarmist rather than accurate and sober analyses. They cherry pick and exaggerate a few gloomy-sounding statistics without presenting them within a larger context, they assume that current demographic trends will remain static even in the face of future political, economic or social changes, and they don’t acknowledge that fertility rates are influenced by a number of complex, interrelated, and volatile factors.”
BREAKING IT DOWN
(The information included below is mostly from Snopes – in blue – and from Richard Knight’s BBC article – in red)
- Video claim: Of all population growth in Europe since 1990, 90% has been Islamic immigration.
It’s true that in recent years population growth in EU countries has been primarily driven by immigration, which, for example, accounted for almost 85% of the population growth in EU countries in 2005. However, that statistic includes all immigrants to EU countries, not just Muslims.
- Video claim: France = 1.8 children per family; Muslims, 8.1
No source is given for this information and the French government doesn’t collect statistics by religion. So it is impossible to say what the precise fertility rates among different religious groups in France are. But no country on earth has such a high fertility rate and in Algeria and Morocco, the two nations which send the largest numbers of Muslim immigrants to France, the fertility rate is 2.38, according to the UN’s 2008 figures.
- Video claim: In the last 30 years, the Muslim population of Great Britain has grown from 82,000 to 2.5 million (a 30-fold increase).
The 2001 UK census tallied about 1.6 million Muslims in England and Wales, and that number may have grown to something approaching 2.5 million in the years since then (although 2008 estimates put the figure at only about 2 million). However, the 82,000 figure used as the starting point for this projection is questionable since the 1981 census did not survey respondents’ religious beliefs — some believe that the number of Muslims in the population of England and Wales thirty years ago was significantly higher than the 82,000 estimate given here, and thus the true rate of growth in that segment of the population is much less than the “30-fold increase” cited in the video.
- Video claim: In the Netherlands, 50% of all newborns are Muslim.
As of 2004, Muslims comprised about 5.8% of the population of the Netherlands. In order for this small percentage of the population to account for “50% of all newborns,” Muslim women in the Netherlands would have to be giving birth, on average, to about 14 to 16 times as many babies each as non-Muslim women.
- Video claim: Currently in Belgium, 25% of the population and 50% of all newborns are Muslim.
Muslims are the second-largest religious group in Belgium, but they still only account for about 4%-5% of the population. And, as noted above, for that small a segment of the population to be accounting for “50% of all newborns” in the country, Muslim women would have to be giving birth to incredibly large numbers of children each.
The Belgian office of statistics points to a 2008 study which suggests the real figure is just 6%.
- Video claim: The German government, the first to talk about this publicly, recently released a statement saying: “The fall in the German population can no longer be stopped. Its downward spiral is no longer reversible. It will be a Muslim state by the year 2050.”
The statement in question was made by then vice-president of the Federal Statistics Office, Walter Radermacher, who is now chief statistician of the European Union. He says that while it is true he said Germany’s population was in decline, the last part of the quote is just an invention. He said nothing about Germany becoming a Muslim state. “The quotation which reads as if the German government believed that Germany will become a Muslim state is simply not true,” he says. “There is no source which can be quoted that the German government has published such an expression or opinion.”
- Video claim: There are currently 52 million Muslims in Europe. The German government said that number is expected to double in the next 20 years.
The 52 million figure is a reasonable estimate for the number of Muslims in Europe. However, about the last part (the Muslim population’s doubling in the next two decades), Walter Radermacher said: “That is not true. The German government does not believe that the Muslim population will double in [even] the next 40 or 50 years. There are no reliable sources that give a proof for that assumption.”
The video’s YouTube statistics (more than 16 million views) are indicative of the fact that people are extremely susceptible to sensationalist ‘warning’ videos, especially those that are Islamophobic in flavour.
While the video is not accurate in its claims, it does raise a valid issue: that there is a definite move of Islam from east to west and the face of Europe is changing. However, INcontext has written numerous times that – especially in the current context of refugee fears – the Church is still able to impact the millions of Muslims who are living in (or are seeking asylum in) the Western world.
David Mikkelson offered the following warning about demographic assumptions in the Snopes article:
“As we observed above, the assumption that current demographic trends will remain static — even in the face of future political, economic or social changes — is an especially important (and precarious) one, as even small changes in fertility rates can have a significant impact on the future size and nature of populations. Or, as Martin Walker noted a Spring 2009 Wilson Quarterly on the subject, ‘the detailed work of demographers tends to seep out to the general public in crude form, and sensationalist headlines so become common wisdom.’
Particularly, Walker wrote, as the result of this seepage of crude information is that ‘three deeply misleading assumptions about demographic trends have become lodged in the public mind’:
- The first is that mass migration into Europe, legal and illegal, combined with an eroding native population base, is transforming the ethnic, cultural, and religious identity of the continent.
- The second assumption, which is related to the first, is that Europe’s native population is in steady and serious decline from a falling birthrate …
- The third is that population growth in the developing world will continue at a high rate.
In regards to specific claims about Muslim immigrants supplanting native-born populations in Europe due to the former’s much higher fertility rates, Walker observed:
‘One fact that gets lost among distractions … is that the birthrates of Muslim women in Europe — and around the world — have been falling significantly for some time.
[S]harp reductions in fertility among Muslim immigrants reflect important cultural shifts, which include universal female education, rising living standards, the inculcation of local mores, and widespread availability of contraception. Broadly speaking, birthrates among immigrants tend to rise or fall to the local statistical norm within two generations.
The decline of Muslim birthrates is a global phenomenon. Most analysts have focused on the remarkably high proportion of people under age 25 in the Arab countries, which has inspired some crude forecasts about what this implies for the future. Yet recent UN data suggest that Arab birthrates are falling fast, and that the number of births among women under the age of 20 is dropping even more sharply.
The falling fertility rates in large segments of the Islamic world have been matched by another significant shift: Across northern and western Europe, women have suddenly started having more babies … Immigrant mothers account for part of the fertility increase throughout Europe, but only part. And, significantly, many of the immigrants are arrivals from elsewhere in Europe, especially the eastern European countries admitted to the European Union in recent years.’
In short, the best demographers can do is make broad guesses about population trends based on current conditions and assumptions about how (and how much) those trends might be influenced by societal changes. Or, as summarised by Walker:
‘The human habit is simply to project current trends into the future. Demographic realities are seldom kind to the predictions that result. The decision to have a child depends on innumerable personal considerations and large, unaccountable societal factors that are in constant flux. Yet even knowing this, demographers themselves are often flummoxed. Projections of birthrates and population totals are often embarrassingly at odds with eventual reality.’”
SOURCES used by Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/demographics.asp#ospJpdGf2s26Ayrc.99
BBC News – “Muslims in Europe: Country Guide” – 23 December 2005
Foreign Policy – “The List: The World’s Fastest-Growing Religions” – May 2007
Hellen, Nicholas and Christopher Morgan – “Muslims Outpace Anglicans in UK” – The Times, 25 Janaury 2004
Hull, Jonah – “Russia Sees Muslim Population Boom” – Al Jazeera, 13 January 2007
Knight, Richard – “Debunking a YouTube Hit” – BBC News, 7 August 2009
Muenz, Rainer – “Europe: Population and Migration in 2005” – Migration Policy Institute, June 2006
Travis, Alan – “Officials Think UK’s Muslim Population Has Risen to 2M” – The Guardian, 8 April 2008
Walker, Martin – “The World’s New Numbers” – The Wilson Quarterly, Spring 2009 (pp. 24-31)