By Doug Saunders
I chronicle the widespread misunderstanding of Muslim immigration to the West. As with Jews and Catholics before, I discuss that Muslims are being seen as an impossible-to-integrate, fast-reproducing invasion force who follow a religion that’s more an ideology of conquest than a faith. Using the latest facts and figures, I illustrate the far less alarming truth about these new arrivals.
Here are 10 common myths about Muslims in the West:
1. Muslims have a higher birth rate than other religions, and will take over the world by population
Two generations ago, it seemed as if Islamic countries were destined for out-of-control population growth. People spoke of an “Islamic fertility rate” – – more than 5 children per family, on average – – and predicted minaret spires foresting the Earth.
Today, it is readily apparent that Islam is not connected with population growth. Just look at Iran, the world’s only Islamic theocracy, where the average family had around 7 children in the 1980s – – and has 1.7 today, a lower rate than France or Britain. Or look at the United Arab Emirates, with 1.9 children per family. Or Turkey, ruled by an elected party of devout Muslims for a decade, which now has 2.15 children per family. Or Lebanon, where, despite Hezbollah’s rise, has only 1.86 children per family (so that its population will be shrinking).
Around the world, the average Muslim family size has fallen from 4.3 children per family in 1995 to 2.9 in 2010, and is expected to fall below the population-growth rate, and converge with Western family sizes, by mid-century. This is a crucial sign that Muslim societies are undergoing a major modernizing, secularizing wave – – even if they elect Islamist parties while doing so.
2. Immigrants from Muslim countries are going to swamp us
People look at the huge families of many new Muslim immigrants and imagine them multiplying at exponential rates. But this is a bit of an illusion – -as are many of the figures suggesting that Muslim immigrants have fertility rates higher than in their homelands. This is because most new immigrants have most of their children in the years immediately after their arrival. The way we calculate Total Fertility Rate – – the measure of average family size – – is by taking the total number of births a woman has had and extrapolating it across her fertile life. As a result, immigrants appear to have more children than they really do.
In reality, the family sizes of Muslim immigrant groups are converging fast with those of average Westerners – – faster, it seems, than either Jewish or Catholic immigrants did in their time. Muslims in France and Germany are now having only 2.2 children per family, barely above the national average. And while Pakistani immigrants in Britain have 3.5 children each, their British-born daughers have only 2.5. Across Europe, the difference between the Muslim and non-Muslim fertility rate has fallen from 0.7 to 0.4, and is headed toward a continent-wide convergence.
3. Muslims will become a majority in European countries
In fact, we now have several large-scale projections based on population-growth trends and immigration rates which show that the Muslim populations of Europe are growing increasingly slowly and that by the middle of this century – – even if immigration rates are not reduced – – the proportion of Muslims in Europe will probably peak somewhere short of 10% (it is currently around 7%). By that point, Muslims will have family sizes and age profiles not that different from Europe in general.
4. Muslims will become a dominant group of cultural outsiders in the United States
Despite the hysterical rhetoric coming from Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann and their ilk, Muslims there are not only a very tiny group, but they are also one of the most integrated groups in the country – – especially if you consider that 69% of American Muslims are first-generation immigrants, and 71% of those immigrants arrived after 1990.
There are only 2.6 million Muslims in the United States today. By 2030, that number is likely to rise to 6.2 million (because Muslims are young and fertile) – – at which point Muslim will be 1.7% of the population, almost as numerous as Jews and Episcopalians.
Even though they’re new, American Muslims tend to be economically successful and highly educated. With 40% of them holding a college degree, they’re the second most educated group after Jews – – and far more educated than Americans in general, only 29% of whom have a degree.
5. Muslim immigrants in the West hold the same backward views that Muslims do in the Middle East and Pakistan
Actually, Muslims change their cultural views dramatically when they emigrate. For example, 62% of American Muslims say that “a way can be found for the state of Israel to exist so that the rights of Palestinians are addressed” – – a rate barely lower than that of average Americans (67%), and vastly ahead of the miniscule response among Middle Eastern Muslims – – for whom between 20% and 40% agreed with that statement.
Similarly, 39% of American Muslims and 47% of German Muslims say they tolerate homosexuality, compared to single-figure responses in most Islamic countries – and those rates are rising with each immigrant generation. On these important questions, Muslim immigrants are converging with Western values fast.
6. Muslims in America are more loyal to their faith than their country
True, 49% of Americans from Muslim backgrounds say they consider themselves “Muslim first and American second” and 47% claim to attend a mosque on Friday. But you have to compare that to American Christians, 46% of whom say they identify themselves as “Christian first and American second” (that number rises to 70% among Evangelicals). And 45% of American Chistians attend a church service every Sunday.
In other words, Muslims have adopted exactly the same rate of religious observance as the people around them in their host country. We see this just as strongly in France, where a fifth of Muslims are atheist and only 5% attend a mosque regularly – almost the same rate as French Christians.
7. Poor Muslims are flooding out of overpopulated countries into the West
In fact, the poorest most overpopulated Muslim countries are producing the least emigration – – and very little of it is to the West. Immigration tends to come from the countries with the lowest population-growth rates, and it’s rarely to the closest countries.
Muslims are far from the largest immigrant group – – even in countries that immediately adjoin the Islamic world. In Spain, which lies across a narrow state from poor Arab countries, only 13% of immigrants are Muslim: Most have come from Spanish-speaking countries across the Atlantic. In Britain, only 28% of immigrants are Muslim. And those numbers do not seem poised to increase.
8. Muslim immigrants are angry at the society around them
In fact, Muslim immigrants appear to be MORE satisfied with the world around them, and its secular institutions, than the general population. Muslim immigrants in the United States are more likely to say they are “satisfied with their lives” (84%) than average Americans are (75%) – – and that number rises to 90% for American-born Muslims. Even among Muslims in neighourhoods where the community mosque has been vandalized – – an increasingly frequent occurrence – – fully 76% say that their community is an “excellent” or “good” place to live.
This usually extends into pride in national institutions. For example, 83% of British Muslims say they are “proud to be a British citizen,” versus only 79% of Britons in general – – and only 31% of Muslims agree that “Britain’s best days are behind her,” versus 45% of Britons in general.
9. Muslims in the West cheer for terrorist violence
While it might seem chilling to learn that 8% of American Muslims feel that violence against civilian targets is “often or sometimes justified” if the cause is right, you have to compare that to the response given by non-Muslim Americans, 24% of whom said that such attacks are “often or sometimes justified.”
This is reflected in most major surveys. When a large-scale survey asked if “attacks on civilians are morally justified,” 1% of the French public, 1% of the German public and 3% of the British public answered yes; among Muslims, the responses were 2%, 0.5%, and 2%. Asked if it is “justifiable to use violence for a noble cause,” 7% of the French public agreed, along with 8% of French Muslims; 10% of the German public and fewer than 2% of German Muslims; 10% of the British public and 8% of British Muslims. This may well be because 85% of the victims of Islamic terrorism are Muslims.
10. Muslims have become so populous that the most common baby name in Britain is now Mohammed.
This is true – – but it means far less than you’d think. In 2010, if you combined all 12 spelling variants of the Islamic prophet’s name, “Mohammed” was more popular than any other name given to new babies.
But that’s more a consequence of naming trends than anything else. In a great many Muslim cultures, ALL male babies are given “Mohammed” as an official first name. But among many Westerners – especially white Anglo-Saxons and black Christians – – there has been an explosion in unorthodox baby names – – as of 2011, these groups are 50% more likely than they were a generation ago to give their children uncommon baby names.
As a result, Mohammed manages to reach the Number 1 spot without being all that common – – when combined, babies named after the Islamic prophet made up only 1% of British newborns in 2010.