Wednesday, November 21, 2012

“Europe and Muslim Assimilation?”

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Europe and Muslim Assimilation?”
November 21, 2012
Anthropologists estimate that 60,000 years ago small bands of early humans made their way out of Africa along the Arabian coastline; and then, over the millennia, dispersed north and east. To the extent that these scientists are correct, that small group of early humans are the ancestors of us all – Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.

That all humans have a common ancestry is indisputable. A simple exercise in compounding proves the point. Each one of us has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, ad infinitum to the beginning of time. If we assume three generations per century, we only must go back to the time of the signing of the Magna Carta to recognize that each of us descends from over a billion people. Since there are seven billion people on the planet today, and estimates are that the world population was 265 million in 1000 AD, the math tells us – we are all related.

Relatively high Muslim birthrates, in conjunction with rising Islamic extremism, have given birth (the pun was unintentional) to fears of a developing “Eurabia.” The concerns, in terms of population growth, may be overblown, if we are to believe the results of a Pew Forum on the future of global Muslim population and a paper from the Hoover Institute at Stanford.

Muslims comprise about 23% of the world’s population, or roughly 1.6 billion people. That would compare to about 2.3 billion Christians, or approximately 32% of the total population. Hinduism is the only other religious group whose membership tops a billion. The population of the 27 countries in the European Union is just over 500 million. Of those, 44.1 million were Muslim, according to the Pew study. That was up from 29.6 million in 1990. Projections are that the number will increase to 58 million in 2030, a 32% increase. Europe, during those same twenty years, should see its total population increase by about 135 million, or 27%.

Total fertility rates (TFRs) and immigration statistics are what demographers use to estimate future populations. The TFR number represents the number of children a woman is expected to have over her lifetime. A number of 2.1 is considered necessary for a population to sustain itself. Birth rates globally have been declining. The TFR for the world is currently estimated at 2.5, versus 4.3 in 1970. While birth rates continue to decline, death rates, which had also been declining, have leveled off. Ironically, but not surprisingly, the highest TFRs are in the undeveloped world with countries like Niger, Mali and Somalia at the top of the list. Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore are at the very bottom, suggesting the beginnings of population declines.

The fear that Muslim births will dwarf European ones appears to be overstated, if one can believe the data. Among the twenty-five European countries for which data is available, the average TFR for Muslims during 2005-2010 was 2.2. For non-Muslims, the TFR was 1.5. Projections are that the TFR for non-Muslims, between 2025-2030, will be 1.6, and for Muslims, 2.0. Thus, as a percent of the total population, Muslims are expected to grow from 4.5% today to 7.1% in 2030.

Nicholas Eberstadt and Apoorva Shah of the Hoover Institute at Stanford came to a similar conclusion in June of this year, in a piece they wrote entitled, “Fertility Decline in the Muslim World.” They begin their report by noting conventional wisdom suggests Muslim societies are resistant to embarking upon the path of demographic and familial change that has transformed population profiles in Europe and, in fact, around the developed world. Muslim-majority countries had a TFR for 2010 of 2.95, well above the average for European countries, and above the average for Muslims living in principally non-Muslim nations. However, that number, according to their study was lower by 2.6 births from where it had been between 1975-1980. The conclusion: Muslim births are also slowing.

Nevertheless, Islamophobia persists. While I pretend no expertise, I would suggest that its modern roots have two obvious origins and one not so apparent. The 9/11 attack on the United States that killed 3000 and a host of suicide bombings have created concern among all civilized people. Secondly, the evolution of many Muslim states away from secularism toward Sharia, or Islamic law worries tolerant Westerners. And third (and sometimes confused with the latter,) I believe that moral relativists have worsened the problem. As in most societies, there are bad as well as good people. Just as there are those who deserve sainthood, there are others who are evil and deserve punishment. But, it is the inability of some of our noblest institutions (universities, the UN, etc) to accept the notion of objective, universal moral standards common to all cultures. And it is difficult to consider a common moral sense without invoking God…and we, in the non-Islamic world, live largely secular lives, in which religion is often considered opium for the masses, not a philosophy deserving of intellectual debate.

Most everyone agrees that men like Osama bin Laden and Adolph Hitler had no redeeming qualities. Whether we believe in a Creator or not, it is commonly accepted by conventional standards that they were bad people. So could one not say the same thing about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? His country is fast approaching nuclear capability, and he has sworn to wipe Israel off the map of the earth. Yet, when Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University invites him to his campus, or when he is invited to address the UN, he receives the imprimatur of the establishment. When our leaders don’t recognize evil for what it is, and are reluctant to call it out, it makes skeptical those who actually confront it.

Islamophobia has become acknowledged as a form of intolerance. It was recognized as such at the Stockholm International Forum on Combating Intolerance. Yet, Sharia is not similarly recognized, despite its intolerance for what we in the West would call its violation of the basic rights of women. Hatred of any kind is rarely the answer, but neither is tolerance of the intolerant. Not all phobias are the same and sometimes hatred is necessary in order to combat what we know to be wrong. Would not most people agree that Hitler’s SS troops were deserving of hatred? The attacks by Islamic extremists on the United States on 9/11 and on thousands of people in other locations were evil. But is it not also evil to stone a woman to death for adultery, or to deny her daughter an education solely on the basis of her sex? If we all believe those acts were evil, then evil must exist; so, tautologically, we come full circle to a belief in an objective, universal moral sense. If Europe’s leaders did not seem so afraid of hurting the feelings of Islamic extremists; if they did not appear fearful of expressing their beliefs in moral terms, then Islamophobia might disappear.

Ultimately, the best resolution to a problem of this nature is assimilation, and over generations it is what will occur, as it has in the past. However, at this time, with Sharia Law in the ascendancy, it may be that the differences are just irreconcilable.

The Mullahs in many Muslim countries are leading their people backward toward a new dark age. Keep in mind, this was a religion that introduced mathematics and libraries to much of the Mediterranean world a thousand years ago. Now they are depriving half their youth a basic education. The biggest mistake Europe could make would be to accommodate those who shun modernism in the name of Allah. While Europe will have to live with what seems a modestly growing Muslim population, their political leaders must reject any adoption of, or accommodation with, Sharia Law. It is far too estranged from Western mores. To let one segment of your population live under such radically different moral rules is to invite both segregation and dissension, both capable of rendering civilization. Should a country such as France, noted for its long association with democracy, abandon its principles and values, it will inevitably partner with oppression.

It is important that we all re-think the notion of universal moral standards, ones that are common to us all and respectful of each person. At this time of Thanksgiving, while we give thanks to so many for so much, it is a hope of mine devoutly to be realized. I wish you the very best on this best of all Holidays!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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