Debunking the myth of a Muslim demographic threat in the West
by John L. Esposito
The Malta Independent
The findings of ‘The Future of the Global Muslim Population: Projections for 2010-2030’ should also challenge the public to reconsider its perception of Islam and Muslims.
Sceptics, particularly those in Europe and North America, have long sounded alarm bells regarding the growth of the Muslim population.
Such scare-mongerers claim that Islam is a demographic threat, warning of an impending ‘Eurabia,’ within a few decades. This picture, of a triumphant Islam over a Europe which has lost its Christian roots, has contributed to the growth of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political parties and to their notable successes in European elections last year. In America, this fear began in the late 1990s with articles that warned “The Muslims are coming, the Muslims are coming!” and continued with the recent Park51 debate over a plan to build an Islamic centre near Ground Zero.
This paranoia – based more on fear and misperception – fuels anti-Islam and anti-Muslim hysteria across Europe and North America, contributes to undermine our multi-cultural society.
Pew finds that the world’s Muslim population is expected to increase from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030. But what about an “Islamic wave” across Europe?
Muslims will remain a relatively small minority, but they will make a growing share of the total population. According to the study, Europe’s Muslim population is projected to grow from 44.1 million in 2010 to 58.2 million in 2030. The greatest rise is expected to be seen in Western and Northern Europe, where Muslims are expected to approach double-digit percentages. For example, in France, the population is expected to rise from 7.5% currently to 10.3%.
The Muslim share of the US population is projected to grow from 0.8% in 2010 to only 1.7% in 2030, meaning that Muslims will share the same population figures as Jews and Episcopalians. Interestingly, the US is projected to have the larger number of Muslims by 2030 than any European country, except Russia and France.
Pew’s findings demonstrate that fear of a European Muslim-takeover is largely the product of hysteria; France is not destined to become an “Islamic republic” by 2048.
Regrettably, these Pew findings and projections are less likely to circulate as widely or quickly as statistics and predictions about a Muslim takeover.
The result in America, a nation of immigrants, is that, according to Pew, Gallup, and others, roughly half of Americans see Islam as a violent religion. Many European countries with long traditions of tolerance like the United Kingdom and the Netherlands seem in retreat as right wing anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim parties gain ground. Immigration and the cultural diversity that follows are strengths.
Prof. John L. Esposito, author of The Future of Islam, is University Professor of Religion & International Affairs at Georgetown University and founding director of the Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding and is an Advisory Board member of the British Council’s Our Shared Future project and a UNAOC Global Expert. Sheila B. Lalwani, a Research Fellow at the Centre, contributed to the analysis
The Malta Independent is a partner newspaper with the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations and the project Global Expert Finder
Global Experts (www.theglobalexperts.org), a project of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
- Hussam Ayloush
- Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html