Ten harmful myths laid to restNews Weekly
, February 28, 2015
THE MYTH OF THE MUSLIM TIDE:
Do Immigrants Threaten the West?
by Doug Saunders
(New York: Random House)
Paperback: 208 pages
Reviewed by Patrick J. Byrne
Doug Saunders’ neighbourhood in London changed about 20 years ago, becoming populated with immigrants from East Asia, Turkey and the Middle East. He says that it was hard not to associate their religion with extremism and violence.
Had he lived in the same suburb in the late 1800s, similar fears abounded concerning Catholic immigrants from Ireland, says Saunders.
Similarly, the mass migration of millions of Jews, on a scale never seen before, from eastern Europe into Britain and the United States was accompanied by fear and loathing, while in central Europe it was outright hatred and murder, culminating in the Holocaust.
Today we have forgotten the “alarming” waves of Catholic and Jewish migrants from the fringes of Europe. Their descendants have become woven into the cultural life of their Western countries, even though, at the time, their countries of origin seemed less democratic, less economically free and more prone to religious law and political extremism.
Saunders has been a London-based correspondent for the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail. He has reported on Islamic extremists in Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India and from the capitals of Europe and North America.
In his superbly researched and very readable book, The Myth of the Muslim Tide, he chronicles the widespread misunderstanding of Muslim immigration to the West.
Saunders discusses how, like Jews and Catholics in times past, Muslims are seen as an impossible-to-integrate, fast-reproducing invasion force following a religion that’s more an ideology of conquest than a faith.
In trying to discover how otherwise reasonable people have become foaming fanatics fearing this alleged Muslim “tide”, he says almost every Muslim-tide book written since 9/11 has drawn on the writing of the conspiracy theorist Gisèle Littman, who writes under the name Bat Ye’or.
In the dark heart of her 2005 book Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, she claimed that an obscure Brussels committee, the Euro-Arab Dialogue, “has been in the vanguard of engineering a convergence between Europe and the Islamic states of North Africa and the Middle East … a new entity — with political, economic, religious, cultural and media components superimposed on Europe by powerful governmental lobbies.… What is emerging is a new Eurabian culture with its own dogma, preachers, axioms and rules.”
In reality, the Euro-Arab Dialogue was nothing more than a sleepy committee, a diplomatic talking-shop, created in 1973 by the European Economic Community to improve relations with the Arab states in the wake of the OPEC oil crisis. After only four meetings, the Dialogue was suspended and attempts to re-launch it in 1990 and 2008 failed.
It is extraordinary how Bat Ye’or’s book, Eurabia, was able to inflate such an obscure, sleepy committee into a global conspiracy theory that catalysed an entire anti-Islamic movement, including hard-line agitators such as Robert Spencer, who runs Jihad Watch and is considered the global leader of the anti-Islamic agitators; Pamela Geller, who runs the blog, Atlas Shrugs; and Edward S. May, who founded the blog, Gates of Vienna.
Bat Ye’or’s writings inspired Oriana Fallaci’s book The Force of Reason (2004), Melanie Phillips’ Londonistan: How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within (2006), Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within (2006), andPeder Are Nøstvold Jensen’s Defeating Eurabia (2008). Nøstvold blogs under the name Fjordman. Commentators such as Canadian journalist Mark Steyn and Scottish historian Niall Ferguson have also trumpeted Eurabia.
The anti-Islamic movement, which is represented in this country by the Q Society of Australia, has gained global traction because seven American hard-line foundations poured US$42 million into building an anti-Islamic blogging network between 9/11 and 2009.
Saunders has drawn together the extensive demographic, polling and other research data, that illustrate the far less alarming truth about recent Muslim migrants to the West, pointing out that the idea of a stealth takeover by Islamic believers is a delusion.
He also dispels the more moderate idea of a permanent alien and impossible-to-integrate “civilisation” in our midst.
Here are 10 of the most common Western myths about Muslims.
1) Muslims have a higher birth rate than adherents of other religions, and will take over the world by population.
Two generations ago, it seemed as if Muslim countries would achieve high rates of population growth, with more than five children per family.
Look at Iran today, the world’s only Islamic theocracy. In the 1980s the average family had around seven children, today it is only 1.7, a lower rate than France or Britain.
Turkey, ruled by an elected party of devout Muslims for a decade, now has 2.15 children per family. In Lebanon, despite the rise of Hezbollah, families average 1.86 children per family, so that Lebanon’s population will soon be shrinking.
Around the world, the average Muslim family size is expected to fall below the population-growth rate, and converge with Western family sizes, by mid-century.
This is a sign that Muslim societies are undergoing a major modernising, secularising wave, even where Islamist parties are in government.
2) Immigrants from Muslim countries are going to swamp us.
Just as in their home countries, the family sizes of Muslim immigrant groups in the U.S. and Europe are converging rapidly with those of average Westerners — faster, indeed, than either Jewish or Catholic immigrants did in their time last century.
Muslims in France and Germany are now having only 2.2 children per family, barely above the national average.
While Pakistani immigrants in Britain have 3.5 children each, their British-born daughters have only 2.5.
Across Europe, the difference between the Muslim and non-Muslim fertility rate has shrunk from 0.7 to 0.4, and is headed toward a continent-wide convergence.
3) Muslims will become a majority in European countries.
Serious demographers have made several large-scale projections based on population-growth trends and immigration rates. They show that the growth rate of Muslim populations of Europe is slowing, 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 per cent, up from 7 per cent today.
By that point, Muslims will have family sizes and age profiles not that different from other residents of Europe in general.
4) Muslims will become a dominant group of cultural outsiders in the United States.
Muslims are a tiny, yet one of the most integrated, groups in American society.
There are only 2.6 million Muslims in the United States, and 71 per cent of these are immigrants who have arrived since 1990.
By 2030, that number is likely to rise to 6.2 million — Muslims are young and fertile — at which point Muslims will be 1.7 per cent of the population, almost as numerous as Jews and Episcopalians.
Despite being new immigrants, 40 per cent of Muslims hold a college degree, making them the second most educated group after Jews. On average, only 29 per cent of Americans have a university degree.
5) Muslim immigrants in the West hold the same backward views that Muslims do in the Middle East and Pakistan.
In fact, Muslims change their cultural views dramatically when they emigrate.
For example, 62 per cent of American Muslims agree with the statement 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 the 67 per cent of Americans who believe the same.
Among Muslims in the Middle East, only 20 to 40 per cent agreed with that statement.
On many important questions, Muslim immigrants are rapidly adopting Western values.
6) Muslims in America are more loyal to their faith than to their country.
True, 49 per cent of Americans from Muslim backgrounds say they consider themselves “Muslim first and American second”, and 47 per cent claim to attend a mosque on Friday.
Almost identically, 46 per cent of American Christians say they identify themselves as “Christian first and American second”, and 45 per cent attend a Sunday service weekly. Among Evangelicals, 70 per cent put their religion first.
In short, Muslims have adopted exactly the same rate of religious observance as the people around them in their host country.
In France, a fifth of Muslims become atheist and only 5 per cent 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 number of migrants, and few migrate to the West.
Immigration tends to come from the countries with the lowest population-growth rates. Muslims are far from the largest immigrant group in the West.
In Spain, which lies across the narrow Strait of Gibraltar from poor Arab countries, only 13 per cent of migrants are Muslim. Only 28 per cent of British immigrants are Muslim.
8) Muslim immigrants are angry at the society around them.
In fact, Muslim immigrants appear to be more satisfied with their new homeland, and its secular institutions, than is the general population.
In the U.S., 84 per cent of Muslim immigrants, and 90 per cent of American-born Muslims, are “satisfied with their lives”, compared to just 75 per cent of average Americans.
Even among Muslims in neighbourhoods where the community mosque has been vandalised — an increasingly frequent occurrence – 76 per cent say that their community is an “excellent” or “good” place in which to live.
This usually extends into pride in national institutions. For example, 83 per cent of British Muslims say they are “proud to be a British citizen”, in contrast to only 79 per cent of Britons in general.
9) Muslims in the West cheer terrorist violence.
While it might seem chilling to learn that 8 per cent of American Muslims feel that violence against civilian targets is “often or sometimes justified” if the cause is right, 24 per cent of non-Muslim Americans 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 per cent of the French public, 1 per cent of the German public and 3 per cent of the British public answered yes. Among Muslims, the responses were 2 per cent, 0.5 per cent, and 2 per cent.
Asked if it is “justifiable to use violence for a noble cause”, 7 per cent of the French public agreed, along with 8 per cent of French Muslims; 10 per cent of the German public and fewer than 2 per cent of German Muslims; 10 per cent of the British public and 8 per cent of British Muslims.
This may well be because 85 per cent of the victims of Islamic terrorism are Muslims.
10) Dhimmitude myth
The hard evidence presented by Doug Saunders refutes Bat Ye’or’s concept of dhimmitude, that idea of subjecting non-Muslims to “restrictive and humiliating subordination to an ascendant Islamic power”.
While the term has been endlessly used by anti-Muslim bloggers, even the Middle Eastern historian Bernard Lewis, who has been strongly critical of contemporary Islam, dismisses dhimmitude as an historical myth.
Rather, as Saunders explains, the same problems that worry us are also worrying the majority of Muslims — “the rise of anti-Semitism among the children of immigrants who identify with a mythic and faraway Middle East; a set of backward-looking subcultures that treat women as lesser beings, even as possessions to be guarded, hidden or abused; and the defensive retreat of the embittered few into all-consuming religious faith in an otherwise fast secularising diaspora”.
These reactions, along with violent Islamic extremism, are best understood as intense responses by insecure people to the modernising trends of individualism and globalisation — the very same trends that produced the Muslim-tide theories and anti-Islamic movements in the West.
Concludes Saunders: “These are clashes within civilisations, not between them, and to a large extent they are products of the false belief, held by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, that the world is divided into fixed and irreconcilable civilisations.
“The larger threat comes not from these immigrants themselves, but from our response to them.”
Patrick J. Byrne is national vice-president of the National Civic Council. He recently wrote a detailed exposé of prominent anti-Islamic activists Geert Wilders, Serge Trifkovic, Bat Ye’or, Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller and ‘Tommy Robinson’ (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon), in News Weekly, February 14, 2015.