There is Europe and there is “Europe,” the fantasy kingdom wished into being by North American ideologues to turn their silly ideas into action movies.
Once upon a time, this pretend continent was the left’s dollhouse, a land where high government spending supposedly led to all manner of social good – so long as you avoided noting that Germany has fewer child-care spaces than the U.S., France has the lowest rate of unionization in the West, Italy’s hospitals are filthy and ill-run and most of the continent’s spending goes to the already well-off.
Today it is conservatives who fabricate a mythic “Europe” to serve their ends. In this scenario, a lazy, culturally exhausted atheist society has stopped having babies and is being overwhelmed by baby-booming Muslim hordes that are on the verge of becoming a majority and imposing sharia law and Islamist government on the continent.
The champion of this “Eurabia” myth is Canadian Mark Steyn, who was once one of the world’s best writers on musical theatre.
Mr. Steyn’s argument is, as any serious demographer will tell you, completely false. I’ve avoided countering it because he has been the subject of a ridiculous hate-speech complaint before a number of Canadian human-rights tribunals. As a result, he deserved all of our support: The right to express hatred of people, ideas, groups or communities is fundamental and important.
Now that this is behind us – I hope – we can turn to the article, titled The Future Belongs to Islam. It is based on three mythic claims about Europe:
1. The Islamic baby boom. The great sine qua non of Mr. Steyn’s argument is the idea that Muslims have more children than the rest of us. His article is based on a claim he has made repeatedly, including in a bestselling book, that Europe will have a plurality of Muslims, perhaps 40 per cent of the population, by 2020.
This number appears to have been plucked from space. Here’s the reality, which you can easily look up: Slightly more than 4 per cent of Europe’s population is “Muslim,” as defined by demographers (though about 80 per cent of these people are not religiously observant, so they are better defined as secular citizens who have escaped religious nations).
It is possible, though not certain, that this number could rise to 6 per cent by 2020. If current immigration and birth rates remain the same, it could even rise to 10 per cent within 100 years.
But it won’t, because “Muslims” don’t actually have more babies than other populations do under the same circumstances. The declining population-growth rates that will lead Europe to a falling overall population in seven years – as I documented here two weeks ago – are not confined to native populations. In fact, immigrants from Muslim countries are experiencing a faster drop in reproduction rates than the larger European population.
A recent study, Religiousness and Fertility among European Muslims, by demographers Charles Westoff and Tomas Frejka, documents this. Populations need to have 2.1 children per family to keep from shrinking. Among Turks in Germany – one of the longest-standing Muslim immigrant populations in Europe – the rate has fallen to 1.9 children from 4.4 in 1970. Turks in Switzerland also have 1.9, while those in the Netherlands have 1.6, fewer than white British people do. Muslim women in France have 2.2 children, barely more than non-Muslim women there, and that number is falling.
Justin Vaisse of France’s Foreign Ministry has shown that fertility rates among immigrant populations (wherever they’re from) fall to the same levels as the host country within two generations. In Europe’s long-standing Muslim-majority countries of Albania and Kosovo, fertility rates are 1.8 and populations are shrinking. Religious faith often acts as a prophylactic: In revolutionary Iran, rates have plunged to around 1.7 from almost 8 children per family in the 1980s. Wherever people are educated and prosperous, fertility falls to the same low level.
2. The takeover of lazy, secular, social-democratic Europe. This is Mr. Steyn’s second key pitch: that the decline of religious belief and the rise of the welfare state and multiculturalism have led Europeans to have fewer babies and to commit cultural suicide, capitulating to Islam.
A proper visit to Europe – all of it – would quickly reveal the flaw in this argument.
In the countries with the lowest fertility rates and the fastest-shrinking populations, notably Poland and Italy, what will strike you is the number of churches, and their political influence.
These also happen to be the most religiously observant countries in Europe. And, it should be noted, the ones with governments the furthest from welfare-state social democracy.
Where are the highest native-born fertility rates, the ones that approach population-increase levels? In the countries with the least religion and the most social democracy and multiculturalism.
“In Europe, the national populations with the highest cohort fertility rates tend to be the northern and western European ones, where secularization is most advanced,” Canadian demographer Randy McDonald wrote. “More religious and conservative societies elsewhere in Europe fare relatively poorly.”
3. The threat to “Christian Europe.” I agree with Mr. Steyn on one point: Islamic faith, like other spiritual perspectives, is bad for people, and political Islam is a threat that deserves to be likened to fascism. But, unlike him, I realize that, as threats go, it is far from the most serious one.
Europe once faced a genuine fundamentalist threat, in the face of a declining population. From 1345 to 1750, the continent’s population barely grew, and the church, a murderous, terrorist, woman-hating force, seized considerable power. It was not Christian culture, but rather the opposition to this Christian threat, that made Europe great: The Enlightenment not only destroyed the church as a power, but also created the fertility boom.
If Europeans, under similar demographic distress, were able to fend off a threatening political movement within a faith that was then held by almost 100 per cent of the population, they shouldn’t have much to fear from a vanishing movement inside a 4-per-cent minority.
They have far more to fear from the likes of Mr. Steyn.