The Growing Crescent

Europeans concerned about Islam are worried less about the minorities of the present day than their likely growth in the near future. If Muslim numbers quadrupled in that short historical period, could they balloon just as impressively in coming decades? Some demographic evidence suggests that this prospect is not far-fetched. Allowing for illegal immigrants, Muslims already comprise 8 percent or 10 percent of the French people, and that figure could plausibly grow to 20 percent or 25 percent by 2050. Already, Muslims comprise a quarter of the population under twenty-five years old. Germany as a whole might be dealing with a Muslim population of 20 percent by 2050, with heavy Muslim concentrations in all the major cities. The Muslim population of the Netherlands doubled just between 1990 and 2005, growing from perhaps 3 percent to 6 percent of the population. In Sweden—traditionally a land associated with Nordic purity and ethnic homogeneity—around an eighth of the population is foreign-born. To put this in perspective, this figure recalls the proportion of immigrants recorded in the United States at the height of the great influx of eastern and southern Europeans at the start of the twentieth century.

Immigration continues to reinforce Muslim strength. Western Europe as a whole receives about half a million new migrants a year, and that number could rise significantly. United Nations projections suggest that to maintain the 1995 level of working to nonworking population, Europe would need to take in 1.4 million migrants each year from now until 2050. The figures are all open to further expansion if we assume a European Union with essentially uncontrolled borders, open to barely restricted mass immigration from north Africa and the

Levant. Drawing together various estimates, the U.S. National Intelligence Council suggests that a European Union Muslim population that stood at 5 million in 1985 has now reached 15 million. The number would probably rise to about 28 million by 2025, but the council also offered alternative low- and high-end projections, respectively, of 24 million and 38 million.37 These numbers are all the more impressive when we recall that the total European population will fall in coming decades, so that Muslims will represent an ever-larger proportion of the smaller whole.

At first sight, such figures do indeed seem to comprise the opening chapter of the history of Eurabia, but matters are not quite as straightforward as they appear. Undoubtedly, some leading European nations—France, Germany, and the Netherlands—will have significant Muslim minorities of 10 percent to 15 percent by 2025, and these communities might account for 20 percent or 25 percent of the respective populations by 2050. That is a historic and cultural fact of vast importance. But if we consider Europe as a whole—everything west of the former Soviet Union and including the Balkans—the picture is a little less overwhelming. By 2025, the continent would have perhaps 40 million Muslims out of a total population of 500 million, about 8 percent. That figure might well rise higher in subsequent decades, to a probable 15 percent or so by 2050. The Council on Foreign Relations veers a little on the high side when it suggests that by 2050 one-fifth of Europeans will be Muslim by cultural background, if not in religious practice.

But that is a crucial difference. As we have seen, modern European society does not seem hospitable to institutional or dogmatic religion of any kind, and by 2050, European Muslims will have been exposed to this ambience for several generations. At the least, we can expect that ethnic birth rates will have fallen to something like mainstream norms. Nobody can deny that European nations in coming decades will have to take account of aspects of Muslim culture, or rather of the north African and Asian cultures brought by Muslim immigrants; but that is quite different from envisioning wholesale Islamization.

While acknowledging the new ethnic diversity, then, Europeans inevitably ask what kind of Islam the new communities would practice. Although old-stock Europeans hope for the emergence of a moderate Euro-Islam in line with their own traditions, the kind of Islam they more commonly see in daily media reports is fanatical, politicized, and intolerant, with a marked penchant for violence. If in fact that was to be the faith and ideology of 15 or 20 percent of the population of leading nations, then Europe's prospects would be bleak indeed, and the far-sighted would need to consider how to escape the coming wreck, how to obtain U.S. or Canadian passports for themselves and their families. Muslims really would have returned "all for to fight."

Yet matters are not so terrifying. While sections of European Islam in recent years have acquired a strongly militant and politicized character, we have to understand this as a response to temporary circumstances; moreover, hard-line approaches still command only minority support. In the longer term, the underlying pressures making for accommodation and tolerance will prove hard to resist.

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