Europe’s Muslims (1): the new Eurabia?

There seem to be a spate of articles by right-wingers and Islamophobes at the moment (mainly American, but including the Italian Orin Falucci) going on about the threat of Europe becoming ‘Eurabia’ or being in a state of ‘dhimmitude’ (see e.g. http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article.asp?aid=12105031_1). According to these views, Europe is being swamped by Muslims demographically, while meanwhile a culture of political correctness suppresses European culture and allows Islamists to flourish.

Given all the hype about the declining population of Europe, I thought at least the demographic point might have some validity. But when you look at the figures, the change is much less striking. The suggestion is that Europe’s population of Muslims will double by 2025 (http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20050701faessay84409/robert-s-leiken/europe-s-angry-muslims.html). This sounds striking until you see that Muslims currently form about 4-5% of Europe’s population (on average – this conceals wide variations between countries). So even if you allow for a decline in the non-Muslim population as well, that still suggests a Muslim population of around 10-12%.

What changes might a Muslim percentage of that size mean? Well, an interesting comparison is the percentage of Blacks and Hispanics in the US. This is around 12-13% (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html). So what has the impact been in the US?

1) Do people still criticise Blacks and Hispanics and even use hate-speech against them or are they afraid to? They’re not afraid to.

2) Do politicians dare offend Black and Hispanic voters? They do court their vote, but they’re equally prepared to implement racist policies.

3) Do Black and Hispanic concerns dictate US foreign policy? Largely, no, apart from the Cuban anti-Castro lobby. (One point is that these broad ethnic groups rarely have coherent foreign policy views. Similarly, there are few foreign policy issues that are of equal concern to British Muslims (largely from Pakistan), French Muslims (largely from North Africa) and German Muslims (largely from Turkey). The right-wingers focus on the few common issues (support for Palestinians, opposition to the Iraqi war), rather than the many separate issues).

4) Do Blacks and Hispanics have economic dominance in the US? No, they’re at the bottom of the heap, largely.

5) Can the US be seen culturally as a Black or Hispanic country? Both cultures have had some influence on mainstream culture, but certainly not predominant.

All this suggests that an increase in the European Muslim population isn’t necessarily going to make a major change to Europe, in terms of a cultural percentage. There might also be differences if Muslims were uniquely hard to absorb into a society or Europe was uniquely bad at integration. The first seems to be countered by Americans’ claims about how well Muslims have been absorbed by the US.

The second is a more plausible argument: Europe, as a collection of relatively mono-ethnic nation states is less good at fully integrating immigrants, than the US, a nation of immigrants. This is probably true, although it should be noted that the cultural/political attitudes towards immigrants vary greatly between e.g. the UK and France (which does not even keep official statistics on ethnicity on principle). The other point is that societies can change in their attitude towards immigration. Australia is a nation of immigrants, but overwhelmingly white, Anglo-Saxon immigrants until the mid-twentieth century. Its attitude had changed towards accepting and integrating non-white immigrants and their descendants. Europe has the possibility of doing this too.

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