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10 Myths About Muslims in the West

Myth of the Muslim Tide

A timely new book that should be required reading all across the looniverse.

10 Myths About Muslims in the West

by  Doug Saunders, Huffington Post

In my new book The Myth of the Muslim Tide, I chronicle the widespread misunderstanding of Muslim immigration to the West. As with Jews and Catholics before, I discuss that Muslims are being seen as an impossible-to-integrate, fast-reproducing invasion force who follow a religion that’s more an ideology of conquest than a faith. Using the latest facts and figures, I illustrate the far less alarming truth about these new arrivals.

Here are 10 common myths about Muslims in the West:

1. Muslims have a higher birth rate than other religions, and will take over the world by population

Two generations ago, it seemed as if Islamic countries were destined for out-of-control population growth. People spoke of an “Islamic fertility rate” – – more than 5 children per family, on average – – and predicted minaret spires foresting the Earth. Today, it is readily apparent that Islam is not connected with population growth. Just look at Iran, the world’s only Islamic theocracy, where the average family had around 7 children in the 1980s – – and has 1.7 today, a lower rate than France or Britain. Or look at the United Arab Emirates, with 1.9 children per family. Or Turkey, ruled by an elected party of devout Muslims for a decade, which now has 2.15 children per family. Or Lebanon, where, despite Hezbollah’s rise, has only 1.86 children per family (so that its population will be shrinking). Around the world, the average Muslim family size has fallen from 4.3 children per family in 1995 to 2.9 in 2010, and is expected to fall below the population-growth rate, and converge with Western family sizes, by mid-century. This is a crucial sign that Muslim societies are undergoing a major modernizing, secularizing wave – – even if they elect Islamist parties while doing so.

2. Immigrants from Muslim countries are going to swamp us

People look at the huge families of many new Muslim immigrants and imagine them multiplying at exponential rates. But this is a bit of an illusion – -as are many of the figures suggesting that Muslim immigrants have fertility rates higher than in their homelands. This is because most new immigrants have most of their children in the years immediately after their arrival. The way we calculate Total Fertility Rate – – the measure of average family size – – is by taking the total number of births a woman has had and extrapolating it across her fertile life. As a result, immigrants appear to have more children than they really do. In reality, the family sizes of Muslim immigrant groups are converging fast with those of average Westerners – – faster, it seems, than either Jewish or Catholic immigrants did in their time. Muslims in France and Germany are now having only 2.2 children per family, barely above the national average. And while Pakistani immigrants in Britain have 3.5 children each, their British-born daughers have only 2.5. Across Europe, the difference between the Muslim and non-Muslim fertility rate has fallen from 0.7 to 0.4, and is headed toward a continent-wide convergence.

3. Muslims will become a majority in European countries

In fact, we now have several large-scale projections based on population-growth trends and immigration rates which show that the Muslim populations of Europe are growing increasingly slowly 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% (it is currently around 7%). By that point, Muslims will have family sizes and age profiles not that different from Europe in general.

4. Muslims will become a dominant group of cultural outsiders in the United States

Despite the hysterical rhetoric coming from Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann and their ilk, Muslims there are not only a very tiny group, but they are also one of the most integrated groups in the country – – especially if you consider that 69% of American Muslims are first-generation immigrants, and 71% of those immigrants arrived after 1990. There are only 2.6 million Muslims in the United States today. By 2030, that number is likely to rise to 6.2 million (because Muslims are young and fertile) – – at which point Muslim will be 1.7% of the population, almost as numerous as Jews and Episcopalians. Even though they’re new, American Muslims tend to be economically successful and highly educated. With 40% of them holding a college degree, they’re the second most educated group after Jews – – and far more educated than Americans in general, only 29% of whom have a degree.

5. Muslim immigrants in the West hold the same backward views that Muslims do in the Middle East and Pakistan

Actually, Muslims change their cultural views dramatically when they emigrate. For example, 62% of American Muslims say 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 that of average Americans (67%), and vastly ahead of the miniscule response among Middle Eastern Muslims – – for whom between 20% and 40% agreed with that statement. Similarly, 39% of American Muslims and 47% of German Muslims say they tolerate homosexuality, compared to single-figure responses in most Islamic countries – and those rates are rising with each immigrant generation. On these important questions, Muslim immigrants are converging with Western values fast.

6. Muslims in America are more loyal to their faith than their country

True, 49% of Americans from Muslim backgrounds say they consider themselves “Muslim first and American second” and 47% claim to attend a mosque on Friday. But you have to compare that to American Christians, 46% of whom say they identify themselves as “Christian first and American second” (that number rises to 70% among Evangelicals). And 45% of American Christians attend a church service every Sunday. In other words, Muslims have adopted exactly the same rate of religious observance as the people around them in their host country. We see this just as strongly in France, where a fifth of Muslims are atheist and only 5% 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 emigration – – and very little of it is to the West. Immigration tends to come from the countries with the lowest population-growth rates, and it’s rarely to the closest countries. Muslims are far from the largest immigrant group – – even in countries that immediately adjoin the Islamic world. In Spain, which lies across a narrow state from poor Arab countries, only 13% of immigrants are Muslim: Most have come from Spanish-speaking countries across the Atlantic. In Britain, only 28% of immigrants are Muslim. And those numbers do not seem poised to increase.

8. Muslim immigrants are angry at the society around them

In fact, Muslim immigrants appear to be MORE satisfied with the world around them, and its secular institutions, than the general population. Muslim immigrants in the United States are more likely to say they are “satisfied with their lives” (84%) than average Americans are (75%) – – and that number rises to 90% for American-born Muslims. Even among Muslims in neighourhoods where the community mosque has been vandalized – – an increasingly frequent occurrence – – fully 76% say that their community is an “excellent” or “good” place to live. This usually extends into pride in national institutions. For example, 83% of British Muslims say they are “proud to be a British citizen,” versus only 79% of Britons in general – – and only 31% of Muslims agree that “Britain’s best days are behind her,” versus 45% of Britons in general.

9. Muslims in the West cheer for terrorist violence

While it might seem chilling to learn that 8% of American Muslims feel that violence against civilian targets is “often or sometimes justified” if the cause is right, you have to compare that to the response given by non-Muslim Americans, 24% of whom 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% of the French public, 1% of the German public and 3% of the British public answered yes; among Muslims, the responses were 2%, 0.5%, and 2%. Asked if it is “justifiable to use violence for a noble cause,” 7% of the French public agreed, along with 8% of French Muslims; 10% of the German public and fewer than 2% of German Muslims; 10% of the British public and 8% of British Muslims. This may well be because 85% of the victims of Islamic terrorism are Muslims.

10. Muslims have become so populous that the most common baby name in Britain is now Mohammed.

This is true – – but it means far less than you’d think. In 2010, if you combined all 12 spelling variants of the Islamic prophet’s name, “Mohammed” was more popular than any other name given to new babies. But that’s more a consequence of naming trends than anything else. In a great many Muslim cultures, ALL male babies are given “Mohammed” as an official first name. But among many Westerners – especially white Anglo-Saxons and black Christians – – there has been an explosion in unorthodox baby names – – as of 2011, these groups are 50% more likely than they were a generation ago to give their children uncommon baby names. As a result, Mohammed manages to reach the Number 1 spot without being all that common – – when combined, babies named after the Islamic prophet made up only 1% of British newborns in 2010.

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  • I think that this is a good, well intended post that confronts the fear and hatred of Islamophobia.

    I like to think that all of us can retain our histories, cultures, religions and languages, even as we become a part of and participant in the fabric of an ever changing democratic society. Like a good stew or a good salad, what makes it so good is its individual ingrediants. The West is being made stronger and better because of its new comers: All of them! Let this date: 9/11/2012, represent standing together, ALL of us.

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  • AJ


    I liked the name Shenandoah for a kid. That was the name of the mountains next to our home in Charlottesville. They were beautiful. I wonder how we could have Islamized that name. If the kid couldn’t have it, perhaps the cat could 🙂

  • Reynardine

    Ilisha: For quite a long time, Jews were *not* considered part of the American fabric, and communities and resort establishments used to advertise themselves as “restricted”, that is, no known Jew was admitted, and that included people merely of Jewish extraction. Jews were previously in a position exactly analogous to that of Muslims today.

    As much as half a century ago, I read that some form of Mohammed was the most common given name for males, and some form of Mary the most common for females, in the world. In that regard, nothing has changed.

  • HGG

    “I’m sure not everyone reads that into it. Not everyone finds “progressive Muslim” sellouts like Tarek Fatah nauseating either.”

    Wait, isn’t that a bit of a leap there?

    Ok, let’s say for a moment that the book does have a bit of what you’re saying, even then I wouldn’t find it objectionable, and I even consider it understandable, since it’s written from a western perspective. I could say that if the situation were reversed, and I were reading an article dealing with western immigration to Muslim lands and the tacit assumption of it were that if western immigrants became more Muslim-like it would be a positive develoment, I wouldn’t be bothered by it at all 😀

  • Hard Core Atheist

    It’s nice to read something like this, because all I feel like I ever see from my muslim friends on facebook is how hard it is for American-Muslims in the US.

    I’m glad that statistics prove otherwise!!

  • HGG

    6 of those myths are about Muslim population and immigration, so I guess an argument could be made that the book is saying that too much of it would be a bad thing, but I think it’s just an undortunate connection not intended by the author.

    There is a judgement when he refers to intolerance of homosexuality as ‘backwards’ (a sentiment I agree with, but Muslims hardly have the monopoly on that) but overall I’m not sure of what he is implying that Muslims should give up to be accepted.

    Moreover, I think a book like this is important for the reason I stated: anything that refutes Anti-Muslim ideology is good.

    (I’m not sure how representative Huma Abedin’s case is. That mas mostly manufactured by Michelle Bachmann, who has proved time and again that she might be… ‘special’)

  • Géji

    “10. Muslims have become so populous that the most common baby name in Britain is now Mohammed.

    This is true – – but it means far less than you’d think.”

    Lol, when the ‘freedom & liberty loving’ West takes issue even with how Western Muslims should name their kids, that’s truly of the highest irony isn’t, especially with ‘Mr west’ being busy abroad “spreading” that well observed freedom & liberty and all.

  • HGG

    “There is a hint of “good Muslims are ones who really aren’t” in this article, but I still think he makes some good points.”

    I got more of a “Western Muslims will eventually become like Western Christians, Jews and Atheists” vibe myself.

    Still, I think this could be a powerful refutation of most of Spencer et al talking points regarding the “Islamization” they devote oh-so-many groups to stop.

  • DrM

    “We see this just as strongly in France, where a fifth of Muslims are atheist and only 5% attend a mosque regularly…”

    Wishful thinking on part of the far left.

  • Reynardine

    My mother’s family immigrated from the Balkans in 1900 (my mother and two of my four aunts were born here). They had five daughters, of whom one had one child and my mother had two. The one child had four children; neither my sibling nor I had any. Of my cousin’s four children, two had two each; one had one; one had none. This is not exactly the exponential burgeoning once predicted by alarmists of Balkan immigrants.

  • Nevermore

    “We see this just as strongly in France, where a fifth of Muslims are atheist and only 5% attend a mosque regularly…”

    Wait, huh? I think you mean to say ‘Middle Eastern immigrants’ or even ‘former Muslim immigrants’; I don’t think this is possible! A strange typo indeed.

  • Bob

    Regarding Khaled’s point regarding fertility rates. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest birth rates in the world. The West has low rates, even below the “replacement” rate. Nations with substantial Muslim populations seem to be somewhere in the middle. The UAE is not really an exception at all. Lebanon does indeed have fertility rates within a couple of points of the US. Israel, which constantly frets about Palestinian demographics, itself has higher fertility rates than Mexico or Iran, and doesn’t align with Western demographics either. Interesting facts and figures here:

  • Khaled

    The first point really is reaching, using Iran, Lebanon and Turkey as examples of “Islamic” countries is very misleading. The UAE on the other hand is an exception to the rule; if you look at the all the top countries total fertility rate, you’ll find the Muslim countries are almost without exception taking up the top 30-40 spots

  • mindy1

    Facts slay loons 😛

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