Demographic Scare Campaigns

While watching the football this weekend I saw an add for Today Tonight. They’re going to be interviewing the supposed inspiration behind the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in the UK, and included a clip of him saying that Australia would eventually come under Sharia law.

This stuff really shouldn’t need to be refuted, but it does, so let’s go. It’s unclear whether this fanatic, whose name I cannot bother to dig up, is banking on a combination of high immigration of Muslims to Australia and rapid birthrates to create a situation where Muslims are a majority and will change the laws or if he just thinks “God wills it, so it will come true”. However, I think we can safely say that Today Tonight is relying for ratings on fears amongst non-Muslim Australians of the first scenario. We know from Dana Vale’s comments a few years back that even some members of parliament think this could happen if action is not taken.

Now one reason why this will not occur is because plenty of Muslims don’t want it to. Many of the people fleeing to Australia are trying to get away from forms of Sharia Law, and it is unlikely their children and grandchildren will want to rush back.

But there is another reason: Demographics will not allow it. Most of the immigrants to Australia come from New Zealand, the UK, India and China*. These four are far ahead of any other country. I haven’t been able to find an estimate of how many of the new arrivals consider themselves Muslims, but note that none of these have Muslim majorities. Perhaps the proportion of the immigrants who subscribe to Islam is higher than the population average, but I’ll bet anything it is still a small minority. The next two countries, btw, are the Phillipines and South Africa.

When these facts are pointed out the scaremongering turns to the notion that the immigrant population will have vastly higher birthrates than Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and non-religious residents thus allowing an eventual take over. This stuff used to be the stock in trade of Mark Steyn. It probably still is, but we hear less of it now that the New York Times took his microphone away.

Again, as far as I know it is hard to get stats on how many children people who adhere to particular religions are having. But we can look to predominantly Muslim countries to see what is likely to occur. Steyn and his ilk love to point to high population growth rates in certain countries as a sign of supposedly endlessly high Muslim fecundity. I pointed out in Crikey (can’t find in archives) at the time of Vale’s idiocy that they were being highly selective. Many Muslim-majority nations had low fertility. This included not only relatively westernised nations such as Albania, Turkey and Tunisia but even Iran. Saudi Arabia and some very small states aside, fertility depended much more on wealth, education and factors such as urbanisation than it did on religion.

I checked the figures again today and found that in the meantime something has changed, but not in a way that supports Steyn, Vale and Today Tonight. Even Saudi Arabia has seen a dramatic crash in the birth rate. The latest estimated average number of births the  lifetime of each woman in the kingdom is 2.21. This is barely above replacement level, or for that matter the level in the USA, which is 2.06. Admittedly the source for this is the CIA, so you have to allow for lefty bias. Note that the rate for Indonesia is 2.20 and the United Arab Emirates is 2.37.

Roughly 90% of the world lives in countries with fertility rates below 3, and there is a very strong inverse relationship between fertility and wealth. Most of the places with unsustainably high birthrates are in sub-Saharan Africa, and it doesn’t matter much what God the population prays to. Outside Africa the only Muslim majority places with fertility rates above 3 are Afghanistan, Iraz, Gaza and Yemen. Can’t think what the first three have in common.

The nameless nutter Today Tonight interviewed, Steyn and Vale are all dreaming the same dream – that religious fanatics will be able to convince Muslim women in the west to breed at a rate that all the resources of the Wahhabi-controlled oil state could not maintain.

Additional note: Steyn has always liked using France as his whipping boy, an exemplar of all that is wrong as Europe surrenders to “Eurabia”. In a talk he gave here a few years ago, which I heard when the ABC broadcast it in their quest for balance between truth and lies, he strongly implied that French fertility rates were close to 1, leading to the population halving every generation. They were never remotely that low, but I notice that on the latest figures they are at 2.08, just slightly above his beloved US.


*BTW: Why oh why is it so hard to find where the information you need, on almost anything, is stored on the Bureau of Statistics website. Their search engine has to be one of the most useless I have encountered.


About Stephen Luntz

I am a science journalist, specialising in Australian and New Zealand research across all fields of science. My book, Forensics, Fossils and Fruitbats: A Field Guide to Australian Scientists is out now through CSIRO Publishing. I am also a professional returning officer for non-government organisations. I'm very politically active, but generally try to restrict this blog to scientific matters.
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