Several writers, of all faiths and races, have debunked the myth of “Eurabia” – this idea that due to the high birth rate of Muslim migrants to Europe, the nature of the continent will change to reflect “Arabia.” However, the discovery of a 1,500 page document written by Anders Behring Breivik, the alleged terrorist behind the attacks in Norway, sheds light on how those fears are still real and form part of a discourse on the Muslim migration narrative.
In his writings, Mr. Breivik expressed fears of Europe having “mini Pakistans” by the year 2083 and that each country would be riddled with “Lebanon-style conflicts” as reported in The Express Tribune newspaper in Pakistan. He likened the scenario to post-partition India, with several Pakistans based on Islam.
He also writes about his frustration at the inability of Muslim migrants to assimilate into European society. “He also asks why Muslim girls are considered ‘off-limits’ to everyone, including Muslim boys, and why Muslim men view ethnic Norwegian women as ‘wh**es,’” writes Salman Siddiqi in The Express Tribune.
These seemingly rabid views are not different to the fears that led to the coining of the term Eurabia in 2005 by writer Bat Ye’or in her book of the same title. Despite academics, writers and journalists debunking the myth of high birth rates amongst Muslims or that Islam was growing in numbers and strength, the fallacies continue to be perpetuated.
The European correspondent of Daily Globe and Mail Doug Sanders wrote in 2008 that the Muslim population growth rate was not as high as was often quoted, ostensibly by right-wing critics of Europe’s lax migration policies. He tore through the argument that “European values” were at threat by growing number of Muslims and a decline in the birth rate of local Europeans by citing studies that showed that migrant birth rates fell to the same as host country’s “within two generations.”
Muslims in Europe in 2010 constitute 2.7 percent of the global Muslim population, according to research by Pew Forum and that percentage is not projected to change in the year 2030, even though the number of Muslims will increase.
If anything, despite the rise in the population around the world, the percentages don’t change significantly. The Pew Forum figures show that the majority of the world’s Muslims will continue to live in Asia Pacific, and the percentage increase in the Americas will be just 0.2 by the year 2030.
Countries like Iran and Bangladesh, have in fact, had successful family planning programs that have been lauded by international organizations. The desire to overpopulate the earth with Muslim babies is thus just rhetoric used by illiterate clerics.
As for the “Islamization” of the continent, in a detailed article, Mr. Sanders cites a 2009 survey by a non-profit organization, CBS, of attendance in Dutch religious institutes which found that the number of Muslims attending mosques had dropped. In 1998 to 1999, 47 percent of Muslims attended the mosque, a figure that dropped to 35 percent between 2004 to 2008.
So if the numbers of Muslims isn’t growing and they’re not rushing to the mosques in droves as is generally believed, how does one counter the fallacies? Not everyone bothers to take the time out to read writers like Mr. Sanders or magazines like Foreign Policy for deeper understanding.
Neither does this mean that everyone is tuned into the European version of Fox News which spouts xenophobic views. In such scenarios is there a middle ground?
The Norway attacks may not involve Muslims but it still opens a can of worms on migration policies and the disconnect between people like Mr. Breivik and a community trying to adapt to their new homes.
Mr. Breivik’s resentment of Muslims stems from a personal experience, as cited in his manifesto. He talks about his childhood friendship with a Pakistani son of a migrant, who resented Norwegian society “not because he was jealous… but because it represented the exact opposite of Islamic ways,” he writes.
Do stricter monitoring policies of migration laws redress the issues of disconnect and can they counter such right-wing extremist attacks? Calls within European nations to review the laws have varied between asking that new migrants pledge allegiance to their host country’s Constitution or face deportation to the more radical prohibition of Islam altogether.
Knee jerk reactions have never achieved anything sensible in the long run.
Undoubtedly, efforts need to take place to minimize the gulf between the two communities without alienating or victimizing any one group. They need to be conducted by saner moderate voices urging calm and unity and must include all stakeholders, including religious leaders, however nutty they may be.
(Muna Khan, Senior Correspondent and Columnist for Al Arabiya English, can be reached at email@example.com)