October 30, 2005


CRISIS OF FAITH IN THE MUSLIM WORLD: PART 1: Statistical evidence (Spengler, 11/01/05, Asia Times)

Radical Islam should be interpreted as a cry of despair in the face of the ineluctable decline of Islamic society. Read carefully, the leading Islamists say precisely this. At the close of the 19th century the Ottoman Empire was the sick man of Europe, and its former territories today comprise the incurables ward of geopolitics. From this vantage point, America's attempt to foist its own form of democracy on the Islamic world seems delusional.

As I have reported before, the demographic position of the Islamic world has set a catastrophe in motion. It is hard enough for rich nations to care for a growing elderly population, but impossible for poor nations to do so. Iran, along with most of the Muslim world, faces a population bust that will raise the proportion of dependent elderly in the population to 28% in 2050, from just 7% today.

If America faces discomfort, and Europe faces crisis, Muslim countries face breakdown. America now has a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of US$40,000 and a diversified economy. Iran has a per capita GDP of just $7,000 and depends on oil exports for the state subsidies that keep its population fed and clothed - and Iran will no longer be able to export oil after 2020, according to some estimates.

America can ameliorate the impact of an aging population by raising productivity (so that fewer workers produce more GDP), attracting more skilled immigrants (and increasing its tax base), and, in the worst of all cases, tightening its belt. American life will not come to an end if more people drive compact cars instead of SUVs, or go camping for vacation instead of to Disney World. But the Islamic world is so poor that any reduction in living standards from present levels will cause social breakdown.

In 2002, the United Nations' Arab Development Report offered a widely-quoted summation of the misery of the present position of the Arab World, noting:

# The average growth rate of per capita income during the preceding 20 years in the Arab world was only one-half of 1% per annum, worse than anywhere but sub-Saharan Africa

# One in five Arabs lives on less than $2 per day

# Fifteen percent of the Arab workforce is unemployed, and this number could double by 2010

# Only 1% of the population has a personal computer, and only half of 1% use the Internet

# Half of Arab women cannot read.

Negotiating the demographic decline of the 21st century will be treacherous for countries that have proven their capacity to innovate and grow. For the Islamic world, it will be impossible. That is the root cause of Islamic radicalism, and there is nothing that the West can do to change it. [...]

America's fertility rate - the average number of children per woman - has stabilized at just around the replacement level. That is why America's elderly dependency ratio will stabilize around 2030. But the fertility rate of the Muslim world is falling much faster.

To the contrary, there's much that the West (well, really the Anglosphere) can do and is doing. The most important thing is hastening the End of History--forcing the Islamic world to reform along liberal democratic lines, adopting democracy, capitalism, and protestantism--which amounts to a Reformation of Islam itself. This will not only make Islamic societies healthier but will, in the process, refurbish Islam, demonstrating that it can be the basis for those thriving 21st-century societies, is indeed a necessary basis.

At the same time, the dying nations of Europe, whose secular rationalist faith can not provide such a basis, will serve as a safety valve drawing off the excess unemployed in the Islamic world. The success or failure of these European states and of the massive waves of migrants they'll be taking in will depend on a recognition that they must be assimilated into the culture that had made Europe successful until the early 20th Century and that Islam can be integrated into that earlier Judeo-Christian model.

None of this will be easy nor is it certain to work. Even in a best case scenario it requires tremendous upheaval in both the Islamic world and in Europe and a free flow of ideas and peoples that will hardly be welcomed by everyone. But, as Spengler points out, the alternative is abysmal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 30, 2005 11:46 PM

So how do you account for the fact that deeply religious Muslims are breeding even less than secular Europeans (for example Tunisia's TFR is lower than that of France)? Perhaps other factors than religious belief affect birth rates.

As for Europe needing to absorb excess Muslim workers, the contrary will be the case. As Muslim populations crash they will experience a sever labor shortage. The Muslim tide in Europe has already begun to receed.

Posted by: Anon at October 31, 2005 8:26 AM

Tunisia is among the most secular of the Muslim states, so has a more America-like fertility rate. The key will be for it to stay Muslim enough to maintain it around 2.0 and then start boosting oit back up over replacement level and reforming Islam will aid that effort.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 8:42 AM


Why the preoccupation with population and the damning of any population not growing and the praising of those that do?

Economic growth is only really necessary if the population under it is growing and besides productivity increases are not going away so an economy may grow even without more bodies.

I think it just as likely that poplations all over stop growing.

Posted by: Perry at October 31, 2005 8:55 AM

Are you seriously claiming that Tunisia is less religious than France?

Posted by: Anon at October 31, 2005 9:36 AM

BTW, France also has a higher TFR than the Shiite society of Iran you are always praising (1.85 to 1.82)

Posted by: Anon at October 31, 2005 9:46 AM

Of course it does, they're Muslim children being born there. 3/4ths of Europe's population growth this past year was children of immigrants.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 9:50 AM


Because a society that doesn't have children has given up.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 9:53 AM

OJ, you really should take the time and read this essay on Muslim fertility rates in France:


From the essay:

There isnít any more reason to assume that French Muslim fertility rates will remain above replacement rate, after all, than there was to expect Western fertility rates to remain above replacement level. If anything, quite conceivably Maghrebin fertility rates could fall far below replacement levels. Societies with a certain minimal level of female autonomy, fairly low living standards, and access to contraceptive technologies can have rather low birth rates despite being generally conservative...

By 1976, the number of immigrants was estimated at 3,700,000 or 7% of the total population. Of this total, Portuguese immigrants accounted for 22%, Algerian for 21%, Spanish for 15%, Italian for 13%, Moroccan for 8%, Tunisian for 4%, Turkish for 1.5%, and black African for 2.3% (figures from the 1975 census). Most of these immigrants were adults, men who had been selected (their mortality rate was well below the French average). The immigrant birth rate was high: immigrants from the three North African countries had an average of 5 to 6 children per woman, Portuguese 3.3, Spanish 2.5, Italian 2. 'On average in 1975, this indicator [the fertility rate] was 3.32 for all immigrants, as against 1.84 for the French and 1.93 for the whole population resident in France.' But once the immigrants have settled in France, their fertility rate, wherever measurement is possible, tends to 'fall in parallel' to the indigenous French fertility rate....

As in 1990, foreigners living in France in 1999 have on average three children. The Spanish and Italians have fewer children than Frenchwoman, and Africans remain the most fertile. The older the immigration, the closer the behaviour of the foreigners is close to that of Frenchwomen. Like the French, the foreigners become mothers later than before. The schedule of births of Algerians and Moroccans, already close to that of Frenchwomen, has changed little. That of Tunisians approaches that of Frenchwomen.

In short, Muslims in France have a higher fertility rate than "native" French, AS DO ALL OTHER IMMIGRANT GROUPS, but their rate is falling faster and will soon be lower than that of France as a whole. Immigrant families of all ethnicities and religions, and in every society that they immigrate to, tend to have large families. But their childrin ALWAYS have smaller families, and their grand children even smaller families as the assimilate.

Muslims represent only 5% to %10 of the French population. For this small ethnic group to significantly impact France's overall TFR, Muslims would have to have 10 or more kids per family (do the math). That simply isn't happening.

The reason that Muslim immigrants to France have higher birth rates is that they are immigrants, not because they are Muslim.

And you have yet to explain why more religious societies like Tunisia have lower birth rates than more secular societies like France.

Posted by: Anon at October 31, 2005 10:12 AM

I was in Italy last month. There were plenty of native Italians with babies and kids. So what if the population is not growing or shrinking to a degree. The agrument you make only has merit if NOBODY is having kids which is far from the case.

I fear your rational is simply one of those "because God wants us to" proclamations.

I will only have one child, two at the most. My wife and I have not "given up" but yet those numbers are below replacement rate.

Posted by: Perry at October 31, 2005 10:13 AM

Then by your own definition OJ, Iran has "given up" since its TFR of 1.82 is lower than the required replacement rate of 2.1 for a steady population.

So how is it that deeply religious societies can "give up" as much as secular societies?

Posted by: Anon at October 31, 2005 10:15 AM

I'm pretty sceptical about the prospects of Arab nations and Iran reforming themselves.

Oil has let them lock themselves into pathological behaviour for far too long.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 31, 2005 10:18 AM


Yes, which is why they'll have to take in even more Muslim immigrants with their high rates.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 10:55 AM

You miss the point completely OJ (or are dodging it). There won't be anymore Muslim immigrants as the TFRs of Muslim countries continue to nosedive.

So how can deeply religious countries have lower birth rates than secular countries? According to your world view that shouldn't be possible.

Posted by: Anon at October 31, 2005 11:01 AM

It's not just religion, though that's key.

French Mulsims are the lower class, which always has higher birthrates.

Immigration is driven by job prospects -- natives won't do the jobs immigrants are brought in to do and the immigrants willing to take such jobs have higher birthrates than natives.

But American Christians have stabilized their birthrates at replacement level, Orthodox Jews are above, and there's ample reason to think that a Reformed and healthy Islam could too.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 11:16 AM

Something was left out of Spengler's piece: the non-Arab Islamic world, where some of the numbers are even less favorable (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia). Now, his prediction of societal breakdown is probably a bit overblown, but the difficulties with illiteracy, poverty, and violence will continue. And as local cultural 'customs' are wedded to their practice of Islam, the problems will spill over into the West for sure.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 31, 2005 11:41 AM

Define "healthy Islam".

Posted by: Anon at October 31, 2005 11:45 AM

According to US Census data, American Christians haven't increased their numbers nearly as much as American Non-religious (agnostics, atheists, etc.).



for data on "numerical growth in percentage terms" for each religious affiliation. Some examples:

No Religion + 105.7%
Total Christian + 5.3%
Catholics + 10.6%
Baptist - 0.4%
Mormons + 12.1%
Evangelicals + 326.4%

Now these changes are not all the result of high or low birth rates. For Evangelicals it includes converts, for Catholics it includes Hispanic immigration. Yet note that the non-religious category is hardly shrinking.

Posted by: Anon at October 31, 2005 12:01 PM

yes, those aethesists are known for their selfless love of children, except for the 30M they flushed down the drain over the last thirty plus years. people with love in their hearts are far far far more likely to have children than our leftist brethren.

anon you are mixing apples and dust; population percentages tell us nothing about birthrates. if i rent out a room to a stranger, the number of people in my house has gone up, but the birthrate has not.

Posted by: cupid at October 31, 2005 12:31 PM


Because Islam is currently just as disordered as secular rationalism, producing societies where people hate themselves. Who would bring a child into such awful societies?

The point is that we can reform Islam along Judeo-Christian lines and make it healthy again. Secularism can not be reformed but must be abandoned or is doomed.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 12:52 PM

Cupid, setting aside for now your claim that atheists are incapable of loving children, I'd like to note that your room renter's analogy is a better description of Catholics (growth from Hispanic immigrants) and Evangelicals (growth from converts).

So unless you know of a massive immigration of atheists or a successful mass conversion to non-belief, the data does not support the claim that non-religious people are failing to breed.

Posted by: Anon at October 31, 2005 1:59 PM

What is so awful about a secular society that it precludes bearing children (specifics please)?

Posted by: Anon at October 31, 2005 2:00 PM

is San Francisco a religous city ? does it have lots of children ?

replace with any other leftist enclave, and the answers are unchanged.

Posted by: cupid at October 31, 2005 2:49 PM


Please note that leftist != gay (as your use of SF as an example seems to imply).

Also note that urban area throughout history have always filled more graves than cribs each year. That is true of ancient Rome, Alexandria and Babylon as it is of modern New York, SF, Tokyo, etc. Cities have always required fresh inflows of peasants from the surrounding countryside or immigrants from abroad to maintain their populations.

This goes a long way to explain why Japan and Europe have experienced lower birth rates: they are urbanized to a degree never before seen in history. It's expensive to raise a family in an urban setting. And yes, levels of religious devotion tend to fall in cosmopolitan urban areas compared to more insular rural enclaves but that's an effect - not a cause.

Now then, please go back and try to explain the +105.7% increase in non-religious Americans in the absence of immigration or conversion. If childlessness was the inescapable doom of seculars, then that number should be falling, yes?

Posted by: Anon at October 31, 2005 3:23 PM


Yes, secular areas are declining. Not the changes in the Electoral College have all benefited the Red Areas.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 3:41 PM


Emphasis on the self to the exclusion of all else.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 3:50 PM

Yes, URBAN areas are declining. Note the changes in the Electoral College have all benefited the RURAL Areas.

Posted by: Anon at October 31, 2005 3:55 PM


You're overemphasizing no religion -- in a society where 95% believe in God the fact they aren't adherents of a particular sect makes no difference.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 3:56 PM

Emphasis on the self to the exclusion of all else.

That's not leftist secularism, that's libertarianism (a key component of the GOP conservative coalition).

Posted by: Anon at October 31, 2005 3:56 PM

Libertarians are secular rationalists.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 4:02 PM

Texas and Florida aren't Kansas.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 4:04 PM

interesting that you immediately assume (no pun intended) that i used s.f. because of some gay connotations, but (no pun intended) i can assure you (no pun intended) that i meant it strictly as an example of a mostly godless city with very few children.

if the overall population is going up, then all demographic groups will increase. note that non-religous group is only increasing at 1/3 the rate of the evangelical group; kind of shoots your theory down a bit.

Posted by: cupid at October 31, 2005 4:05 PM

Fertility rates in America are a function of faith vs reason:


Posted by: oj at October 31, 2005 4:16 PM

i would guess that even in the blue states it is not the "people of gore" that are having kids. maybe leftists sense a tipping point approaching far more rapidly than is commonly perceived, and that is why they are so manic.

Posted by: cupid at October 31, 2005 6:52 PM

Cupid, so what exactly is it about SF that makes it a godless city?

Note that if your theory about seculars failing to breed is true, their numbers should be declining even as teh overall population is increasing. So why is their growth rate 10 times that of Catholics (who get an additional benefit from Hispanic immigration)? Evangelical growht is easy to explain - conversion. So what accounts for secular growth?

Posted by: Anon at November 1, 2005 8:34 AM


Again, you're confused--they aren't secular, they list no religion, but most of them believe in God.

Posted by: oj at November 1, 2005 9:10 AM

"OJ wrote
Emphasis on the self to the exclusion of all else.

Anon wrote
That's not leftist secularism, that's libertarianism (a key component of the GOP conservative coalition)."

This is not fact just opinion. Libertarianism is reactionary.

Posted by: Perry at November 1, 2005 9:20 AM


a considerable number of catholics are
leaving mother rome, for evangelical
denominations. can i ask you a few
questions ?

Posted by: alfred kinsey at November 1, 2005 4:14 PM