The Mainstream Media Finally Notices the Muslim Population Implosion But Still Doesn't Get It


The mainstream media has finally noticed the fertility implosion in the Muslim world, the title of David Brooks’ column today in the New York Times. Brooks bases his peroration on a thin paper by Nicholas Eberstadt and Apoorva Shah at the American Enterprise Institute, “Fertility Decline in the Muslim World; A Veritable Sea-Change, Still Curiously Unnoticed.”  What is curious, on the contrary, is that Eberstadt and Brooks didn’t notice it; in fact, the academic demographers have been all over this for years, as have the leaders of Iran and Turkey. One doesn’t need to dig into obscure Shi’ite theology to explain the apocalyptic mood of Iran’s leaders. They are aware that their civilization is falling apart and say so in public.


As I quoted Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in my book, How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too)

On September 10, 2010, the Iranian president declared during a meeting with officials in Alborz province, “Two children” is a formula for the extinction of a nation, not the survival of a nation . . .   The most recent data showing that there are only 18 children for every 10 Iranian couples should raise an alarm among the present generation  . . . .  This is what is wrong with the West. Negative population growth will cause the extinction of our identity and culture. The fact that we have accepted this places us on the wrong path. To want to consume more rather than having children is an act of genocide.

“They want to eradicate the Turkish nation,”Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan averred in 2008. “That’s exactly what they want to do!” The “they” to whom Erdogan referred in his speech to a women’s audience in the provincial town ofUsakmeans whoever is persuading Turkish women to stop bearing children. Turkeyis in a demographic trap. Its birth rate has fallen, and its population is aging almost as fast asIran’s. Speaking as a “worried brother” to his “dear sisters,” Erdogan implored his audience, “In order that our people may remain young, you should have at least three children.” No one listened. “Erdogan asked women to have three children, and demand for contraceptives went up,” sniffed a prominent Turkish academic. Behind the fertility data, Erdogan sees nothing less than a conspiracy to destroyTurkey.  “If we continue the existing trend, 2038 will mark disaster for us,” he warned in May 2010.

The implications of the demographic collapse, properly understood, are that the United States can’t live out the Wilsonian rescue fantasy of exporting democracy to the Muslim world. I explained why seven years ago in an Asia Times Online essay, reproduced below.  The obtuseness of the mainstream media (as well as parts of the conservative establishment) is willful and self-induced.
As I reported in 2005, literacy explains most of the variation in fertility among Muslim countries. Since then, Wolfgang Lutz of the Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, one of the world’s most prominent demographers, showed in a 2008 study, “Education and the World’s Most Rapid Fertility Decline in Iran,” demonstrated that educational differentials explain the fertility collapse in Iran. I reviewed Lutz’ work and other academic research pointing to the same conclusion in my book.
Education is a proxy for modernity. This result has tremendous implications: It shows that Muslim countries (at least most Muslim countries) cannot make their way out of the backwardness of traditional society, for the cure is toxic to the social fabric. As soon as Muslim girls escape the stifling embrace of the traditional Muslim family, with its wife-beating, genital mutilation, honor killings and related forms of disintegration, they turn their backs on the family altogether. They shift directly from pre-modern tribalism to post-modern infertility and anomie. In short, the Muslim world cannot be fixed by nation-building, liberal democracy, and other Utopian gadgetry.


The demographics of radical Islam
By Spengler

August 23, 2005

General staffs before World War I began war planning with demographic tables, calculating how many men of military age they might feed to the machine guns. France preferred an early war because its stagnant population would not produce enough soldiers a generation hence to fight Germany. Only Israel’s general staff looks at demographic tables today, to draw prospective boundaries that will enclose a future Jewish majority.

Demographics still provide vital strategic information, albeit in quite a different fashion. Today’s Islamists think like the French general staff in 1914. Islam has one generation in which to establish a global theocracy before hitting a demographic barrier. Islam has enough young men – the pool of unemployed Arabs is expected to reach 25 million by 2010 – to fight a war during the next 30 years. Because of mass migration to Western Europe, the worst of the war might be fought on European soil.

Although the Muslim birth rate today is the world’s second highest (after sub-Saharan Africa), it is falling faster than the birth rate of any other culture. By 2050, according to the latest UN projections, the population growth rate of the Muslim world willconverge on that of the United States (although it will be much higher than Europe’s or China’s).

Falling fertility measures the growing influence of modernity upon the Muslim world. Literacy rates, especially female literacy, best explain the difference between the very high fertility rates of pre-modern society and the moderate fertility rates of industrial countries, as I showed in a recent study (Death by secularism: The statistical evidence, August 1, 2005).


This is clearly the case in the Muslim world where the lowest rates of adult literacy correspond to the highest population growth rate. Literacy alone explains 58% of the variation in birth rates among Muslim countries.

Urbanization, literacy, and openness to the modern world ultimately will suppress the Muslim womb, in the absence of radical measures. In a new volume of essays on modern Islamic thought, the Islamists Suha Taji-Farouki and Basheer M Nafi observe, “Rather than being a development within cultural traditions that is internally generated, 20th century Islamic thought is constitutively responsive; it is substantially a reaction to extrinsic challenges.” [1] The challenge stems from the transformation of Muslim life:

In the Middle East of 1900, for example, less than 10% of the inhabitants were city dwellers; by 1980, 47% were urban. In 1800, Cairo had a population of 250,000, rising to 600,000 by the beginning of the 20th century. The unprecedented influx of immigrants from rural areas brought the population of Cairo to almost 8 million by 1980. Massive urbanization altered patterns of living, of housing and architecture, of the human relation with space and land, of marketing, employment, and consumption, and the very structure of family and social hierarchy. [2]

The sharp fall in the Muslim population growth rate expresses the extreme fragility of traditional society. Translated into the Islamist vocabulary (citing again Taji-Farouki and Nafi), this means that:


A Muslim sense of vulnerability and outrage is further exacerbated by the seemingly unstoppable encroachment of American popular culture and modes of consumerism and the transparent hypocrisy of the American rhetoric of universal rights and liberties. It is also stoked by Western ambivalence towards economic disparities in the world. [3]

Rapid urbanization, to be sure, produced growing pains in every case on record. Britain transported its displaced population to America and then to Australia, including the “clearing” of entire Scots villages forced onto ships for Canada. But Britain’s urbanization coincided with rapid economic growth and improving living standards. The Arab world’s urbanization has only created a stagnant pool of urban poor. As the London Economist summarized in the United Nations Arab Development Report for 2002:

One in five Arabs still live on less than $2 a day. And over the past 20 years growth in income per head, at an annual rate of .5%, was lower than anywhere else in the world except sub-Saharan Africa. At this rate, says the report, it will take the average Arab 140 years to double his income, a target that some regions are set to reach in less than 10 years. Stagnant growth, together with a fast-rising population, means vanishing jobs. About 12 million people, or 15% of the labor force, are already unemployed, and on present trends the number could rise to 25 million by 2010. [4]

Excluding Indonesia, the Muslim’s world literacy rate stands at only 53%, against 81% for China; Arab literacy is only 50%. Only 1% of the population owns a personal computer. It is delusional to believe that the Arab world, which now exports (net of oil) as much as Finland, might come to compete with China, India and the rest of Asia in the global market for goods and services.


Just as the Muslim population peaks, the one bounty that nature has bestowed upon the Arabs, namely oil, will begin to diminish. According to the US Department of Energy, conventional oil production will peak just before 2050 at the present 2% rate of production growth.

In short, the Muslim world half a century from now can expect the short end of the stick from the modern world. It has generated only two great surpluses, namely people and oil. By the middle of the century both of these will have begun to dwindle. But at the moment it has 25 million idle young men. No leader can remain in power who does not give them a destination to march to.

By no means does that imply that all of these 25 million will become suicide bombers, but a great many of them are likely to emigrate to Europe, including Eastern Europe, where populations are stagnant and about to decline. A Muslim takeover of Western Europe surely is a possible outcome.

[1] Suha Taji-Farouki and Basheer M. Nafi, Islamic Thought in the Twentieth Century (Tauris: London 2004), p 9
[2] Ibid, p 2
[3] Op cit, p 14
[4] Economist, July 4, 2002


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