At the very outset, it is important to accept that immigration (read: Islamic immigration) is a serious political, economic, and demographic issue and not a communal one. Academic debates centering around Islamophobia and xenophobia have done more harm than good! In fact, it is more about saving a community’s cultural and civilisational pride, and not simply its religious identity. It is a stark political and socio-economic reality that is now threatening to tear apart those same societies that had once stood up as the upholders of the ideals of multiculturalism and the world as a global village of melting-pot societies!
On October 2, 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron had introduced a bill to defend France’s secular values against what he referred to as ‘Islamic separatism’. He proclaimed that the bill intends to check the influence and spread of radical Islam in the country and also help develop what he called an ‘Islam of France’ that is compatible with the nation’s republican ethos and way of life. With the aim of ending the role of any form of religion and religious practices in the sphere of public education and employment in France, President Macron, in a long-awaited speech on the subject, also said that the negative influence of Islamism must be eradicated from all public institutions. Reportedly, the law will also check the proliferation of ‘unregistered’ educational institutions, which are based on a curriculum that is completely different from what is followed at the national level.
The measures include imposing stringent limits on home-schooling and increasing the scrutiny of religious schools/madarsas, besides ensuring that all those organisations which solicit public funds sign a ‘Charter of Secularism’. While these measures would be applicable to all communities across France, they are primarily targeted at the radical and extremist elements of Islam responsible for sowing the seeds of indoctrination among Muslims. He further stated that the importance of these measures needs to be understood in the context of improving the ability of the French citizens to live together in a state of peace and harmony by eradicating the ill-effects of Islam, amid increasing fears of terrorist attacks that the country has been a witness to in the recent years. Macron also announced additional funding for the country’s education and justice ministries in order to “ensure a Republican presence in every road, every building.”
The working class suburbs or banlieues that encircle most of the major cities of France have become fertile recruiting grounds for Islamist terrorist groups in the recent times. In fact, France was one of the West’s biggest hotbeds of ISIS militants when the terror group used to control large areas across Iraq and northern Syria. Hundreds of French nationals travelled to ISIS territory, many also bringing along with them their own children. Others have mounted terrorist attacks in France leading to the death of around 250 people over the past five years. In one of the latest incidents, two people were critically injured in a knife attack near the former office of the satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ in Paris. The suspect, an 18-year old Pakistani immigrant named Ali Hassan aka Zaheer Hassan Mehmood, later told the police that he was avenging the magazine’s re-publication of the cartoons on Prophet Muhammad, that had earlier prompted a deadly attack against its staff in 2015.
It may be mentioned here that the position of Islam and Muslims, as a religious community, within the socio-political system of France, is centrally conditioned by the French concept of secularism popularly known as the laicite. This was determined as per the law of December 9, 1905 concerning the strict separation of the Church from the state and vice-versa. It rejects any references of national, racial, ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities, and is based on the idea of the state that interacts only with the individual and not any groups/communities with the objective of providing equal treatment to everyone. In the Western concept of secularism as practised in the European context, “absolute equality” is perceived as the best way to ensure the full-fledged integration of all citizens with the state, that would benefit both the state and the citizens alike.
Well, coming back to the Bill introduced by Macron, it permits people to belong to any faith of their choosing, but prohibits the outward display of any forms of religious identity in the public (e.g. wearing of the hijab by Muslim women), including in educational institutions. This has led to a serious backlash among Islamists as they believe that Macron’s views have been aimed at further emboldening the far-right groups, and threatening the lives of Muslim students by calling for drastic restrictions on home-schooling, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. A wide majority of the Muslims are of the opinion that such a law, if implemented, would take away their right to leading a normal life and practising their faith without any undue pressure. They have consistently denounced these laws, describing them as going against the precepts of the Quran.
Macron’s speech was reflective of a much deep-rooted problem that the French society, in fact, almost the entire European continent for that matter, is constantly having to deal with – the enduring difficulty of integrating the Muslim population of immigrants and their descendants. This is likely to further exacerbate the already existing tensions in France because of the increasing ideological radicalisation among Muslim youth. The law, to be formally presented in December, will primarily crack down on the foreign influences in French Muslim communities. It will allow the state to monitor the different sources of funding that French mosques receive from abroad, introduce a certificate programme for French imams and put a complete ban on home-schooling of children. The new law will also empower central government representatives to overturn decisions by mayors that promote gender-based segregation in cafeterias and swimming pools. There has been a drastic increase in the number of madarsas and segregated swimming pools in France over the past few years.
According to the Washington-based Pew Research Center, the Muslim population in Europe (excluding Turkey) was about 30 million in 1990, and 44 million in 2010. In terms of percentage share, it had increased from 4.1% in 1990 to 6% in 2010. Besides Germany, the Muslim population of France is one among the largest in entire Europe. It is home to around 5 million Muslims, constituting 5-8% of the population here. As of 2007, the fertility rate in France was 1.8; England 1.6; both Greece and Germany stood at 1.3; Italy 1.2; and, Spain 1.1. Across the entire European Union of 27 countries, the fertility rate stands at a mere 1.38. Historical research tells us that these numbers are impossible to reverse and in a matter of a few years, Europe as we know it, would cease to exist! Yet, the population of Europe is not declining, thanks to Islamic immigration and the accompanying demographic change.
Of all the population growth in Europe since 1990, 90% has been attributed to Islamic immigration, overwhelmingly. E.g. whereas the French are estimated to be having 1.8 children per family, Muslims, on an average, have 8.1 children per family. The expansionist nature of Islam has been starkly visible in Southern France, which is traditionally one of the regions in the world that is densely populated with Churches; however, a rapid mushrooming of mosques has taken place here in the recent years, so much so that there are now more mosques than Churches in this entire region of Southern France. In 2006, a Spanish weekly Alba was quoted as saying – “Immigration in France has led to a strong growth in the building of mosques and evangelical places of worship, which has been paralleled by the decrease in Catholic Churches. France now has more than 1,500 mosques, almost as many as existing in Istanbul, Turkey.” The article titled “Muslim Boom in France: More Mosques, Fewer Churches”, drew attention to the increasing Islamisation of Europe with France, which is historically considered to be “the eldest daughter of the Church”, leading the way.
Today, in France, 30% of the children aged 20 years and younger are Muslims. In the larger cities such as Paris, Nice and Marseilles, that number has grown even more to 45%. As per estimated data, by 2027, 1 in every 5 Frenchmen will be Muslim. In this way, France will become an Islamic Republic within just a period of 39 years. In the last 30-40 years, the Muslim population of Great Britain rose from 82,000 to over a 30 fold increase of 2.5 million! Currently, there are over 1,000 mosques throughout Britain, and many of them are former Churches. Brexit laid bare the hypocrisy of the liberal claim that all civilisations are tolerant and the world is a global village that celebrates the ideals of secularism and multiculturalism. A gruesome reality has now come to challenge all these fancy academic discussions that centre around liberal values. Britain passionately voted out of the EU with hatred against the state of affairs that it was going through, signalling a perceptible shift in the political discourse of Europe with respect to migration and the state of migrants.
In the Scandinavian nation of the Netherlands, 50% of all newborns are Muslims, and it has been postulated that within just a period of 15 years, almost half of the population of the Netherlands will be Muslim. Today, Islam is the second-largest religion in the Netherlands after Christianity, as per 2018 estimates. Majority of the Muslims here belong to the Sunni denomination and reside in the country’s four major cities – Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht. It needs to be mentioned here that the Netherlands developed from a relatively very tolerant polity dominated by the Calvinist Church to a ‘pillarised’ society, in which the Rome-Reformation divide (which also had a strong geographical dimension) was gradually institutionalised in the political system. It was after the 1960s that a very strong undercurrent of ‘secularisation’ put this ‘pillarised’ system under severe strain. But, the remnants of this system offered a huge opportunity that eventually became favourable for religious newcomers (Muslims in particular), who could establish their mosques and madarsas relatively easily.
Even in a zero migration scenario, the Muslim population in Europe is still expected to rise from the current level of 4.9% to 7.4% by the year 2050. This is also because of the fact that Muslims are younger and have higher fertility rates as compared to other Europeans. Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya famously said in a video that was telecast by Al-Jazeera TV way back in April, 2006 – “There are signs that Allah will grant victory to Islam in Europe without swords, without guns, without military conquest. We don’t need terrorists, we don’t need homicide bombers. The 50+ million Muslims [in Europe] will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades.” He went on to claim that Muhammad is the Prophet of all the people in the world from Europe to the Americas and Asia and Africa, and that he superseded all previous religions on the earth. He continued further on the same note – “Europe is in a predicament, and so is America. They should agree to become Islamic in the course of time, or else declare war on the Muslims.”
Keeping aside all the “liberal-secular” talk of minority rights, Islam is now the fastest growing religion across the world. Even if we rule out any future migration, the Muslim population is projected to increase as a share of the entire population of Europe. The sooner we accept this fact, the better it is. The American continent has also not been far behind. For instance, Canada’s population increased by 1.6 million between the period 2001-2006, with 1.2 million being attributed to Islamic immigration alone. In the USA, the current fertility rate of American citizens is 1.6; with the influx of the Latino nations, the rate increases to 2.11, a bare minimum required to sustain a culture. In 1970, there were 100,000 Muslims in America. In 2008, this number increased to over 9,000,000! In fact, the issue of migration has become one of the major emotional concerns of American citizens, impacting the outcome of its presidential elections too.
The world is changing, both demographically and culturally, and it is changing too fast.
The question of Islamic immigration has wreaked havoc on the politics, society and culture of the West, which is today seriously grappling with the problem of an altered demographic profile of their countries, besides increasing crime rates and terror attacks. Unlike in the times of Mahmud of Ghazni or Muhammad Ghori, it is no longer a war of swords, but has become a demographic war of numbers. The demon is right at our doorsteps. It’s time to shed all our political correctness and acknowledge the problem the way it exists. Immigration is no longer an issue that is propelled by the logic of economics. Trying to understand it from the economic perspective alone means overlooking the real concerns of national security that is today confronting countries and nations. Only when we honestly accept this fact, a non-judgemental and non-prejudiced discussion, bereft of any ideological moorings, can be initiated on this problem.
- Houssain Kettani. Muslim Population in Europe: 1950-2020. International Journal of Environmental Science and Development, Vol. 1, No. 2. ISSN: 2010-0264.
- “Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population”, published by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Pew Research Center, October 2009.
- “Nearly as Many Muslims as Calvinists in the Netherlands”, Web Magazine, Statistics Netherlands, November 18, 2002.
- Muammar Gaddafi 2006 – “Islam Will Conquer Europe Without Firing A Shot”. https://youtu.be/WCGYKSEsYFM
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