The Future Presence of Islam in Europe
As of 2016, there were over 25 million Muslims estimated to be living in Europe. Spread over the entire continent this results in an average of 4.9% of Muslims. The total population lies around 500 million. However, the 4.9% is not spread evenly. France is currently on 8.8%, while Poland has less than 0.1% of Muslims compared to their populations. Moreover, the Muslims in Poland are likely to belong to the native Tatar population that has lived there for many centuries. On the other hand, the Muslims in France originate primarily from territories that used to be French colonies and arrived in large numbers since the end of World War 2. Since the end of the war we have seen a growing Muslim population in Europe.
We will discuss the predictions from Pew Research regarding the growing Muslim population, from zero migration to high migration. What are the consequences?
The Current Map
Right now Bulgaria, France and Sweden form the three countries with highest degrees of Muslim populations. Bulgaria can be explained by its past under Ottoman occupation. The Ottomans made it appealing for the aristocracy to convert to enable them to maintain positions of authority. Additionally, landowners would frequently convert to Islam to ensure they were allowed to keep their lands.
Stories of forced conversion with execution as alternative are common, but unproven. The high presence of Islam in Bulgaria is different from the high rates in Western Europe. Rather than having a century-old history behind them, they have risen suddenly and sharply since the end of World War 2.
The United Kingdom has received migrants primarily from its previous colonies, notably India and Pakistan. Although through the commonwealth Canada and Australia can migrate fairly easily as well, it is much less tempting for them as the difference in wealth between those countries is negligible.
Immigrants in France also arrive from the former colonies, in France’s case these are primarily located in Africa. Algeria, Morocco and Sub-Saharan Africa are notable sources of immigrants.
A Brief Note On The Data
Note that these scenarios consider the area of the European Union plus Switzerland and Norway. This means that countries like Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia and the Ukraine are excluded. The Muslims living in these countries are not included in the total Muslim population in Europe.
Moreover, the asylum seekers that are not expected to remain in Europe are excluded from the totals. This may be questionable as a very low percentage of asylum seekers is actually returned, while many that are rejected end up staying illegally. These excluded asylum seekers amount to 320.000 for Germany and 140.000 for Spain.
New Situation – Zero Migration
Pew Research has considered three scenarios. One with zero migration, one with medium migration and one with high migration. Zero migration may be considered the least likely, as it would require a drastic change of policy in the European Union. So far the European Union seems to be elated by the presence of migration and creating a diverse multicultural region.
Even without any migration we see the European average increase to 7.4%. The total amount of Muslims would increase from 25 to 35 million. It is worth noting here that despite the lack of fertility by native Europeans, which results in a shrinking population – the Muslim population has a fertility rate higher than the replacement rate and shows a growth in population size.
New Situation – Medium Migration
Besides natural population growth, this scenario includes a continuation of a constant flow of migrants into Europe. In this scenario Sweden will rise to 20% of Muslims. Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom would all have Muslim populations of over 10%.
There is a very clear distinction between Western Europe and Eastern Europe. Obviously the wealth of the West is more attractive than the relative poverty of the former Soviet area. This scenario shows a European average of 11.2% with nearly 60 million Muslims spread over the continent.
New Situation – High Migration
The Muslim population in this scenario would rise to 75 million, forming a minority of 14%. Sweden still leads the way with 30%, putting it closely behind modern-day Ethiopia. Similar to the previous scenarios, the Muslims are clustered around Western Europe. Considering the fragmented level of politics in Europe, voting blocs of 20-30% could start having a serious impact.
Population Changes – A Growing Muslim Population
The table below highlights the lack of fertility from native Europeans compared to Muslims. Even without any migration, on a long enough timeline the native European population will disappear and be replaced by a Muslim population. That is, of course, assuming fertility rates will stay the same over the centuries that this will take. Which is, frankly, a highly unlikely scenario.
Nonetheless, we see that nearly half of the increases in the Muslim population originate not from migration, but from a birth surplus. Three million are from births, while three and a half million are from migration.
The other change is from those Muslims that reject Islam. Keeping in mind that this is crime punishable by death in Islam, we may be surprised to see 160.000 take this chance. Nonetheless, 160.000 over a six year period on a population of 25 million does not make any noticeable change. Especially when we remember the increases from births and migration.
The Voting Bloc
When confronted with predictions such as these, many readers shrug their shoulders. Some readers will feel a certain relief. After all, it shows that even in the high migration scenario, the Muslims will be a minority.
Yes, they would be a minority indeed.
However, politics across Europe are fragmented. New parties arise, and old parties compete heavily for a stable voter base. Having a bloc of 15-30% in your country that shares a certain ideology that you can appeal to, becomes a very interesting tactic. The Muslims in Europe certainly would be in no place to grab control, but there is a real risk of them swinging elections in their favour. In case you are not concerned about that happening, have a look at the views of British Muslims.
Islam, in Europe, could become the deciding factor in future elections. Winning an election after antagonizing a voting bloc of 20% would be challenging to say the least.