Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Facts don't back western fears about Muslim immigration

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In a western world scarred by memories of 9/11 and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, fears of Muslim immigration may seem rational.

Will Muslim immigration to North America and Europe create a Muslim-dominated western world, bidding goodbye to its Judeo-Christian heritage?

Canadian journalist Doug Saunders says no, and he packs The Myth of the Muslim Tide with statistics to support his point.

Using an exhaustive supply of numbers, trends and comparative history in a slim book, Saunders makes a strong case for his arguments, which are meant to challenge those alarmists who think Islam will eventually dominate Europe and North America.

The London-based Saunders is the European bureau chief for the Globe and Mail. He won plaudits for his 2011 book, Arrival City, about the worldwide movement of populations from rural to urban centres.

In Muslim Tide presents the concept of "Eurabia," a term used by those who fear Europe is headed for a Muslim-dominated future owing to immigration, high birthrates among Muslim immigrants and a weak and ineffectual European population that's lost its nerve.

Furthermore, subscribers to the Eurabia theory believe some western Muslims are prone to religious extremism, terrorism and are likely not to side with the West in any conflicts with the Islamic world.

Among these "Eurabists" are writers such as American Bruce Bawer, Britons Gisele Littman (pen name Bat Ye'or) and Melanie Phillips and Canadian Mark Steyn.

These writers are peaceful and their only weapons are their words. But Saunders shows how disastrous such beliefs can become when someone like Norway's Anders Behring Breivik turns to violence, resulting in the death and injury of dozens.

In response, Saunders points to the numbers. Using statistics, he demolishes a series of widespread beliefs:

-- Birthrates among Muslim immigrants to the West aren't much different than non-Muslims and they drop even further in subsequent generations.

-- Muslims do not make up a growing percentage of immigrants to the West.

-- Muslim immigrants are not more loyal to their religion or homeland than their adopted lands.

-- Muslims do not desire to segregate themselves from other groups any more than do non-Muslim immigrants. Rather, they seek to take part in the new societies they join but like all new immigrants, face language difficulties, discrimination and poverty.

-- Muslim immigrants are not more prone to religious extremism or fundamentalism than others.

-- Muslim immigrants are not more prone to terrorism or violence and they are not seeking to impose Sharia law on the Judeo-Christian population of Europe and North America.

Following his exhaustive analysis of numbers, Saunders compares modern fears of Muslim immigration to the fears felt in the past towards Catholic and Jewish immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially in the U.S., where many respected establishment thinkers and leaders once viewed Catholics as dangerous religious fanatics prone to fascism and of questionable loyalty to their adopted nations. (It took the election of John F. Kennedy to banish fear of Catholics in the U.S.)

The prejudice toward Jewish immigrants in North America is well-documented, and the Holocaust in Europe is forever a badge of shame for humanity.

So what does Saunders recommend? It's simple: Stop fearing the creation of a future Eurabia or Sharia legal system in the West. Like previous immigrants, Muslims will integrate into the western way of life and accept religious, cultural and political pluralism.

The overall western culture will change, yes, but Saunders writes that culture is forever changing and it is nothing to worry about.

Are there concerns regarding Muslim immigration? Yes, Saunders writes, but nothing the western world can't handle, provided we open our minds, banish our irrational fears and ensure Muslims are able to play a full and equal role in the political, economic and social realms of western nations.

Will people like Steyn be convinced or comforted by Saunders' book? It's doubtful. Saunders' statistics and historical analysis present strong evidence but don't guarantee the future. Undoubtedly, "Eurabists" will try to poke holes in his arguments.

Still, for anyone worried about the future of western civilization owing to Muslim immigration, Saunders' book should prove soothing. There is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Greg Lockert is a Free Press copy editor and Faith page editor.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2012 J5

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