LONDON – Donald Trump’s call to bar Muslims from the United States provoked the following exchange with two young friends of mine: “If the choice was between Muslim immigration and preserving liberal moral values,” I asked, “which would you choose?” They both denied the question’s premise. The immigrants themselves, they suggested, might have reactionary moral codes, but their children, growing up in today’s Britain, America, or Continental Europe, would be quite different. But is that true?
My question focused not on Islamist terrorism – the ostensible ground of Trump’s outburst – but on the threat posed by large-scale Muslim immigration to the code of morals that my young friends, like most educated Europeans, now accept without question. Terrorism aside, wouldn’t they worry if Islam came to have a growing influence on British law and politics?
This is not just a hypothetical possibility. The Muslim population in Europe was 44.1 million in 2010, or 6% of the total. There were 2.7 million Muslims in the United Kingdom in 2011 (4.8% of the population), up from 1.6 million in 2001. Given recent immigration trends and, more important, Muslims’ above-average fertility rate (three children per family versus the British average of 1.8), the Muslim share of the UK population is bound to grow for decades to come.
Much of Europe is on the same demographic trajectory. Of course, demographics is not an exact science: Much depends on assumptions about age profiles, standards of living, inequality, and so on, and sooner or later the Muslim fertility rate will converge with the national average. But by then the Muslim population will have expanded rapidly – to 10-20% of the total in the UK. The interesting question concerns the consequences of this.