Ever wondered what will be the birth rate of Muslims in 2030? The largest Muslim country in Africa in 15 years? Or the Muslim majority country with the lowest number of people living below the poverty line? Neither have I.
At first they may seem like trivia questions, but on further thought, the answers can be used to fuel paranoia or promote progress.
The other day I was invited to a swanky gathering to reveal the results of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life study on “The Future of the Global Muslim Population.”
I went because a colleague was going to speak afterwards about what the projections of the study mean to him, and I like to support colleagues. But the part of me that probably would have excelled at statistics if I hadn’t thought math wasn’t for girls loved the all the pie charts and graphs.
Average birth rate in Muslim countries in 2030? Down from 4.3 per woman in the 1990s to 2.9 today and 2.1 in 2030. Largest Muslim country in Africa in 2030? Move aside Egypt. It will be Nigeria. Muslim majority country with the lowest number of people living below poverty line? Even before the revolution, viva Tunisia. The Gulf countries were not included in this study, perhaps because they don’t have a poverty line, or at least not one that anyone sees. EuroArabia fears in western Europe? Fear not—the largest expected Muslim population will be France, and it will not exceed 10 percent.
As for the speakers who came on to explain the implications of this study, my friend, Amir Al Islam talked about Islam in America not being an immigrant religion anymore than Christianity or any other religion because one of its largest cohorts in the US is converts. The other speaker, also an American, attributed the US’s woes to its massive consumerism and praised the Muslim world for not having gone down that path. He said this with a straight face as we sat under crystal chandeliers at the Shangri La Hotel while valets outside parked Bentleys and Porches. You don’t have that consumerism in Bemidji, Minnesota, USA, and you don’t have it in Khandar, Afghanistan, Muslim World.
My pontification? There are no universal pontifications that can be made about Muslim world, anymore than I can compare Beverly Hills to Bemidji. Sure there are commonalities, but it is a world as diverse as its reach.