It is a frightening vision of future Europe, the logic of which Canadians would be wise to monitor.
It goes like this: The population of Europe will be 40-per-cent Muslim by 2020.
Due to high immigration and birthrates, the forewarning declares, Muslims from the Middle East and Africa will soon dominate much, if not all, of European politics, education and the courts.
Some prophets warn Muslims in Europe will impose shariah law on everyone -- banning homosexual relationships, forcing all women to wear headscarves and allowing men (not women) to be polygamous. The continent might as well become known as "Eurasia."
It's a disturbing vision.
Is there anything to it?
- Will hundreds of millions of Muslims soon take over Europe, demographically?
- If they do, would they impose conservative moral values on non-Muslims?
The two questions come to mind as many of the world's one billion Muslims prepare for the holy month of Ramadan on Aug. 22.
Many people, including Canadians, fear Muslims from the developing world are determined to some day dominate Europe and North America.
In response to recent postings about Islam on my blog, The Search, many people have written comments to alert others to how Muslims are manipulating the soft immigration policies of Canada so they can move here and "outbreed us."
A vociferous minority of commentators claimed "sleeper cells" of Muslim immigrants are bent on forced conversion of Western "infidels." Said one commentator: "They will extinguish all our rights and freedoms."
It all had me reflecting on my trips in the past decade to Europe, where I have seen the good, bad and indifferent aspects of Muslim immigration.
I've seen the heavily armed soldiers guarding train stations, ostensibly to guard against Muslim terrorism. I've seen the pickpockets whose families immigrated from Muslim-majority countries, felt the sometimes subtle tension around headscarfs and walked neighbourhoods where (often-low-income) Muslims live in self-imposed enclaves.
I've also met warm-hearted Muslims who go out of their way to help a traveller, visited the French government museum devoted to Arabian culture, ate in racially mixed company in the continent's many Middle Eastern restaurants, celebrated with millions the genius of French-Algerian-Muslim-born soccer player, Zinedine Zidane, and noticed the vast majority of Europeans (especially outside major cities) are still white.
But what about the demographic trends? Could Muslims, as a result of immigration and higher birthrates, make up two out five Europeans by 2020?
Princeton University professor Charles Westoff and Max Planck Institute researcher Tomas Frejka start with a simple reality check: Only about four per cent of Europe's population is now "Muslim."
The demographers add that four out of five of those European "Muslims" are not religiously observant.
They go on to say it's possible that the "Muslim" percentage of Europe's population could rise to six per cent by 2020. If current immigration and birth rates remain the same, Westoff and Frejka say the percentage of Muslims in Europe could rise to 10 per cent -- a century from now.
Then again, the demographers say, even these scenarios are unlikely. Europe's Muslim population probably won't rise to one out of 10, ever. That's because "Muslim" women don't have more babies than other women under the same circumstances.
Even though women from Muslim-majority countries in Africa and Asia have in the past had more children on average than European and North American women, their fertility rate drops dramatically after they move to industrialized countries.
The work of Westoff and Frejka, plus the related research of a Canadian named Randy McDonald, makes the second question almost entirely theoretical. But it's still interesting.
If they could have their way, would most Muslims try to impose their religious values on Western democracies?
Moderate Muslims are increasingly becoming influential in Europe and North America. I have interviewed Muslim leaders in the Netherlands, such as Turkish immigrant Haci Kraceur, who was encouraging Muslim immigrants to fully embrace the Dutch approach to religious freedom and free speech.
Kraceur's organization, called Milli Gorus or National Vision, was calling on Dutch Muslims to avoid living in all-Muslim neighbourhoods and to open up the country's 400 mosques to everyone with cafes, bakeries and Turkish massage parlours.
I've also talked to the influential European Muslim intellectual, Tariq Ramadan. He's calling on Muslims everywhere to be more "self-critical," while urging Christians, Jews, secularists and others in Europe and North America to resist the temptation to make Muslims the new enemy.
Ramadan, a gracious man and subtle thinker, was recently asked a tough question by a Dutch interviewer: Would Muslim leaders want to ban homosexuality if they ever became a majority in parts of Europe?
Ramadan maintained Muslims don't want to "silently colonize" Europe. As beneficiaries of multiculturalism and human rights, most Muslims, he said, want to respect over-riding Western values, which include tolerating homosexual relationships.
Asked if it's enough to "respect" homosexuals while still considering what they do "unnatural" and against the teachings of Islam, Ramadan said a person doesn't have to applaud someone's choices to respect them.
In much the same way that Muslims can respect non-Muslims who drink alcohol (which is banned in Islam), Ramadan said Muslims can also respect homosexuals.
In Canada, the number of Muslims is growing fast through immigration. But Muslims still make up only two per cent of the Canadian population.
Like Canadians with Buddhist, Jewish, Christian or Sikh backgrounds, the Canadian Muslims I have met are a mixed bag when it comes to how seriously they follow their religion. Many Canadian Muslims are basically "non-practising Muslims," like France's Zinedine Zidane.
However, I have talked to many devout Metro Vancouver Muslims, including young people. The teenagers I met are, like many Muslims, left-wing about economic issues, but morally conservative about sex outside marriage, homosexuality and drinking.
They both celebrate and criticize North America's libertarian culture. I was glad they attended public universities and public high schools (even though many others attend separate Muslim schools, which raises legitimate questions).
The Muslim teenagers I met interacted with Canadians from all ethnicities and walks of life. They did so especially through sports teams. Perhaps most important of all, the Muslim teens deeply appreciated the freedom they have in Canada. Most said either they or their parents come from countries in the Middle East and Asia where free speech and association is not at all a given. They were grateful to be in a democratic country.
Unless I was blind to how the seemingly wholesome Canadian teenagers secretly belonged to a "sleeper cell" of Muslim extremists bent on dominating the West, they gave no hint they would ever want to impose Muslim teachings on all Canadians -- because that would contravene the human rights they so cherish.