UK Muslim population of 26 million by 2051?
No-one but a fool engages in scaremongering. But using the statistics and analysis of the Muslim Council of Britain, there is a real prospect of a UK Muslim population of 26 million by mid-century. Whatever your politics, serious people need to debate this, sensibly and honestly. No problem there, right?
Could Muslims ever become a majority in Britain? It’s a question that divides people along a political Left-Right axis, with many on the Left denying Britain could ever become majority Muslim and those on the Right saying the country is, indeed, heading towards a Muslim majority.
Obviously, there is political ideology influencing opinion on the matter, with both sides accusing each other of advancing a political agenda; the Left in particular claiming that the Right are scare-mongering with the statistics.
And yet the question of Muslim demographics can and should be taken out of the political arena and looked at with whatever degree of accuracy the science of demographics can offer.
Consider the recent detailed study British Muslims in Numbers based on the 2011 census, undertaken by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).
This study revealed that Britain’s Muslim population (including Scotland and N. Ireland) increased from 1∙6 million in 2001 to almost 2∙8 million on census day 2011. That represents an almost seventy-five percent increase over a ten year period, an “unprecedented” population growth according to Prof David Voas of Essex University.
Such a growth rate may well be unprecedented for Britain, but it has not been that unusual for other parts of the Muslim world. The MCB study also stated that Britain’s Muslim population would continue growing “for many decades”.
That projection makes sense as the study also revealed that the number of Muslim children in the UK has almost doubled in the past decade. Almost ten percent of under-fives in England and Wales are Muslim, twice as high as in the general population.
Given that these figures relate to a statistically significant ten year period, it’s reasonable to conclude that those increasing percentage rates represent the future demographic make-up of Britain, with Muslims becoming a higher and higher percentage of the British population.
The reason for this is that the expanding Muslim population in Britain is only one side of Britain’s demographic story. The other side is that average British birth-rates at 1∙6 per female are below replacement level (2∙1 births per female). Muslim birth rates in Britain (even taking into account the social diversity of the Muslim population) are significantly higher than the non-replacement birth-rates of the wider British population.
It is this combination of falling average non-Muslim British birth rates and increasing Muslim birth rates that could well determine the future demographic picture of Britain.
Continuing immigration, not just birth rates, also contributes to Britain’s growing Muslim population. The immigration picture changes over time, but between 2001 to 2011 almost four million immigrants came to Britain, 30 percent from the EU, 70 percent from outside the EU, mainly from Africa and Asia.
Given such demographic facts, and accepting the MCB report that Britain’s Muslim population will continue to grow for many decades, it’s interesting to ask what the demographic picture of Britain will look like, for example by mid century.
Taking the growth figures of the MCB 2011 census report and considering just four ten year periods from that date, it would mean that by the year 2021 Britain’s Muslim population would reach roughly 4∙9 million. Again using the same growth model, by the year 2031, Britain’s Muslim population would be almost 8∙6 million.
8∙6 million Muslims in Britain is not a particularly difficult demographic situation to imagine. France, after all, according to one estimate, already has roughly 8 million Muslims, with other estimates putting it at over 10 million.
Britain’s Muslim population increasing by 5∙8 million to 8∙6 million in twenty years seems perfectly possible and reasonable.
Continuing with the same growth model, by 2041 Britain’s Muslim population would reach almost 15 million.
Now that’s a very significant increase, and one that many people today might find difficult to accept. And yet, given a base of 8∙6 million, with current birth rates and continuing immigration, an increase to 15 million in a ten year period is perfectly possible and not in any way unreasonable to expect.
Finally, by mid-century, 2051, the Muslim population of Britain would be almost 26 million.
Today in Britain, with a Muslim population of perhaps 3 million, a figure of 26 million in roughly forty years seems, for many people, almost impossible to imagine. But the difficulty here is more likely to be one of psychology rather than of demographic statistics.
Many people find it reasonably easy to accept a seventy-five percent increase from a relatively low base of 4∙9 million, but the same percentage increase from a higher base seems to create some sort of cognitive dissonance. Yet the reasoning is the same in both cases.
Yes, there are lies, damned lies and statistics, but using the available evidence is what people committed to reason are forced to do.
One can only speculate as to what percentage 26 million would be of the total population in 2051. With about ten million British people currently over the age of 65 (Muslims make up only 1∙2 percent of over 65s) and average British birth rates below replacement level, the number of Muslims in Britain by the year 2051 could be anything from forty to fifty percent.
It’s important to point out that the population projections made here are not mathematical certainties. They are reasoned arguments based on causal facts (a time series) that are reasonably expected to continue into the future. It’s precisely on this point that objections are often made to the above calculations.
The main objection is usually the claim that British Muslim birth rates, like birth rates all over the world, will eventually hit “demographic transition”, the point at which British Muslim birth rates will fall to the low level of wider British birth rates. When that happens, the argument goes, the British Muslim population will stabilize and remain a fixed small percentage of the total British population.
Maybe so. That too needs debating.
It is true, after all, that birth rates are falling in most parts of the world, including many Muslim countries. According to the biologist Matt Ridley (The Rational Optimist), one of the most curious and beneficial facts of recent world history has been demographic transition, the fall in birth rates as societies become more and more affluent.
All of that is true, and might be a reasonable objection to the calculations presented above. So might the possibility that non-Muslim British birth rates could rise, thus more than off-setting any Muslim increase. Indeed, there is some evidence that this might be happening in some European countries.
However, for a high immigration country such as Britain, it’s a matter of when that British Muslim demographic transition happens.
At the moment there is little sign of British Muslim birth rates significantly falling. According to the Office for National Statistics, Pakistan-born women in Britain have an average of 4∙7 children, while Bangladeshi women in Britain have 3∙9, both significantly above that average British birth rate of 1∙6 children.
Furthermore, as Britain continues to attract a high number of relatively poor Third World immigrants, inherited cultural patterns of large families could remain an enduring feature of Britain’s immigrant community.
In those circumstances, the demographic transition date could well be indefinitely postponed.
There is no suggestion here of any problem with Muslim or non-Muslim birth rates. There is no essential optimum birth rate and in a free and democratic society we are free to have as many or as few children as we wish. The purpose here has been simply to attempt to take the MCB report British Muslims in Numbers to one possible logical conclusion.
On that basis it seems reasonable to conclude that, if immigration policies continue as they are and demographic transition does not happen for fifty years or more, then the Muslim population projection of 26 million by the year 2051 can be rationally defended.
Vincent Cooper is a regular contributor to The Commentator
Read more on: Britain as a Muslim majority country, muslim patrol, and Muslim community
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