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3. The Muslim Birth rate

3.1. Muslim fertility

����� Is there anything demonstrably intentional about this Islamic demo�gra�phic expansion?In an article seek�ing to "explode the myth" of Mus�lim demo�gra�phic aggres�sion, jour�nali�sts Namita Bhan�dare, Louise Fernan�des and Minu Jain them�selves admit that accor�ding to of�ficial surveys, "the disapproval of family planning is highest among Muslims", while "the practice of family planning methods in 1980 was lowest amongst Muslims (only 23% of those surveyed prac�tised it as op�posed to 36% Hin�d�us)".They furt����������h��������������������������������er admit that between 1971 and 1981, "the Hindu po�pu�l�ation was up by 24.1�5%, whereas the Muslim popula�tion shot up by 30.59�%".Further, they give the decline in fer�tility levels in the same period: 20.1% decline for urban and 20.0% for rural Hindus, 18.5% for urban and 17.3% for rural Mus�lims.This means that the al�ready lower fertility level of the Hindus is declining faster than that of the Muslims.

������ Let us hear the same indications from an official source: "The total fertilityrate (TFR) is 3.4 children per woman. (...) Muslims have con�siderably higher fer�tility than any other religious group.Muslim women have a TFR of 4.4, which is 1.1 children higher than the TFR for Hindu women."

������ The implication of these data is that the Muslim rate of growth in percentage of the Indian population will go on incre�asing.Instead of extrapolating across cen�turies, we may make a safer prognosis for the next few decades.It is safe to pred�ict that the 2001 census will show another sharp increase in the rate at which Muslims are demograph�ically catching up with the Hindu majority.It is then that the full effect of the birth control cam�paigns of the 1960s and 70s will become visible.Given the higher Hindu participation in the birth control effort of the 1960s and 70s, we must now be witnes�sing a cumulative effect, of a proportionately smaller number of Hindu moth�ers (born in that period) having in their turn each a smaller number of children than the propor�tiona�tely larger number of Muslim mothers, on average.��

 

3.2. The economic explanation

������ Unable to refute the Hindu Revivalist perception of a visible and increasing Muslim demographic growth, the journalists retreat to their next line of defence: they admit the fact of Muslim demographic expan�sion but discon�nect it from Muslim identi�ty.They offer as their expla�nation that it has nothing to do with Islam as such nor with any ag�gressive designs: it is all due to Muslim poverty, "the reason has to do with econom�ics and not with religi�on".This is the old Marxist clich�: red�u�ce everyt�hing������ to econo�mic fac�tors.It is still the most common explan�at�ion for the higher Muslim growth rate: the average Indian Muslim is poorer and less educa�ted than the average Hindu, and pover�ty and low educat�ion both happen to lead to a higher birth rate.

������ Baljit Rai, a retired police officer who was a personal witness to India's failure in con�tain�ing the rising tide of il�legal im�migration from Bangladesh, refu�tes this ar�gument by poin�ting to the birth rate among Kerala Muslims, who have a high level of education and a relativ�ely high stan�dard of living.Mani Shankar Aiyar had clai�med on the basis of statewise figures for the south�ern states that "Muslim birth rates in all these en�light�ened states are very much lower than Hindu birth rates in unen�lightened states like Uttar Prad�esh".��However, Rai's clos��er�� analy�s�is of the figur��������������es� shows that the Kerala Mus�lims have a higher birth-rate than the natio�nal Hindu average and even than the Hindu average in poor and back�ward states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan: the population growth (+28.74% for 1981-91) in the Muslim-majority district of Malappuram (with female liter�acy at 75.22%, far higher than among Hindus in the Hindi belt) is more than twice as high as the aver�age for Kerala (+13.98), and well above the Hindu national aver�age (+23.50).

������ A secularist journalist confirms: "In spite of this 'near total literac�y' the popula�tion growth rate of Muslims who constitute one-fourth of Kerala's population is as high as 2.3 per cent per year, which is more than even the natio�nal PGR [= population growth rate] of 2.11 per annum and is almost double the PGR of Hindus in Kerala it�se�lf."����

������ The figures for Kerala exemplify a general rule: at any given level of literacy and economic status, Muslims will have a marked�ly higher birth rate than their Hindu counterparts, even to the extent of having a higher birth rate than Hindus in a lower educa�tional or income brack�et.A secularist journalist, Pranay Gupta, estimates that in Hyderabad, which has a large Muslim middle-class, a typical Muslim family has eight child�ren while a Hindu family has four.

 

3.3. The literacy factor

������ Ever since the prop�agation of birth contro�����������������l among the Hindu mas�ses, rich and literate Muslims have more child�ren than poor and illiterate Hindus -- the religi�ous deter�minant overrules the econo�mic determinant.This comes out clearly when we compare with the admittedly high growth rate for the Scheduled Castes: "The high growth rate of Muslims, due to poverty, illiteracy etc., is comparable to the growth rate of Scheduled Castes", writes Ashish Bose; but he himself gives the SC growth rate as 31% for the decade 1981-91 agai�nst the Muslim growth rate of 32.8%�.True, some Muslims fall in the same low-income catego�ry�� as the SCs; but taking into account the Muslim middle-class, some old landed gentry and a lot of guest wor�kers in the Gulf states, the average Muslim income is con�siderably higher than the average SC income.

������ Likewise, illiteracy is definite�������ly higher among the SCs than among Muslims.And yet, the Muslim growth rate is still 1.8% higher than that of the SCs."Even after contr�olling for the level of education among women, relig�ious differentials in fer�tility per�sist.Scheduled Caste women have a higher TFR (3.9) than Scheduled Tribe women (3.6) and non-SC/ST women (�3.3)"�� -- all of them considerably less than the Muslim TFR of 4.4.�

������ The same is true for the rural-urban dif�feren�tial: just like in other countries, Indian rural coup�les have a higher fer�tility (5.7 for Hindus, 6.2 for Muslims) than urban couples (4.2 for Hindus, 4.9 for Mus�lims), but this secular determinant of fer�tility is over�ruled by the relig�ious deter�mina�nt, for Muslims are more con�centr�ated in the cities but have a higher over-all birth rate nonethe�less.

������ Incidentally, the source just cited, Mohan Rao, provi�des an example of the misplaced confidence with which secularists berate Hindu Revival�ists as unreliable, men�dacious etc.Though riding a very high horse in his denun�ciat�ion of "communal propaga�nda", Rao himself makes a conspic�uously counter�factual state�ment: "The Hindu populat�ion increased by 0.71 per cent bet�ween 1961-71 and 1971-81.The populat�ion of Muslims rose by 0.05 per cent, much less than that of Hindus. (...) the growth rates of Hindus will continue to be higher than those of Mus�lims."

������ He confuses the figures for the incre�ase in popu�lat�ion with the actual popula�tion figures.The Hindu growth rate increa�sed bet�ween 1971 and 1981, from 23.71% to 24.42% (a finding on which Mani Shankar Aiyar builds a simila�rly mis�taken case against a furt�her Hindu decrease and Muslim increase), but remained�� far below the Muslim growth rate of 30.85% c.q. 30.90%, so that the effec�tive Hindu percentage decreased (by O.37%).Moreov�er, this incre�ase was a freak develop�ment in a long-term decrease of the Hindu growth rate due to family plan�ning, and was easily undone by a decre�ase twice as big (to 22.78%) in 1991.��

 

3.4. The Muslim growth rate worldwide

������ The same trend as witnessed in India is conspicu���ous at the inter�national level: Muslim count�ries are among the cham�pions of demog�raphic growth.The econo�mic expla��nat�ion for high and low birthr�ates breaks down when confron�ted with the figures for Muslim countries: the rich and or�thodox Saudi Arabs procreate much faster than the relati�vely poor but more secularized Turks.

������ The yearbooks of the En�cyclopedia Brittannica give a wealth of countr�ywise data, inc�lud�ing the population's doubling‑r�ate, which is a more accurate indicator of effec�tive demographic growth than the birth rate.It turns out that no Muslim coun�try �has a marked�ly lower growth rate than India.Indonesia, Turkey and Tunisia are at about the same level as India, which is already seen by many as a demogra�phic disaster area itself (do�ubl�ing in ca. 33 years).It is no coincidence that these are the three most secul�arized Muslim countri�es.The more Is�lamic a country, the high���������er�� the birthr�ate: Iran, Jordan, Lybia, Kuwait and Eritrea double their populati�ons in 20 years or less, up to twice as fast as In�d�ia.���

������ The Arabs are the champions: "In no Arab country���� does the popul�ation increase at a rate lower than 2.5% per year.In practically every Arab country, more than 4 inhabitants in 10 are youngsters below 15."Pakis�tan is Asia's� fastest�-growing non-Arab count���ry,� doubling its popu�lat�ion every 24 yea�rs.No country is known to have a higher birth‑r�ate among non‑Mus�lims than among Muslims, but count�ries where the opposite is true are numerous.The starkest differential is proba��b����������ly������ found in the Europ�ean count�ries.Thus, to use anot�her demo�gra�phic in�dicat�or, the per�cent�age of the under-25 age group in Brit�ain is 33 for natives, 48 for In�dians (mostly Hindus) and Carib�beans, 60 for Pakistanis and 63 for Bangl�ade�s�his.A similar indicator for the Subcontinent: the under-15 constitute 46.3% in Pakis�tan, 45.1% in Bangladesh, and 35.2% in India.

������ ��In Bel�gium, the aver��age native couple (Chri�stian or secular) has 1.7 child�ren, the immi�grant Moroccan couple (Mu�slim) has 3.25 chi�ldr�en, i.e. nearly twice as many.About American Islam, a Pakis����������������������tani observer makes an estimate for the year 2,000: "The US (...) may by then become the 14th or 15th 'larg�est Islamic country�'.Islam, in fact, is the fastest-growing religion in the US".Though the growth is largely due to im�migration, he also sees "a higher birth rate" as "a major fac�t�o�r".����

 

3.5. Islamic government policies

������ In Malaysia, where Muslims were only 50% at the time of in�depen�dence, just enough to declare it an Is�lamic state, the Gover�nment pur�sues a natalist policy at least as far as the Muslim Malays are con�cern�ed (non-Muslims are mostly members of the Chin�ese and Tamil Hindu mino�ritie�s).It is only in countries where Muslims are in an overwh�elming major�ity and demographic competition is simply not an issue that Islamic governments and religious lead�ers, faced with the probl�ems resul�ting from overpopulation, have made an effort to curb the birth rate.

������ Iran now tries to en�cour�age a three-children-per-family norm, and prides itself on reduc�ing the yearly increase in popula�tion to 1.75%, about half of what it was in the 1980s.But this will not markedly curb popula������������������������������������tion growth in absolute figures for the next few decades: "A�lth�ough the rate of population� growth� has come down (...) the girls born in response to Khomein�i's call for more Muslims will soon reach marrying age; 45.5% of the popul�ation is under 15."

������ Given the extrem�ely�� high birth rate in the generat��ion now growing up to beco�me the fathers and mothers of the next two decades (much more numerous than the genera�tion presently in their twenties and thir�ties and trying to stick to the three-children-per-family norm), even a two-children-per-family norm would still amount to an impres�sive demo�graphic growth for two more generatio�ns.With a norm of three children per family, Iran is not even pur�suing a policy aimed at achie�ving demog�raphic zero growth, but even if it were, it could only achi�eve it at a much later date, and at a much higher popula�tion level, than countries with a more strin�gent com�mitment to demogra�phic respon�sibility.

������ There is no indication that even one Muslim country will achieve a substa�ntially lower growth rate than India's Hindu community within the next decades.