Before reading this post:
If you haven't done so already, please visit the previous post to see how you can help save the life of Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, who has been arrested for speaking out against fundamentalist Islam and supporting Israel, America, and other religious faiths. It's a real must, and takes only a moment.
And now, onto the main content:
In the recent past, many Muslim communities in non-Muslim countries have exaggerated their demographic numbers, often wildly, for political gain. Among other places, they have done so in America, in France, and in Israel. Certain Western writers, meanwhile, particularly Mark Steyn, have taken these numbers at face value, and have scared the daylights out of Westerners by projecting a population-based Islamic takeover of the world. In reality, however, statistics that Steyn excludes from his analysis largely debunk his thesis (as I have demonstrated here and here), and the Muslim threat to the West, while clearly real, is far from the certainty he claims.
Lest such journalistic predictions remain a Western phenomenon, however, a researcher in Estonia named Paul Goble now claims a similar situation for Russia. According to Goble, current Russian population trends indicate that by mid-century, over half of that country's citizenry will be Muslim. Worrisome? Of course. But true? Almost certainly not.
Goble bases his projection on three apparent indicators - low Russian fertility, high Muslim fertility, and Muslim immigration from other Soviet republics. Taken at face value, the combination of these indeed points to a Muslim population takeover.
Thing is, however, only one of these indicators is actually correct. Russians indeed have few children (about 1.3 per woman), but the Muslim numbers are enormously exaggerated.
Goble claims that the primary Muslim groups in Russia, the Chechens and Ingush, average ten children per woman, while the Tatars (at least those living in Moscow) average six. He also states, meanwhile, that several hundred thousand Muslim immigrants arrive each year from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.
Now I don't know where Goble found this ten-children number, but rest assured, it is most certainly false. It is difficult to find exact fertility numbers for ethnic/religious populations within Russia, but the state of Chechnya itself claims a crude birthrate of 24.9 per 1000 women, which translates to a fertility rate of about three children per woman. This number may or may not be accurate for all Muslims in Russia, but for comparison, we must note that not a single nation on Earth averages close to the ten-children mark. (The highest-fertility groups worldwide -- certain African tribes, desert Bedouins, and Hasidic Jews -- max out at about seven.) The world fertility average is 2.5, and the Muslim nations bordering the parts of Russia where the Chechens, Ingush, and Tatars reside range from 1.8 (Iran) to 1.92 (Turkey) to 2.46 (Azerbaijan). Most likely, the overall Russian Muslim rate lies somewhere within this span, and whatever it is, it's not remotely close to ten (or even six).
Of course, a fertility rate between 2 and 3 is much higher than the ethnic Russians' 1.3, but there are also about 130 million ethnic Russians and perhaps only 15 million ethnic Muslims. At current rates, it will take Muslims almost two centuries to catch up. Furthermore, if rates (and/or the political situation) change, something that's virtually guaranteed to occur to some degree, they will likely favor the Russians, as their birthrates probably can't sink much lower and have actually slightly risen over the past few years.
At the same time, meanwhile, Goble's other Muslim source, immigration numbers, is also likely misrepresented. Many migrants have indeed moved to Russia from surrounding nations, but their religion has not formally been tracked, and chances are, a large portion are actually returning ethnic Russians.
For all his assumptions, Goble does attempt to support his claim with some genuine hard evidence, such as increased mosque construction and Islamic religious practice over the last twenty years. But these too can be explained. In Soviet times (i.e. before 1989), religion was almost entirely suppressed. Today it is not. The mosque construction and religious practice, hence, reflects not necessarily an absolute population rise, but a return to observance by a portion of the already existing population. Very similarly, many more churches and Christian worshippers (and synagogues and Jewish worshippers) exist compared to 1989, even though the absolute numbers of ethnic Russian Christians and Jews have not increased.
Whatever his motivations, Paul Goble follows Mark Steyn in using exaggerated Muslim numbers to predict the downfall of other nations. This threat, however, does not stand to genuine statistical scrutiny. The fundamentalist Muslim threat to the free world, once again, is very real. But non-Muslim nations should be much more optimistic about their relative demographic situations than much of the media has led us to believe.