I’ve put forward strong proposals to deal with terrorism and extremism in my booklet ‘Britain Beyond Brexit’; there is a serious issue that we need to deal with as a country, but that issue isn’t a ‘Muslim takeover’ of Britain.
I’m writing this article in response to the kind of comment that I’m seeing over and over again from UKIP members. It’s just not true, and I’m writing to challenge it from a reasoned and evidence-based perspective.
One member wrote an article for UKIPDaily suggesting that “Few UK voters realise the UK’s current legal system and democracy could easily be replaced by Sharia Law as soon as 2040”.
Former UKIP NEC member Anish Patel tweeted yesterday “Eventually, when there is enough of them. They will start up their own political party. And then they will democratically vote for full sharia law and there will be absolutely nothing at all that we can do about it.”
Just half an hour before I started writing this article, Anne-Marie Waters retweeted “All other policies are moot if we’re subject to 2nd class status in Islamic UK.”
All of this would indeed be terrifying, if the evidence weren’t completely against it.
The argument is that ‘the Gatestone Institute projects that in 2021, Muslims will make up 10% of the UK population. That’s 2.2 times the percentage in the 2011 census. And if you keep multiplying by 2.2, you’ll hit 50% in around 2040. Then Muslims will immediately institute Sharia Law in the UK.’
The Gatestone Institute doesn’t provide evidence for that assertion, so the secondary claim is that from 2001 to 2011 the Muslim percentage grew from 2.7% to 4.4%, an increase of 1.6 times, so then they keep multiplying by 1.6 instead.
The problem is that population doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t increase exponentially but settles down over time – the higher the Muslim population gets, the less the impact of immigration on the overall percentage for example.
From 1961 to 1971 the Muslim population increased 5-fold; from 1971 to 1981 2.4-fold; from 1981 to 1991 1.6-fold; from 1991 to 2001 1.6-fold and from 2001 to 2011 1.6-fold. Those numbers would have continued to decline dramatically were it not for the increase in immigration under Blair, and (because the Muslim population is now higher) the immigration effect will lessen even if immigration itself were to remain high.
There is no mathematical argument whatsoever for assuming such exponential growth could continue – it would require immigration levels from Muslim countries to be 10 to 20 times higher than they are now.
Yet the human brain ‘likes’ such projections. It’s the reason why so many people fall for pyramid-selling schemes for example.
The Muslim birth rate may well be higher than that of the general population at present, which does (slowly – and we-re talking a century or two, not a decade or two) impact upon the Muslim population. But hang on a second: that’s normally the case in countries with lower life expectancies than the UK. It’s not a religious reason for having more kids, it’s something likely to decrease in the second, third, and fourth generations of those coming to the UK.
Pew Research (who are the people the anti-Muslims in UKIP like to quote) have actually done the analysis based on actual birth rates (Muslim women in Europe have on average 2.2 children at present), immigration rates and conversion rates, and they conclude that by 2050 the UK population is likely to be 11.3% Muslim. See The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050, Pew Research.
Then, and somewhat bizarrely, nobody really seems to consider the documented likelihood that any Muslims at all are becoming integrated into the UK.
The ICM poll – the most comprehensive ever conducted – shows that of British Muslims, 49% of those born in the UK (compared with 32% of those born outside the UK) either ‘never’ attend mosque or do so ‘only on special occasions’. And that figure by any measure, is rising over time: it’s just 18% for those aged 65+ and 46% for those aged 18-24 for example.
Do we really, honestly, think that they’re plotting a Muslim takeover of Britain if they don’t even turn up to their local mosque? Seriously? Because EVEN IF – and it’s already a statistical nonsense – the UK became ‘majority Muslim’ do we really think the rising percentage of ‘in name only’ Muslims would support the introduction of Sharia?
Well we can check that against the polling data too. Instead of asking what Muslims in other countries think (which is where the higher figures such as the claimed 75% come from), we’d be well advised to ask what Muslims actually in the UK think.
(And before anyone suggests that Muslims ‘lie’ to opinion polls because they’re engaging in ‘taqiyya’ – which unbelievably is actually a serious suggestion in some quarters, a) Many Muslims are admitting in the same poll to various views which are somewhat illiberal – and b) They would hardly lie about not attending mosque if their aim were to promote Islam: they’d pretend they were more devout than they are not less.)
It shows that 6% of 18-24 year old Muslims ‘strongly support’ Sharia law in ‘areas’ of Britain and a further 18% ‘tend to support’ it. At most, that’s 24% rather than 75% – which is a whole lot less alarming. In actual fact, it’s probably a lot less because:
a) The reference is to ‘areas’ rather than across Britain
b) ‘Tend to support’ is lukewarm support, which would be unlikely to be an attitude of someone keen on a democratic takeover to force that point of view across society
c) Polling of Muslims is almost always in ‘high output areas’ which pretty much by definition polls the least integrated into British society, thus skewing the data
That 24% is, in fact, lower than that for older age groups: it’s 30% (note rounding error) for those aged 65+, of which 14% (compared with 6%) ‘strongly support it. This would imply to me that younger Muslims are perhaps less likely to support the introduction of Sharia.
The same poll finds that support is far lower amongst those born in the UK (5% strongly support, 14% tend to support) than those born overseas (8% support, 19% tend to support). It seems likely therefore that these figures will decline further, as each generation goes by.
So even if there were a Muslim majority in the UK by 2100, which is itself incredibly unlikely for the above reasons, there are strong reasons to suppose that only a very small percentage of them would support Sharia law.