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Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Reply to a Visitor: Muslims in France and the Rest of the EU vs. the US

From Steve Shea, who has left us some stimulating comments before --- most recently on China and US trade problems --- the following comment has arrived. It's followed by the buggy response.

From Steve Shea, who has left us some stimulating comments before --- most recently on China and US trade problems --- the following comment has arrived. It's followed by the buggy response.

Great piece. Enlightening. Next time around would you comment on what effect if any the changing population demographics i.e. increasing percent of Muslims , plays in French policy .


Thanks for the comment, Steve --- and your earlier ones.

As you'll see in a few moments,, some previous buggy prof articles have dealt with the rapidly growing Muslim community in the EU --- about 15-20 million in all, very young, increasingly fundamentalist and alienated, lots of violent crime alas. By contrast, the US's far Muslim population is smaller --- about 2-3 million according to two expert surveys published in the fall of 2001 --- and it's far better educated, employed, and assimilated; specifically, American Muslims have higher levels of education and income than average Americans. For that matter, there are scarcely any signs of alienation here. Most American Muslims are from Asia, though immigration from the Middle East was rising in the 1980s and most of the 1990s. Note too: overwhelmingly, Arab-Americans are Christian and have been here for generations.

France has the largest Muslim population. Of the 57 million or so Frenchmen, about 5 million are officially counted as Muslims, though the figure if probably closer to 7 million if you consider illegal immigrants and, more important, wider the criteria of counting who is a Muslim. Does he or she have to belong officially to a Mosque . . . that sort of thing.?

The Demographic Implications for the EU's Future

Given the low birth rates of native Europeans in the EU --- not high enough to maintain existing population levels over the next two generations (as the Europeans age swiftly, like the Japanese, with Americans aging far more slowly and hence less likely to experience the burdens of supporting a dependent, elderly population living on pensions) --- Muslims will swiftly grow in number, quite apart from illegal immigration itself. The growth of fundamentalism, sympathies among the young for terrorism in the Middle East (though not necessarily Al Qaeda itself), high unemployment, school failure, and crime in these communities --- with predictable backlashes among the native European populations (a major reason for the populist breakthroughs in the political systems, up and down in numbers, in Austria, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, France, and Italy --- the growth of social conflicts will likely intensify in West Europe. In the process, what has helped create the large welfare-state systems in the EU --- a sense of ethnic and national solidarity after WWII, after two centuries of ruinous ethnic and racial conflicts, class conflicts, clerical and anti-clerical struggles, and extremist ideologies (save in Britain, Holland, Scandinavia, and Switzerland) --- will likely diminish too. Already, all over the EU, there are outcries against welfare-mooching by foreign immigrants and immigrant-communities into the second and third generation as residents.

Recently, a French institute projected three different scenarios for the EU's future. The gloomier ones stressed the big problems connected with the dwindling size of the EU population by mid-century, 2050. It projected, to be more precise, a decline in the EU's active population from 331 million to 243 million. Over the same period, the active populations of Greater China and South Asia move ahead, while the North American grouping rises from 269 million to 355 million. (The whole article, given what's at stake for the EU, was reprinted earlier on the buggy prof site a month ago, and it's worth doing so again at the end here.)


Suggested Follow-Ups

For comparisons with the US Muslim population, see gordon-newspost in early 2002 too: https://mail.lsit.ucsb.edu/pipermail/gordon-newspost/2002-May/002424.html

On the growing cultural conflicts in France where young Muslim girls are seeking to wear headscarfs to school --- the French public school system militantly secular and anti-clercial since its creation in the 1880s (originally fighting Catholic Church cultural and political influence, the Church arrayed against the 3rd Republic between 1875 and 1902 when it was dis-established) --- see a British view by a psychiatrist who is a good social observer, has lived in France, and writes frequently in a variety of publications: Theodore Dalrymple , http://www.city-journal.org/html/eon_4_23_03td.html.

On growing anti-Semitism in France --- fueled in fairly large part by Islamist fundamentalism among the young, but also on the far right and far left --- see another gordon-newspost article that goes back to early 2002: https://mail.lsit.ucsb.edu/pipermail/gordon-newspost/2002-February/002170.html By March and April of 2002, there were hundreds of reported assaults on Jewish cultural centers, synagogues, elderly Jewish pedestrians, and Jews in general by Muslim thugs. The government denied any serious problem was going on. The Presidential and parliamentary elections no doubt played a role in this, along with sheer denial as a psychological mechanism. It's only fair to point out that after the parliamentary elections were finished in June 2002, the conservative government appointed a very tough Minister of Interior, in charge of the police and domestic security, and he has taken an unstinting stand against these racist outbreaks and violence.

On tendencies that were evident in France during the run-up to the Iraqi war this March to appease the Muslim population in that country, see the buggy prof article on it this April: http://www.thebuggyprofessor.org/archives/00000074.php

Regarding France's abrupt change toward the Israeli-Arab conflict --- a strong Israeli supporter in the 1950s and early 1960s, a policy shifted by President Charles de Gaulle in 1967 after the June 6 Day War --- see the recent buggy article on French anti-Americanism, late August 2003: http://www.thebuggyprofessor.org/archives/00000114.php This article also sets out some comparative trends in anti-Semitism in France and the EU on one side and the US on the other carried out by the ADL recently.

Finally, on the impact of the growing Muslim French population's numbers and fundamentalist sympathies that the existing Chirac-dominated conservative government, headed by Premier Rafferin, has undertaken the last year or so --- which hooks up with the opposition to the US-led coalition to topple Saddam Hussein and anti-American nationalist revivalism in France --- see an excellent symposium at Frontpage with seven specialists, six of them French academics and writers. It appeared this June and covers a wide-ranging number of topics on this subject.


The International Herald Tribune Summary of the French Research Institute's Report May 14, 2003.

"French research group paints a gloomy economic picture"

PARIS: For a doomsday scenario, this one paints Europe heading for the dungeons of history as an economic force.

"The enlargement of the European Union won't suffice to guarantee parity with the United States," it says. "The EU will weigh less heavily on the process of globalization and a slow but inexorable movement onto 'history's exit ramp' is foreseeable."

By 2050, under this scenario, Europe's share of the world economy is only 12 percent, against 22 percent today, while the euro is a second-class currency. North America maintains its "technological hegemony," Greater China, which includes Taiwan, grows to represent almost a quarter of the world's economy, and the Japan-Korea region's share of trade, along with the yen, declines sharply in importance. Roughly a half century from now, goes the scenario, an EU of 30 member states will have a growth rate of 1.1 percent, the North American free trade grouping, 2.3 percent, and Greater China, 2.6 percent.

This vision of Europe's misery-to-come is projected in a new report called "World Trade in the 21st Century" by the Institut Francais des Relations Internationales (Ifri).

It is interesting because the research organization is not usually in the business of drawing grim perspectives for either France or the EU. Its tone also fits the register of a thesis advanced in the newspaper Le Monde that the current decline in the dollar does not reflect American weakness but a situation in which "the power of a country, in circumstances of low inflation and low growth, is reflected in its ability to depreciate rather than increase the value of its currency."

The Ifri report, of course, contains scenarios in which Europe does better. But they depend on exceptional changes in current political, social and economic trends. Rather, the report's basic projection, called the "reference or trend scenario," is calculated on a continuation of the current curve of world trade and economics.

For Ifri, Europe has two basic problems. The first is its dwindling population. From 2000 to 2050, the institute projects a decline in the EU's active population from 331 million to 243 million. Over the same period, the active populations of Greater China and South Asia move ahead, while the North American grouping rises from 269 million to 355 million.

The second involves technological progress and capital accumulation. In these areas, according to the reference scenario, North America "continues to suck in a good part of the world's savings," while Europe depends on "savings and domestic investment" for capital. North America remains "the locus of innovative activity," the projection says, even though Europe will make gains in productivity, cutting the size of its lag behind the leaders.

What can Europe do? If things go along as at present, according to the reference scenario, "the decline of Europe is confirmed and the EU with 30 members becomes a second-rank economic power."

But in a more favorable second scenario, Ifri projects the creation of an area of "integrated development" that includes Europe, Russia and the south shore (the Arab countries) of the Mediterranean.

This involves launching in the target areas outside the EU "a vast program of technical cooperation reinforcing the creation of local scientific and technical elites and fixing them in their country of origin" - in other words, making sure they do not migrate to other competitive parts of the world.

At the same time, and in a somewhat contradictory manner, immigration to Europe is encouraged at the rate of at least 30 million persons by 2020. Then, in what might be called a burst of optimism, the report talks of improved economic conditions in the Mediterranean Arab partner countries, and - although they remain under "firm" governments - their introduction of "real" freedom of expression and greater emancipation of women.

Parallel to this, Ifri's scenario most favorable to Europe projects an improvement in Europe's own demographic situation, and "Russia's coming closer to the EU and vice versa."