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The Muslim demographic revolution and Western failure

By Terry Lacey

(February 11,Jakarta, Sri Lanka Guardian) In 1950 the population of the six BENPIT countries (Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia and Turkey) was 242 millions, rising to 886 million by 2009 and an estimated 1,361 million by 2050. These and associated demographic trends render current Western strategy towards the Muslim world obsolete.

Between 2010 and 2050 the population growth of the six BENPIT countries will be 475 million, while the population growth of the six most populated developed countries together will total 44 million.

Worldwide 28 out of the 48 fastest growing countries in terms of population are majority Muslim, or with Muslim minorities comprising more than 33 percent of the population.

For example the population of Afghanistan is now 28 million, rising to 45 million by 2025 and 75 million by 2050.

Professor Jack A Goldstone writing in the journal Foreign Affairs (February 2010) on “The New Population Bomb” concludes that the West has to improve its relations with the Muslim world, that Turkey with a population of 100 million by 2050 must join the EU, and that the Muslim population of major EU countries now varies from 3 to 10 percent, and will double by 2050.

These figures have major implications for the foreign and military policies of the West and for immigration into Western countries, with younger migrants needed to help sustain economies and social provision for aging populations.

The populations of the EU, US, Canada, Japan, South Korea and China are aging at an unprecedented rate. By 2050, 30 percent of all Americans, Europeans, Canadians and Chinese will be over 60.

For example in South Korea the workforce will be about the same size as the people over 60 by 2050, and one third of the population must support the other two thirds.

By contrast populations of Muslim countries and Muslim populations within industrialized countries have a quite different age structure with many more younger people and higher population growth, whereas the total population of some Western countries will be in net decline without more immigration.

More than 60 percent of Muslims live in Asia. Only 20 percent live in the Middle East and North Africa.

The great majority of Muslims live in exclusively Muslim or majority-Muslim countries. Two third of all Muslims live in only ten countries of which six are in Asia (Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey), three are in North Africa (Egypt, Algeria and Morocco) and one is in sub-Saharan Africa (Nigeria).

The 2009 Pew Forum Report also showed that 75 percent of Muslims living as a minority in non-majority Muslim countries were concentrated in only five countries: India (161 million), Ethiopia (28 million), China (22 million), Russia (16 million) and Tanzania (13 million).

Amaney Jamal, Assistant Professor at Princeton University recently confirmed “This whole idea that Muslims are Arabs and Arabs are Muslims is really just obliterated by this Report”. (The Jakarta Post, 09.10.09 quoting Eric Grosky).

UN sources confirm the world´s Muslim population is concentrated in a handful of high-population states including Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Egypt with problems of mass poverty, illiteracy and under-development.

Moreover many Muslim migrants in Western countries face poor conditions. In the UK 60 percent of Pakistani children and 70 percent of Bangladeshi children are living below the poverty line.

Problems of marginalized Muslim communities within EU countries, especially the UK, France and Germany must be better addressed or we risk domestic conflicts and more home-grown terrorism.

What all these figures show is that the focus on terrorism and military campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia fails to address the root problems of poverty and underdevelopment.

It is impossible to hold back this tide of demographic change by means of military and anti-terrorist policies.

What is needed is a Muslim equivalent to the Marshall Plan to address economic and social conditions that lead to instability and terrorism, backed financially by richer Muslim countries and the West.

Terry Lacey is a development economist who writes from Jakarta on modernization in the Muslim world, investment and trade relations with the EU and Islamic banking.

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