About Us
Back Issues
Forthcoming Issues
Print Edition
Contact Us
IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 11    Issue 21   16-31 March 2017

  • Global Muslim Population To Overtake Christian Population by 2070
  • Israel Has Established An Apartheid State: UN
  • Dutch Voters Reject Geert Wilders’ Islamophobic Party
  • Syrian Refugees Welcomed in Scotland
  • European Court of Justice Upholds Headscarf Ban in Private Companies

  • Global Muslim Population To Overtake Christian Population by 2070

    Pew Research Centre, a US-based think-tank, has recently projected that the world’s Muslim population will overtake the population of Christians by 2070. The projection is based on census data, surveys and population registers for 234 countries from around the world. According to the projection, the Muslim population is expected to grow twice as fast as the world’s population between now and 2050. The rise in the global Muslim population would be mainly based on two factors: Muslims in general tend to be young, and they have high fertility rates.

    Projected Christian and Muslim Shares of the Global Population, 2010-2100

    The report says that the concentration of Muslims in Asia and the Pacific region is likely to continue over the next five decades. The report notes that the average lifespan for Muslims over the next four or five decades will be comparatively shorter – 75 years – than that of Christians, Jews and other religious groups. Jews will live the longest – 85 years – by 2050.

    The report says that the absolute number of Christians in Europe is expected to decline in the coming decades. In 2010, 75% of Europe’s population was Christian, but by 2050 the percentage is likely to be around 65. In general, the continent’s total population, currently 738.8 million, is expected to shrink. Christianity is expected to lose about 66 million people around the world due to conversions. The population of Muslims in Europe (excluding Russia), currently estimated at 45.7 million, is expected to grow by 28 million over the next four decades. By 2050, Muslims will account for about 10% of Europe’s population. Age, fertility, migrations and conversions have a significant bearing on Europe’s population, particularly on the population of Muslims in the continent.

    The report notes that in sub-Saharan Africa, the population is expected to double in the next four decades due to extremely high fertility rates. The number of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa is also expected to double, reaching over 1.1 billion people. The Muslim population, on the other hand, is projected to grow by an astounding 170%, reaching nearly 670 million.

    Projected Changes in the World's Religious Populations Due to Conversion, 2010-2050

    Research: Pew Forum

    The report projects that nearly two-thirds of the world’s population will consist of Muslims and Christians by 2100.

    The data in Pew Research Centre’s projections repudiate the view that the world is inevitably moving towards secularisation. The data suggest that, after four decades, the proportion of non-religious or unaffiliated people around the world will be about 13%, slightly less than what it was in 2010.

    Peter Berger, a prominent Austrian-American sociologist was one of the most articulate and influential exponents of the secularization thesis, which was set forth in his book The Sacred Canopy (1967). In an interview published in The New York Times in 1968, Berger confidently asserted that “by the 21st century, religious behviours are likely to be found only in small sects, huddled together to resist a worldwide secular culture.” However, by the end of the 20th century, Berger realized that his prognostication about the dwindling fortunes of religion under the pressures of modernity and secularization had been belied by a worldwide religious revival and resurgence. He candidly admitted his mistake and said, “The big mistake, which I shared with everyone who worked in this area…..was to believe that modernity necessarily leads to a decline in religion. The assumption that we live in a secularized world is wrong. The world today, with some exceptions….is as fervently religious as it ever was. This means that secularization theory is essentially mistaken.” Berger confessed that the secularization thesis had been falsified by the revival and religious consciousness in many countries, including the US. He concluded that the project of secularization had been successful only in one small corner of the world, namely, Western Europe. “Today you cannot plausibly maintain that modernity necessarily leads to secularization: it may – and it does in certain parts of the world among certain groups of people – but not necessarily.”

    Peter Berger, like Western sociologists in general, sought to formulate a generalization about the prospects of religion in the future on the basis of evidence from a specific, extremely narrow social context, namely, Western Europe. Like all such generalizations, Berger’s views on the positive correlation between modernity and secularization and the decline of religion are fraught with serious flaws. However, it must be said to his credit that he graciously admitted his mistake and sought to rectify it. If one looks at the secularization process in the contemporary global context, one finds little evidence in support of the assumption that it is holding sway in most parts of the world, including the US, Africa, Asia and Latin America. However, the secularization thesis holds true in the context of large parts of Europe, particularly Western Europe. In 1851 about 60% of the population of England and Wales attended church services. By the end of the 20th century, the figure fell to about 10%. According to the Church of England, 800,000 Christians attended a Sunday service in the UK in 2013, down from 160,000 in 1968. According to the NatCen’s British Social Attitudes Survey, carried out in 2015, the Church of England has lost nearly two million followers in the last two years. The percentage of people affiliated to the Church of England dropped from 21 in 2012 to 17 in 2014. According to the survey, nearly half of Britons (49 per cent) said they have no religious beliefs, compared with 31 per cent in 1983.

    The decline of Christianity in its European heartland is evidenced in the declining fertility rates and the fall in the Christian population, in the falling rates of church membership and attendance, in the diminishing recruitment of the clergy, in the growing loss of faith among European Christians, and in the radical changes in codes of personal behaviour in respect of sexuality, birth control, abortion, marriage and living together without marrying. A series of Eurobarometer surveys since 1970 in five key European countries (France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy) shows that regular church attendance has fallen from about 40% three or four decades ago to less than 15% today. In Germany, between 1965 and 1999, the percentage of church-goers dropped from 75% to less than 30% and has now fallen to less than 15%. The available survey data suggest that there is a steady erosion of religious beliefs among Christians and a rapid decline in church membership and attendance (Bruce 2001). A number of surveys suggest an increasing loss of faith among Christians in several parts of Europe. Data from the European Social Survey in 2012 show that a third of European Christians attend church services once a month or so. Only 10 per cent of Christians in France and Sweden go to church once a month. In Ireland, regular church attendance dropped from 90% in 1990 to 60% in 2009.

    A rapid decline in church membership and attendance and the escalating costs of maintenance of churches have led to the closure of thousands of Protestant and Catholic churches across Europe. Thousands of churches in Germany, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and other European countries have been converted into restaurants, shopping centres, supermarkets, theatres, banks, offices, libraries, clubs and pubs. Dozens of churches have been sold to Muslims and Sikhs, who have converted them into their respective places of worship. Between 1990 and 2010, 340 Protestant churches were closed down in Germany, and of those 46 were demolished. In Hamburg, a Protestant church building has been bought by the local Muslim community. It is estimated that out of about 45,000 churches in Germany, some 15,000 will soon be out of use. 1 There are about 47,000 churches in the UK and thousands of them have fallen into disrepair. Since 1960, nearly 10,000 churches have been closed down in the UK. Many of them have been converted into homes, offices and pubs or sold to Muslim worshippers. Methodist churches in the UK declined from 14,000 in 1932 to 6,000 today and closing down at the rate of 100 a year. The 18th century Huguenot church in the East End of London became a Methodist chapel in 1819, a synagogue at the end of the 19th century and a mosque in 1976. In the Netherlands, almost 60 churches are shut down, sold or demolished every year. Faced with a shrinking congregation, the Church of England has closed down 1,900 churches since 1969.

    The demographic and social profile of some of the world’s major religions like Christianity has undergone a radical transformation in recent decades. In 1900, almost 80% of the world’s Christians lived in Europe and North America. Today Christianity has declined in large parts of Europe, its traditional heartland, and is surging in Latin America, Africa and China. More than 60% of the world’s Christian population is now concentrated in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Philip Jenkins, in his book The Next Christendom (2002) predicted that over the next few years Christianity’s centre of gravity would shift to the Global South. This has already happened. A century ago, the Global North (comprising Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand) had more than four times as many Christians as the Global South (Africa, Asia and Latin America). Today more than 61% (1.3 billion) of the world’s Christians live in the Global South, compared with 39% in the Global North. The share of Europe in the world’s Christian population has shrunk to about 26%. On the other hand, Christianity has experienced a phenomenal growth in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia-Pacific, where Christians account, respectively, for 24%, 24% and 13% of the global Christian population. Five of the top ten countries with the largest Christian population are in Africa and Asia. During the 20th century, the population of Christians in Africa grew from about 10 million to 360 million, and is expected to double by 2025. It is estimated that by 2025, sub-Saharan Africa will be home to as many Christians – some 640 million – as in South America. According to the Pew Research Centre’s projections, by 2050 four out of every 10 Christians in the world would be living in sub-Saharan Africa. The Anglican Communion has some 20 million adherents in Nigeria, which accounts for almost a quarter of the entire community. Nigeria is projected to have the third-largest Christian population in the world, after the United States and Brazil, by 2050.

    Islam is spreading with amazing speed across several parts of Europe and the United States. Sufism has been and continues to be an important agent of conversion to Islam, especially in Europe. In France over 100,000 whites, mostly women, have converted to Islam. A study by Faith Matters, an inter-faith think-tank, suggests that the number of Britons who have entered the fold of Islam is over 100,000, with 5,000 new conversions each year. A study carried out at Swansea University showed that three-quarters of those who converted to Islam in the UK in the past ten years are women. Of the 5,200 Britons who converted to Islam in 2010, more than half were white and nearly 75% of them were women. The number of people who have converted to Islam in recent years is estimated to be around 10,000 in Switzerland, 3,500 in Sweden and 2,800 in Denmark. Despite the wide prevalence of the stereotype that Islam is oppressive to women, a quarter of female converts were attracted to Islam mainly because they felt it treated women with honour and dignity. It is estimated that as many as 20,000 Americans convert to Islam every year. Many of them were drawn to the Islamic faith in the aftermath of 9/11. Most of the converts are women and a majority of them are Hispanics and African-Americans. Tens of thousands of Latinos in the US, mostly women, have embraced Islam in recent years. According to conservative estimates, the number of Latino converts in the US is between 100,000 and 200,000.

    Israel Has Established An Apartheid State: UN

    Following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, more than half the native population of Palestine, over 750,000 people, either fled in terror or were forcibly driven out of their ancestral villages and more than 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed. In 1953, the Israeli parliament retroactively declared about 120,000 hectares of captured Palestinian territories to be state property, to be used later for either new Jewish settlements or security purposes. The six-day war in June 1967 forced some 250,000 Palestinians to migrate and brought the remaining 22% of Palestinian territories under Israeli control. A group of Israel’s ‘new historians,’ who have accessed archives in Israeli, British and the United Nations archives, have revealed that Israel had systematically expelled one million Palestinians in 1948, which was nearly half of the Palestinian population.

    The Palestinian population is estimated to be around 10 million, more than half of them being refugees and their descendants. About five million Palestinians live in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, who continue to bear the brunt of oppression and humiliation. Nearly one-fourth of Palestinians have lost their ancestral homes. In the West Bank about a third of the Palestinian population lives in camps. According to the constitution of Israel, Arab residents of the West Bank and Gaza who marry Israeli women are not eligible for Israeli citizenship, residency or work permits. Two human rights groups in Israel filed a petition in the country's Supreme Court for overturning this law, which was rejected in 2006. More than 250,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel in 1967. Though they have Israeli residence permits, they risk being denied permission to live in the city if they move to the West Bank or travel abroad to work. The expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem continues unabated. There are more than 350,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, who have taken over vast agricultural lands, with the backing of the Israeli government, which belonged to the Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinians have been expelled from wide areas of their agricultural land in the West Bank. Avraham Shalom, a former chief of the Israeli internal security force, described the Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories as a “brutal occupation force.”

    The second Palestinian uprising (intifada) against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, which began in October 2000, was an expression of the deep sense of frustration and anger felt by the Palestinians. Israeli forces responded to the uprising in an extremely brutal manner. Thousands of Palestinians, including women and young children, were mercilessly killed by Israeli soldiers. Since 2000, thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, have been killed by the Israeli forces while hundreds of them have been imprisoned. Israel’s military onslaught on Gaza on July 8, 2014 killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and caused the displacement of 660,000. Israel has placed the Palestinian territories under virtual siege, with walls, fortifications, fences and checkpoints. Some radical rabbis have issued rulings forbidding Jews from renting apartments to Palestinians or employing them. The number of people living below the poverty line in Israel is three times more among the Palestinians than in the general population. Though the Palestinians constitute 20.7 per cent of Israel’s population, Israel’s 2012 budget allocates less than 7 per cent for them. Former US president Jimmy Carter described the Israeli treatment of Palestinians as "one of the greatest human rights crimes on earth". In his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2007), Carter says that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its inhuman treatment of the Palestinians betray all the characteristic of an apartheid regime. Unfortunately, the UN and the international community have taken little or no cognizance of Israel’s gross violation of human rights. It has stubbornly and brazenly defied, with the consistent support of the US, all UN resolutions and international laws and conventions with impunity.

    A new United Nations report “Israeli Practices Towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” commissioned and published by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia on 15 March 2017, has accused Israel of having established “an apartheid regime that oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” The report, authored by Virginia Tilley, professor of political science at Southern Illinois University, and Richard Falk, former United Nations special rapporteur on the situation on human rights in the Palestinian territories professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, notes that the prohibition of apartheid is universally applicable and is not rendered moot by the collapse of apartheid in South Africa. The report offers a detailed analysis of Israeli legislation, policies and practices that highlight how Israel operates “an apartheid regime” through “demographic engineering” and argues that Israel is “guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid,” a “crime against humanity under customary international law and the Roman Statute of the International Criminal Court.” The report points out that Palestinian citizens of Israel are “subjected to oppression on the basis of not being Jewish.” Palestinians in East Jerusalem experience widespread exclusion through “discrimination in access to education, healthcare, employment, residency and building rights.” Palestinian refugees and exiles are prohibited from returning to their homes in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

    The report recommends that the United Nations and its member states should “revive the Special Committee Against Apartheid and the United Nations Centre Against Apartheid (1976-1991). It also urges governments to “support boycott, divestment and sanctions activities and respond positively to calls for such initiatives.”

    In the past, United Nations resolutions and its reports have criticized Israel for its gross violation of international law and human rights conventions. But this report is particularly significant because it explicitly attaches the apartheid label to Israel.

    In an interesting development, the head of the United Nations West Asia Commission, Rima Khalaf, has resigned over what she described as pressure from United Nations officials to withdraw the report. The United Nations Secretary General issued orders to Khalaf on 17 March to withdraw the report. She asked him to review his position, but he insisted. Therefore, she sent in her resignation. The development reveals the clout of the Israeli lobby in international affairs.

    Dutch Voters Reject Geert Wilders’ Islamophobic Party

    General elections in the Netherlands were held on 15 March to elect 150 members of the Dutch parliament. A record 28 political parties were in the electoral fray. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy secured 21.2% of the vote and won 33 seats, followed by Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom, which secured 13% of the vote and 20 seats. Christian Democratic Appeal and Democrats 66 won 19 seats each. Rutte is set to form a coalition government with the support of the centre-right CDA and Democrats 66.

    The most surprising part of the Dutch election is the defeat of Wilders’s party, which was projected as being ahead of all other parties in the opinion polls. Geert Wilders, the founder and leader of the Netherlands’ far-right and anti-immigration Freedom Party (PVV), posted a manifesto online on 25 August 2016. The manifesto called for banning the Quran in the Netherlands, closing down all mosques and Islamic schools, banning the headscarf in public, shutting down the borders, with a total ban on migrants from Muslim countries and shutting asylum centres. The manifesto also promised to hold a referendum on the Netherlands’ membership of the European Union if PVV came to power in the March 2017 elections.

    Over the past few years, Wilders has doggedly carried out a vicious campaign of vilification and slander against Islam, the Quran and Muslims. He has often dubbed the Quran as a “fascist book” and compared it to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He said a few years ago that if Muslims wish to stay on in the Netherlands they should tear up half of their holy book. He has argued that the Quran is “an inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror” and that the “Islamic ideology has as its utmost goal the destruction of what is most dear to us – our freedom.”

    Wilders has often lashed out at what he calls the “Islamisation of the Netherlands.” He released a highly controversial anti-Islam film called “Fitna” in 2008, which showed certain verses of the Quran, interspersed with newspaper and video clips that highlighted acts of violence and terrorism carried out by Muslims. The film also showed a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad (reproduced from a Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten) wearing a bomb-shaped turban along with footage of the September 11 attacks on the United States, the 2004 Madrid train bombings and the terrorist attacks on London’s public transport system in 2005. The film aims to highlight the message that Islam encourages acts of violence and terrorism, anti-Semitism and violence against women.

    All mainstream television channels in the Netherlands refused to air the film. The film was released on a video-sharing website Liveleak in Dutch and English versions. However, the website soon removed the film from its servers, citing serious to its staff. The film can be seen on Wikileaks, Wikipedia’s sister channel.

    In January 2010 Wilders was invited to show the film “Fitna” in the British House of Lords. Following the screening of the film, Wilders said at a press conference that the Prophet of Islam was “a barbarian, a mass murderer and a paedophile” and referred to Islam as a “Fascist ideology” which was “violent, dangerous and retarded.”

    Wilders has repeatedly attacked and demonised Muslim immigrants and refugees in the Netherlands, including those born and raised in the country. While delivering a fiery speech in March 2014, he asked a crowd of supporters whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands. The crowd chanted, “Fewer, fewer!” A highly elated and smiling Wilders responded, “We’ll take care of that.” In a television broadcast Wilders referred to Moroccans as “scum.”

    Wilders called for male refugees to be “locked up in asylum centres” as Dutch women needed to be protected from “testosterone bombs” waging “sexual jihad.” He made the comments in a party video in the wake of sexual assaults on women by refugees on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany. On 18 March 2016 Wilders was put on trial for inciting hatred and discrimination against Moroccans living in the Netherlands.

    Syrian Refugees Welcomed in Scotland

    The civil war in Syria has taken a toll of between 400,000 and 500,000 lives and led to the displacement of more than 10.9 million people, nearly half of the country’s population. More than 4.8 million have been made refugees. refugees. Former British prime minister David Cameron had promised to take in 20,000 refugees by 2020. However, so far fewer than 2,000 Syrian refugees have been allowed to enter the UK.

    Since Scotland is part of the UK, decisions about the resettlement of refugees have to be made through the UK government. More than 40% of the Syrian refugees that have been allowed to enter the UK have been resettled in Scotland. Scotland’s First minister Nicole Sturgeon launched a special task force to help resettle Syrian refugees.

    The response of the local community to the arrival of the refugees was overwhelmingly positive. Local authorities have provided Syrian families with food, housing and health and social services. Ten Syrian families have been resettled in the Scottish island of Bute. Syrian children were showered with gifts by the local community. A local newspaper, The Buteman carried an advertisement placed by six of Bute's churches, displaying the message, in both Arabic and English: "The Christian churches on the Isle of Bute join together in welcoming our new friends from Syria". A number of the island's churches have offered space for the refugees to use for services, as they await confirmation on whether an imam will be available to travel from the mainland once a week to conduct Friday prayers.

    Scotland is made up of a mainland and about 800 islands. Some parts of Scotland such the western part and the Isle of Bute are faced with depopulation. Michael Russel, a member of the Scottish parliament, says, “There has been a strong feeling in Scotland that we should be doing more for the Syrian refugees.” He thinks that taking in higher numbers of refugees could be economically and socially beneficial for Scotland. The resettlement of Syrian refugees in the country could resolve, at least to some extent, the problems arising from ageing and declining populations.

    European Court of Justice Upholds Headscarf Ban in Private Companies

    The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice ruled on 14 March that private companies can prohibit their female employees from wearing headscarves on the job. The court held that company regulations banning ‘the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign’ did not constitute direct discrimination so long as such prohibitions applied to all religious groups. The ruling applies only to the workplace. The ruling came in response to petitions from two Muslim women, in France and Belgium, who were dismissed from their job for refusing to remove their headscarves.

    The issue of the headscarf, particularly the full-face veil, has become highly controversial and contentious in many European societies. France and Belgium have banned the full face-covering veils in public places. In the summer of 2016, Muslim women were barred from swimming in the sea while wearing the burkini in some French municipalities. The ruling by the European Court of Justice should be seen in the context of this controversy as well as its potential consequences for Muslim women’s participation in the workforce and the demonization and victimization of women wearing headscarves. Some political parties in France are talking about banning the headscarf – and not just the face-covering veil – in public. The ruling legitimises and reinforces the prejudices against women who wear the headscarf and provides, inadvertently or otherwise, a legal cover for their exclusion from the workforce.

    Many Muslim women who are qualified and want to work face discrimination and prejudice on account of their headscarf. Unable to bear the strain of subtle and not so subtle forms of exclusion and rejection, some women slowly slip into demotivation and depression.

    Nadia Khedachi, a 25-year-old volunteer for the Forum of Muslim Youth and Student Organisation, says that to deny women the right to work because of their clothing is incompatible with the democratic and inclusive norms of European societies. The European Court of Justice has protected private companies rather than the rights of citizens.

    Being able to work is a significant index of social participation and integration. Instead of making the labour market more accessible to ethnic and religious minorities, the ruling will further limit job opportunities for Muslim women. Simon Cox, a senior legal officer specialising in anti-discrimination issues with the Open Society Foundation, says the ruling “will force employers to choose which side they are on and open the door to a greater willingness not to employ women in headscarves.” Maryam H’madoun, a policy advisor with the Open Society Foundation, expressed concern that the ruling could potentially help exclude many Muslim women from the workforce. “This disappointing ruling weakens the guarantee of equality that is at the heart of the European Union’s anti-discrimination directive,” she said.

    Ilknur Kucuk, who works for an NGO in Cologne, had to leave her native Turkey 20 years ago to study with her headscarf in Germany. Now her 11-year-old daughter asks her, “Mama, shall I have to leave Germany to study wearing a headscarf, as you did by leaving Turkey?” She said to her, “No, in Germany you will be able to study wearing your headscarf. Don’t worry.” “But today I am not sure whether she can do that,” Kucuk says.

    Name * :
    E-mail * :
    Add Your Comment :
    Home About Us Announcement Forthcoming Features Feed Back Contact Us
    Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved.