Monday, 12 April 2010

Kenan Malik on the fantasy of 'Eurabia'

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Writing for Norwegian publication Bergens Tidende, Kenan Malik examines the argument presented by political scientist Eric Kaufmann in his new book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? In the book, Kaufmann draws on demographic data to suggest that high birth rates among fundamentalists of all stripes will lead to an "emerging 'culture war' between fundamentalists of all faiths and those who back the secular status quo," which "fundamentalists are poised to win because fertility differences based on theology do not fade like those based on ethnicity."

To get a better idea of Kaufmann's argument, read the interview with him from the current issue of New Humanist. While Malik does not place Kaufmann alongside right-wing "Eurabia" critics such as Mark Steyn, Christopher Caldwell and Melanie Phillips, who view Islamic immigration and demography as pointing towards a future, majority-Muslim Europe, he believes Kaufmann makes a similar mistake to them in placing too much emphasis on demography:
"Secularism and fundamentalism are not ideas stitched into people’s DNA. They are not born so. Secularist ideas and religious beliefs are like any values: people absorb them, accept them, reject them. A generation ago there were strong secular movements within Muslim communities and fundamentalism was a marginal force. Today secularism is much weaker, and Islamism much stronger. This shift has been propelled not by demographic trends but by political developments. And political developments can also help reverse the shift."
We headlined our Kaufmann interview "Battle of the babies", but for Malik the battle between secularism and fundamentalism is not one of babies, but ideas.

Read Malik's piece in full on his website.

If you're interested in seeing this subject debated in more detail, we're hosting an event this Thursday (15 April) at the Royal Society of Arts in central London featuring Kaufmann and Dominic Lawson, who reviewed Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? for the Times. It'll be chaired by Laurie Taylor, and free to all – you just need to book at the RSA website. If you can't make it, the debate will be audiostreamed live on the RSA site.