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Germany’s Coming Demographic Revolution

They still haven’t got it.

European media and policymakers have correctly realized that the present refugee crisis is an enormous challenge to the assumptions that have guided the continent for decades, to the point of potentially breaking the European Union. But apparently they still are not prepared to confront the specifically religious revolution now under way.

This issue places me in a strange and unprecedented position. Over the past decade, I have written about the presence of Islam in Europe, arguing repeatedly that the threat of “Islamization” is overblown. Overall, I have argued, Europe’s Muslim population is presently around 4.5 percent of the whole, which by U.S. standards is in no sense a massive minority presence. It might rise to 10 or 15 percent later in the century, but the change will be gradual, allowing plenty of time for assimilation.

My moderate position on this has been heavily criticized by various right-wing outlets such as FrontPage Magazine, a publication with which I agree on basically nothing. On most issues, I find FrontPage’s tone hysterical and alarmist. Now, suddenly, I myself have to criticize that magazine for being insufficiently concerned about Islam. These are strange times.

Here is the problem. Germany recently declared that it would take 800,000 refugees this year. That is a very large figure, but as the government points out, that is only one percent of the population of 80 million. In FrontPage, Daniel Greenfield [1] stresses that the issue is much graver than it appears, since the refugees are mainly young men, who will massively raise the Muslim presence among that section of Germany’s population. Other writers like Christopher Caldwell [2] also raise alarms about the massive security threats posed by the present crisis. He warns that European politicians “are trying to pass off a migration crisis as a humanitarian crisis. It may be on the verge of turning into a military crisis.”

Both Greenfield and Caldwell are right, but they are still missing large parts of the story, which are available to anyone who has followed German media over the past two weeks. The first point made repeatedly by German officials and journalists is that no sane person really believes in that 800,000 figure for this present year. Even as Germany has introduced “temporary” border controls in the past few days, the estimates for the actual number of migrants expected continues to grow. Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel [3] now tells his party that, “There are many indications that in this year we will not see 800,000 refugees, as predicted, but a million.”

Also, such officials are explicitly saying that something like this influx will continue more or less indefinitely. Sigmar Gabriel [4] has also said that “we could certainly deal with something in the order of a half a million for several years.” If the present experience is anything to go by, that is likely to mean something like a million a year for how long? Five years? Ten?

However obvious this may be to say, there is no logical end to this process, even if the Syrian crisis ended tomorrow. As it becomes known that Germany is so open to migrants, that fact offers an irresistible invitation to anyone living in a country roiled by violence or economic crisis, which basically means most lands from Libya to Pakistan. There is no terminal point at which the nations sending migrants would ever run out of candidates seeking refuge and asylum. And even that projection takes no account of the likely spread of open warfare and terrorism into Turkey and Egypt in the coming decade.


So let’s put those numbers in context. Germany’s population is about a quarter that of the United States, so multiply all those refugee figures by four. Imagine if a U.S. president declared that the country would commit itself to taking between two and four million new refugees and migrants, annually, over the coming years—and that over and above other forms of immigration. Even given the diversity of the U.S. population, that would represent an inconceivably large social transformation.

Germany is also describing an epochal religious revolution. That point might not be clear from reading the very extensive articles in mainstream German media that discuss every aspect of the strains posed by the crisis, but somehow never mention the words Islam or Muslim. That reticence is understandable, given that Germans, more than any people, do not want to appear nativist or racist. But despite the taboos, that religious element is critical.

Who are the immigrants? On the good side, a sizable number are Syrians who are fleeing the rise of radical Islamism in their country because they are themselves non-Muslims, or at least non-Sunnis. Before the present post-2011 meltdown, perhaps 40 percent of Syria’s people fell into the various non-Sunni categories, including a great many Christians. Their presence in Germany might actually strengthen Christian traditions.

But these non-Sunni migrants will be an ever-smaller component of a migrant wave that is increasingly and overwhelmingly Muslim. Many of the present migrants are not in fact Syrian, and they adopt that description to win the sympathy of host nations (a thoroughly understandable decision). Many are in fact Iraqis and Turks, Libyans or Afghans. All those groups, incidentally, come from countries with very young populations and extremely high fertility rates, so their numbers would likely grow rapidly in their new European homes.

Before 2015, Germany’s Muslim population was around 5 percent of the whole, potentially rising to 7 percent or so by 2030. If the present wave of migrants and refugees continues, that figure could well be 15 or 20 percent by the 2030s, and it would be rising fast. For the first time ever, we would seriously be looking at something like the Islamization of Europe that has been a nativist nightmare for a generation. And in the German context, that process would be squeezed into just a couple of decades. That is radically destabilizing.

Personally, I don’t believe that the presence of Islam in Europe need of itself be harmful or even negative, nor that it would necessarily lead to violence. But I am quite certain that numerical changes on this scale do portend a cultural and social revolution without precedent.

Shouldn’t the Germans, and other Europeans, at least be allowed to discuss this openly?

Philip Jenkins is the author of The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels [5] (Basic Books, forthcoming Fall 2015). He is distinguished professor of history at Baylor University and serves as co-director for the Program on Historical Studies of Religion in the Institute for Studies of Religion.

22 Comments (Open | Close)

22 Comments To "Germany’s Coming Demographic Revolution"

#1 Comment By Kurt Gayle On September 15, 2015 @ 12:34 am

The masses of asylum-seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and contiguous nations are largely the result of US military interventions.

Europeans are now being asked to “fix” a problem created by US interventionism. Why?

Philip Jenkins puts a question that cries out for an honest answer:

“I am quite certain that numerical changes on this scale do portend a cultural and social revolution without precedent. Shouldn’t the Germans, and other Europeans, at least be allowed to discuss this openly?”

#2 Comment By JonF On September 15, 2015 @ 5:55 am

Since the migrants and refugees are overwhelmingly male who would they mate with? German women? Some, maybe, but that presupposes a degree of assimilation. This sounds like a recipe for a lot of very frustrated young men, a problem in itself, but not a long-term demographic problem.

#3 Comment By Robert G On September 15, 2015 @ 9:02 am

To Kurt Gayle: This sounds ridiculous and very European. Whatever your views on how much of this crisis is the result of U.S. intervention (and a good bit might be), the fact is the problem is Europe’s. Europe is where the refugees/migrants are headed. It does little to sit around and discuss the culpability of the U.S.

To JonF: If these young men become legal residents of Germany, they will find a way to “mate” (not a great choice of word by the way), whether with local European women or more likely, with women from their own homeland. If these men become legal residents and in time citizens of Germany, how could Germany refuse them to sponsor or bring in brides?

#4 Comment By Rachel On September 15, 2015 @ 9:11 am

JonF, once they establish residency, they will apply to have their wives (and children, if they have any) join them. If they’re unmarried, they will have their families arrange marriages with an appropriate girl from the Middle East, who will move to Germany to meet them. This phenomenon is so common it has a name: “fetching marriage.”

#5 Comment By Barret On September 15, 2015 @ 9:33 am

I wonder how many Christian refugees are among those entering Germany, considering how many have been displaced in Syria and Iraq. They may become the new face of European Christianity.

#6 Comment By Barry On September 15, 2015 @ 10:07 am

Kurt Gayle says:

“The masses of asylum-seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and contiguous nations are largely the result of US military interventions.”

For once I agree with you. It’s amazing how the US has taken some really, really bad places, and made them worse.

#7 Comment By The Dean On September 15, 2015 @ 1:10 pm

I remember reading a story about Mussolini during the fascist era. He was petitioned to build a mosque in Italy for the African colonials living there.

His response? As soon as a church is built in Mecca.

End of story until I think it was 1989 when the first mosque was built in Rome.

Don’t get me wrong I am not supporting Mussolini and/or fascism, but where is the courage today in our European leaders?

If there are Europeans that are reading this, let it be known you are committing suicide by tolerance. Good luck.

#8 Comment By JonF On September 15, 2015 @ 1:48 pm

Rachel: that’s just conjecture. If they are refugees and do not have jobs they will not be able to bring over anyone (or afford to marry)

#9 Comment By patrick On September 15, 2015 @ 1:56 pm

“The masses of asylum-seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and contiguous nations are largely the result of US military interventions.”
This is an over-simplification of terms. It’s amazing how the US has taken some really, really bad places, and made them worse by its military failures. Military Intervention by itself does not cause a domino failure. But if you have weak leadership and no commander-in-chief who believes in his generals advice then you will indeed be guaranteed failure.

#10 Comment By Natalie On September 15, 2015 @ 3:26 pm

Kurt Gayle says:
“The masses of asylum-seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and contiguous nations are largely the result of US military interventions.”

While I do agree with you on US intervention being responsible for refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan, Assad is mostly to blame for Syria’s exodus.

#11 Comment By Reliapundit On September 15, 2015 @ 6:22 pm

At 20 peecent they will comprise a powerful swing vote which will soon control german politics and soon after that turn germany into turkey, an akp style turkey ever more hostile to the enlightenment, Christianity and the West.

In fact, this whole invasion could not be occurring without complicity of erdogan and the akp. Probably at the suggestion of putin who is building a pipeline to turkey.

#12 Comment By jay kalend On September 15, 2015 @ 7:08 pm

Some issues:

1. Bloggers here speculate that some form of sponsored marriages will probably ensue for the benefit of young, male Syrian refugees. That is highly improbable given the restrictiveness of german and other european immigration law, not to mention german language requirements, which are stiffer than American English ones. It is unlikely that these men will engage in bride shopping a la Egypt or India, because of their poverty and inability to obtain entry in Syria, or credible entry anywhere else. As usual, those left behind in a refugee crisis are the Old (the parents) and unwed young women who must care for them and keep up family unity.

2. There are over 4 mil naturalized Turks in Germany, vast numbers of whom are poor, virtually illiterate, and refuse to assimilate. Given Turkey’s infamous reputation over ISIS, the Kurds, and anyone else, are hardly imagine Turks and Syrians “just getting along”, even when it comes to old-time religion.

3. The possibility of repudiation of Islam by refugees never enters discussion. In America at the heyday of Jewish immigration, many Jews from Robert Moses to Jack Warner were ashamed of their heritage, and converted. Jews contributed the worst gangsters in America, which is why there is no Godfather romanticism among Jews today as there is among Italian-Americans. I believe Islam has disgraced itself for generations. Or as we see in India, it will be treated so dismissively as not to resist interfaith and intercaste marriage.

#13 Comment By Lorikeet On September 15, 2015 @ 10:23 pm

JonF.Rachel is correct and it is not conjecture. The young men live in below- poverty-level shared living conditions doing the lowest-paid work and they work long hours often two or three jobs. They send as much money as they can money back to their mothers who in turn arrange a marriage for them as a “reward”. The arranged wife knows no other living standard than poverty level. She is not expecting even a 1-bedroom apartment, and usually they live in shared accommodation with a few other families.

#14 Comment By Peter Henderson On September 16, 2015 @ 4:22 am

An influx of vigorous Muslims is the only hope for the survival of Christianity and sane moral values in proto-Bolshevik Europe. In Sweden Christian pastors are jailed for teaching Saint Paul’s opinions. European journalists may be jailed for an increasing spectrum of politically incorrect views. Where Christians turn the other cheek so far it falls off, Muslims are healthily defiant in confronting imperial modernity. The result will be a new lease on life for all our ‘paleo-conservative’ values: ‘sexism’, ‘racism’, ‘homophobia’, ‘nationalism’, and last but not least moribund European Christianity, which will benefit from a climate of GENUINE diversity.

#15 Comment By Sam On September 16, 2015 @ 4:02 pm

My position is that the chief beneficiaries of US interventions in the Middle East should bear the brunt of the refugee burden, i.e., Israel and the Gulf States. I’d like to see a US politician come out with that stance!

#16 Comment By venze On September 16, 2015 @ 9:14 pm

Merkel has no choice but to make a U-turn, otherwise she would face the music from her people. Or perhaps it just dawns on her of unavoidable negative consequences of taking in too many refugees.

#17 Comment By Nick On September 17, 2015 @ 11:30 am

Good article. You miss the point, however, that the growth in Muslim percentage of the population will not be fueled simply by immigration, but by fertility rates as well, since Muslims generally have higher ones than (nominally) Christian western Europeans. So the percentage of Muslims by the 2030s might not be only 15 or 20%, but higher — and will only increase in the decades after that, at least until (or: if) Muslim birth rates decline. Other commenters have pointed out the problem of finding brides for all the young men among the refugees, but where there’s a will there’s a way.

Germany has been headed into long-term demographic decline; this influx might solve that problem, but at the cost of the religious and social problems you point out.

#18 Comment By Bob D. On September 17, 2015 @ 4:29 pm

Is there an explanation why a German would have a sign in English for people who speak an Arabic language?

#19 Comment By Miller S. On September 17, 2015 @ 4:38 pm

It is all because of the US’s Neocon foreign policy.

#20 Comment By John D. R. On September 17, 2015 @ 6:31 pm

Eventually the German soccer crowd will respond in their usual fashion. Through out the EU, the national front crowd will raise up and physically express themselves.

#21 Comment By Kurt Gayle On September 18, 2015 @ 4:38 pm

@ Bob D.: Good question about the lead photo of the lady with the sign “Refugees Welcome.” It was taken on January 31, 2015 in Hamburg during a demonstration by a group that calls itself “Never Mind the Papers; Recht auf Stadt.” This organization is said to have grown out of “Lampedusa Hamburg” in November, 2014. Their basic position on migrants is that if you show up in Germany, you should be allowed to stay legally. (Not exactly a representative position among the German public!) A lot of the signs are in English. Other signs are bi-lingual (English-German).

#22 Comment By Craig On April 5, 2016 @ 12:29 am

I hope John D is correct. Germans are going to commit national suicide by allowing this horrific invasion.