The Fear of Small Numbers: Eurabia Literature and Censuses on Religious Belonging

in Journal of Muslims in Europe
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Abstract

The aim of this article is to analyse and compare the census statistics on Muslims in Europe provided by the Yearbook of Muslims in Europe with anti-Muslim estimates of the possible numbers of Muslims in Europe in order to give a comprehensive picture of how many individuals actually identify themselves as Muslims. Contrary to popular figures estimating that there are approximately forty to fifty million Muslims living in Europe (including Russia, but leaving out Turkey) the official census data provided by nineteen countries in the Yearbook gives a figure closer to five million. The findings in my article are based on the available censuses from 2000 until today (that is, summer 2012), and the results give a presentation of census statistics on individuals who identify themselves as Muslims in Europe. The results from the Yearbook of Muslims in Europe are critically discussed and related to estimates and popular assumptions about the number of Muslims in Europe that circulate in the media, especially among anti-Muslim writers who adhere to the so-called Eurabia theory. In conclusion it is clear that there is a large gap between popular anti-Muslim estimates of the number of Muslims and the figures presented in official census data. It is argued that this gap may have a negative impact on how Islam and Muslims are framed, discussed and debated in Europe today.

The Fear of Small Numbers: Eurabia Literature and Censuses on Religious Belonging

in Journal of Muslims in Europe

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References

1

Asad TalalFormation of the Secular: Christianity Islam Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press2003) p. 164.

3

Spielhaus Riem and Johansen Brigitte‘Counting Deviance: Revisiting a Decade’s Production of Surveys among Muslims in Western Europe’Journal of Muslims in Europe1 (2012) 81-112. See also Spielhaus Riem ‘Measuring the Muslim: About Statistical Obsessions: Categorisations and the Quantification of Religion’ Nielsen Jørgen S. Samim Akgönül Ahmet Alibašić Brigitte Maréchal Christian Moe (ed.) Yearbook of Muslims in Europe Vol. 3 (Leiden & Boston: Brill 2011) pp. 695-715 and Schepelern Johansen Birgitte and Spielhaus Riem Mapping a decade’s surveys and opinion polls among Muslims in Europe (Copenhagen: University of Copenhagen/Centre for European Islamic Thought 2012).

4

Cf. for example Brown Mark‘Quantifying the Muslim Population in Europe: Conceptual and Data Issues’Journal of Social Research Methodology3 2 (2000) 87-101 and Sander Åke ‘To What Extent is the Swedish Muslim Religious?’ in Vertovec Steven and Peach Ceri (eds.) Islam in Europe. The Politics of Religion and Community (London: Macmillan 1997) pp. 269-289.

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Appadurai ArjuThe Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger (North Carolina: Duke University Press2006).

6

Spielhaus and Johansen‘Counting’ p. 2.

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8

Cf. for example Michaels Adrian‘Muslim Europe: the demographic time bomb transforms our continent’The TelegraphAugust 8th (2009) and Michaels Adrian ‘A fifth of European Union will be Muslim by 2050’ The Telegraph August 8th (2009). On the nexus between religion and demography see Kaufmann Eric Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century (London Profile Books 2010).

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Pilbeam Bruce‘Eurabian nightmares: American conservative discourses and the Islamisation of Europe’Journal of Transatlantic Studies9:2 (2011) pp. 151-171.

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41

Cf. Westoff and Frejka‘Religiousness’ p. 794; Kaufmann ‘Shall’ p. 173. cf. also Table 1.

42

Kaufmann‘Shall’ p. 173.

43

Westoff and Frejka‘Religiousness’; Gunnesdal ‘Europa’ and Kaufmann ‘Shall’ p. 172.

45

Westoff and Frejka‘Religiousness’ p. 795.

46

Westoff and Frejka‘Religiousness’ p. 798.

47

Gunnesdal‘Europa’ p. 150.

48

Kaufmann‘Shall’ p. 174.

51

Allievi Stefano‘How the immigrant has become Muslim: public debates on Islam in Europe’Revue européenne des migrations internationales21 2 (2005) p. 7.

54

Allievi‘How’ p. 15.

55

Spielhaus and Johansen‘Counting’ p. 2.

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