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Does 'Muslim Demographics' abuse numbers?

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Richard Knight Richard Knight 13:30, Friday, 7 August 2009

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On More or Less we patiently survey the statistical landscape. It's a kind of mathematical stakeout. When, finally, a number-abuser strays out into the open - we pounce.

Our victims are usually journalists or politicians. But of course now there are other channels open to the purveyor of rogue statistics.

A recent YouTube video, Muslim Demographics, uses data to portray the rapid Islamification of Europe and the United States. The claims it makes are rather startling.

But is a YouTube video fair game for More or Less? It's an interesting question - not least because we don't know who made the video. Or why (though one might speculate).

We decided to pounce. After all, the video's been played over 10 million times. That's a big hit. And it chimes with a thesis - the rise of 'Eurabia' - which has some traction elsewhere.

So how reliable are the statistics in the Muslim Demographics video? The short answer is: not very. But the long answer is more interesting, because the video is mix of the right, the wrong and the unknowable.

It's quite hard to dispute a figure for which there's no firm data either way. Take, for example, the video's claim that half of Dutch new-borns are Muslim. The Dutch cannot provide the relevant data because they don't collect it.

But Dutch statisticians estimate a Muslim population of 5 per cent of the total population. So to put it bluntly: could 5 per cent of Dutch women really be having 50 per cent of Dutch babies?

It sounds unlikely. But it's not an easy question to answer. If you want to see how we set about it, you might like to read this essay by my colleague Oliver Hawkins. Indeed, if you're into maths, we positively encourage you to; you might be able to suggest an even more elegant calculation.

The video is over seven minutes long, covering more ground than we could deal with on the radio. So we've made a video of our own - a more thorough analysis - and we've posted it on YouTube as a reply to the original video. It's embedded here, too.

If you like it, do pass it on.

Richard Knight is Series Editor of More or Less

  • You can embed the More or Less video on your own web site: click the 'share' button at bottom right of the video and copy the embed code to your web page.
  • The new series of More or Less starts today at 1330 on Radio 4. In the first programme Tim Harford investigates statistics which some claim reveal the 'Islamification' of Europe and checks whether the Home Office has been doing its sums properly. Do its claims about the DNA Database really add up?
  • Muslim Demographics on YouTube and the More or Less reply.
  • Richard Knight has written a longer piece about Muslim Demographics for the BBC News Magazine.


  • Comment number 1.

    Why does the link on this page only go to the original rasist video and not the modeated reply?

  • Comment number 2.

    But surely this has only addressed the quantitative point, and not the qualitative argument, that it really wouldn't matter if 80% of Europeans were Muslim if Enlightenment values were to be preserved, civil liberties protected, human rights enshrined in law in perpetuity, nightclubs and bars remained open and the legal system based on total equality before the law, and not some shariah-hybrid nonsense.

    I am fed up of listening to people say that we must be fully signed up to a 'tablets of stone' view of political correctness when some aspects of it, such as not being homophobic or islamophobic run diametrically opposite to each other and therefore make it impossible to square the circle. It is because few of us want to live in either a zionist Israel or Saudi Arabia that we choose to live the modern liberal democracy which the United Kingdom still purports to be.

  • Comment number 3.

    One point that hasn't been addressed is the assumption that people only have children with those in the same religon as themselves and that those children will also have the same religon. Belief in no religon is on the rise, but I don't think this is just down to atheists having lots of kids.

    Its also clear that whoever made the original video dosen't have a clue. They managed to mix up Great Britain, the United Kingdom and the British Isles all at the same time.

    To be honest, I dont know why more or less felt the need to cover this. Usually they deal with statistics that have been misleadingly manipulated, not just blatenly made up.

  • Comment number 4.

    Although I'm concerned about some aspects of rapidly changing Muslim demographics in Europe, I did find the original video a little hard to believe. I've always respected "More or Less", and they use more "proof" than the original, so I'm happy to accept their version.

    However, turning to comment number 1 by jonmarriott, I'm more concerned with our education system to be honest! Jon - do you seriously not know the difference between race and religion?!? Criticism of Islam (a religious and political ideology open to all) cannot, by any definition, be mixed with the word "racism", which is discrimination against "any group of people who are defined by reference to their race, colour, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origin."

    By falsely conflating the two, you are in effect belittling a powerful word and "diluting" the suffering of those who have suffered genuine and real racism based on skin colour, ethnic grouping etc. If you follow your logic fully, you yourself are being "racist" by suggesting only brown beardy people can be Muslim. You know it's not true, so please don't do it.

  • Comment number 5.

    The 'More or Less' response to the crude "Muslim Demographics" was balanced and helpful but it decided not to report the ONS data, from the UK, on what we know about the UK Muslim fertility rate and how it compares with other ethnic groups.

    Here are two links which provide reasonably up-to-date official ONS data, relevant to this discussion:-



  • Comment number 6.

    Thanks to U3280211 for the statistics links, and to alanparker for your point about conflating race and religion.

    The original video is pretty unpleasant right-wing christian propaganda, and the More or Less reply knocks major holes in it. To an extent, however, the first few minutes seem to validate the original video’s assertion about fertility rates. The More or Less video casts doubt on the claim that muslim families are much larger than non-muslim ones, and states that immigrant family-sizes tend to move towards the norm of the indigenous population over time. Whilst the 8.1 figure for the average muslim family size is unsupported, this does not seem a strong rebuttal, and the ONS statistics linked to show that UK muslim families are almost double the size of most others.

    The MoL video points out that figures given for immigration into Europe and Canada treat totals as if they were 100% muslim: the MoL video implies this is incorrect – I’m sure it is - but it would be more persuasive if accurate figures were provided.

    The point of the MoL video was to highlight distortions and bad practice in the original, and it does this fairly and well. As the voice-over admits at the end, however, it doesn’t show that the original is completely false.

  • Comment number 7.

    The "More or Less" argument looks misleading to me. It says there is a high proportion of women of Turkish/Moroccan origin between 15 and 49 (61%/57% as against the mainstream 45%).

    However, it would make a lot more sense to look at the number of Muslim women between 15 and 25. I think it possible (indeed likely) that there is a much greater population bulge in this very high-fertility age-group.

    Realistically, of course, the original claim is worthless. However, it might well be true in many Netherland cities, the places which exert most influence on education and planning policies. I think the Dutch are right to be very worried. 5% of the population is the point at which Halal food (licensed by mosques ignorant of BSE restrictions) starts to take over in schools and hospitals.

  • Comment number 8.

    What a round-table discussion. This is why I love BBC blogs.


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