A fifth of European Union will be Muslim by 2050 and Muslim Europe: the demographic time bomb transforming our continent are the two headlines, and the use of 'time bomb' in the latter sets the agenda straight aware. The Telegraph obviously regards Muslims as destructive and dangerous.
The first story is bizarrely thin. Michaels says it is 'an investigation by the Telegraph' using 'data gathered from various sources'. But he does not say what these sources are (although it becomes clear in the second article they may not be entirely reliable).
What's curious about this is nearly a month ago, a William Underhill article in Newsweek entitled Why Fears Of A Muslim Takeover Are All Wrong made the case against the 'Muslim takeover of Europe' argument. Here's a key excerpt:
Coming up with a reasonable estimate for the percentage of Muslims now living in Europe, let alone making projections for the future, is a virtually impossible task.
The number of illegal immigrants is unknown and, in a sign of the sensitivity of the issue, many countries including France and Germany do not even tally census data on the religion of legal residents.
A virtually impossible task? Hmm. But then Michaels starts hedging his bets early in the 'time bomb' article:
a recent rush into the EU by migrants, including millions of Muslims, will change the continent beyond recognition over the next two decades, and almost no policy-makers are talking about it.
The numbers are startling. Only 3.2 per cent of Spain's population was foreign-born in 1998. In 2007 it was 13.4 per cent.
Notice how 'foreign born' and 'Muslim' become almost interchangeable in that passage. He continues:
Europe's Muslim population has more than doubled in the past 30 years and will have doubled again by 2015.
Which seems at odds with what Newsweek said about many countries not collecting the appropriate data. Indeed, Michaels admits as much much further into the article:
raw details are hard to come by as the data is sensitive: many countries in the EU do not collect population statistics by religion.
Hmm. So is any of this reporting even remotely reliable? Michaels switches back to immigration overall:
EU numbers on general immigration tell a story on their own.
Well, yes, they do, but it's not one about the number of Muslims in Europe. So why the intertwining of the two issues? Because:
Muslims represent a particular set of issues beyond the fact that atrocities have been committed in the West in the name of Islam.
Ahh, so that's why the headline refers to a 'time bomb'. But Michaels admits:
Recent polls have tended to show that the feared radicalisation of Europe's Muslims has not occurred.
There's something quite unpleasant about an assumption that Europe's Muslims would be 'radicalised', or that we're all in danger if there are more Muslims around.
He goes on to quote a couple of reports - a US Air Force one (rather oddly) and Christopher Caldwell, a senior editor for the right-wing Weekly Standard, who has written a book on the subject.
Caldwell, it should be added, predicted in the New York Times that it is 'just possible that [Robert Kilroy-Silk] and UKIP will transform the politics of Britain and of Europe', so we might just take his predictions with a pinch of salt. Michaels writes:
Whites will be in a minority in Birmingham by 2026, says Christopher Caldwell
Which isn't about Muslims at all, but is mixed in which lots of stats about them (like the migrant and foreign born stuff earlier). And then:
Austria was 90 per cent Catholic in the 20th century but Islam could be the majority religion among Austrians aged under 15 by 2050, says Mr Caldwell.
So it 'could' happen? Islam 'could' be the majority religion for, not the whole of Austria, but just the under 15s. In 40 years. Maybe.
Some 'time bomb'.
Back to Newsweek, for the final word on the issue:
Bottom line: given the number of variables, demographers are loath to make predictions about the number of Muslims in Europe in the years to come.
"You would almost have to make it up," says Carl Haub, the senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau in Washington.