Danna
Vale’s remarks on the need to avert a Muslim takeover of Australia
were endorsed yesterday in The Australian by Canadian commentator Mark Steyn. Steyn describes
himself as a “humorist”; personally I’ve never found him funny, but I
recognise it’s a useful tactic because if something is seen as too far over the
top he can say he was only joking. This time, however, he seems to be quite
serious.

Steyn’s
argument for the anti-abortion/anti-Muslim position is in two parts: first, that abortion is bad because countries need
population growth – “all responsible governments should be seriously
natalist.” Second, it matters where the growth comes from: “If a
society chooses to outsource its breeding, who your suppliers are is not
unimportant.”

The first
point made sense at a time when a nation’s standing depended on military power,
which in turn depended on huge conscript armies. But its relevance today is
dubious at best. Steyn neglects the fact that China’s boom has coincided with
getting its population growth under control (partly by odious means), while
regions of Africa and the Middle East that have failed to do so remain mired in
poverty.

It’s not
clear that restricting abortion will actually do much for fertility rates –
Paul Norton, at Larvatus Prodeo, has figures showing a remarkable lack of correlation between abortion and
fertility. But assuming it would, why would anyone think that extra unwanted
children are a good thing? Steyn’s assumption that population growth from
forced pregnancy is just as good as population growth from lower infant
mortality is nothing short of bizarre.

Steyn’s
second point asserts that Muslims are different from previous immigrants.
Greeks, Italians and Vietnamese, he says, “are races or nationalities. But
Islam is a religion, and an explicitly political one – unlike the birthplace of your grandfather it’s not
something you leave behind in the old country. Indeed, for its adherents in the
West, it becomes their principal expression – a Pan-Islamic identity that
transcends borders.”

I’m not
sure how to take this sort of paranoia seriously. Religion as somehow a less
disposable thing than skin colour? Nonsense. Of course there are some
extremists among Muslim immigrants, just as there are among native-born
Christians. But experience suggests that those who immigrate, from whatever
culture, become over time more assimilated and more secular – the protests
against the Prophet Muhammad cartoons were peaceful in Europe
but violent in Syria,
not the other way around.

What’s
more, due to the effect of increased living standards, immigrants also have
fewer children than if they had stayed in their home countries. So if we really
want fewer Muslims in the world, better for them to come to the West than stay
in the Middle East.

Peter Fray

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