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IMMIGRATION

How France’s Muslim population will grow in the future

There are currently an estimated 5.7 million Muslims in France but that number could grow dramatically by 2050, a new study has predicted.

How France's Muslim population will grow in the future
Grand Mosque of Paris. Photo: AFP
France's Muslim population has greatly increased in recent years.
 
This is partly down to a record number of people seeking asylum in Europe as they flee conflicts in Syria and other predominantly Muslim countries, but mainly due to normal migration from Muslim countries.
 
Between mid-2010 and mid-2016, France received more than half a million Muslim migrants. Most of these were regular migrants rather than asylum seekers, according to the report by respected American think-tank Pew Research Centre which calls itself “non-partisan”.
 
During this time, France also accepted a total of 80,000 refugees, most of whom were Muslim. 
 
Pew's new study looking at how this is likely to change Europe's population predicts what it could mean for the future make up of France according to three possible scenarios. 
 
Graph: Pew
 
The first considers how France's Muslim population would be impacted by 2050 if migration stops altogether.
 
If arrivals halted altogether, France — which was home to an estimated 5.7 million Muslims (8.8 percent of the population) in 2016 according to the report — would continue to have Europe's largest Muslim community.
 
 
Table: Pew
 
Pew predicts the figure would rise to 8.6 million or 12.7 percent of the population.
 
“Those countries with Muslim populations that are especially young, or have a relatively large number of children, like France, as well as Italy and Belgium, would see the most significant change in the zero migration scenario,” reveals the report. 
 
Map: Pew
 
“Medium” and “high” migration scenarios
 
The second scenario looks at a “medium migration scenario”, that is to say if regular migration continues in the future but there are no more asylum seekers. 
 
If this is the case, France would be surpassed by the United Kingdom as the country in Europe with the highest population of people who identify themselves as Muslims.
 
Map: Pew
 
This would see France with a Muslim population of 12.6 million in 2050 or 17.4 percent of the population, compared to 8.5 million in Germany and 13 million Muslims in the UK (17.4 percent), says the report. 
 
“This is because the UK was the top destination country for regular Muslim migrants as opposed to refugees,” the report said. 
 
“Both France and the UK are expected to be roughly 17 percent Muslim by 2050 in the medium scenario, several percentage points higher than they would be if all future migration were to stop.”
 
Meanwhile in the third category, which “assumes that the current refugee flows will continue in the coming decades, not only at the same volume but also with the same religious composition”, France would have a Muslim population of 13.2 million, making up 18 percent of the population by 2050. 
 
In this “high scenario”, Germany would be home to 17.5 million Muslims by 2050, by far the highest number of Muslims in Europe. 
 
Overall, Muslims could make up over 11 percent of Europe's population in the coming decades, compared with just under 5 percent currently, if legal migration levels are maintained, the US-based think tank said.
 
Map: Pew
 
 
French people reckoned that 31 percent of the population was Muslim, when the real figure according to Pew research in 2010 was 7.5 percent.
 
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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

OPINION: The far right now dominates the immigration debate in Sweden

A televised debate between the party leaders last weekend showed how Sweden’s third party, the far-right Sweden Democrats, has shaped Swedish politics since the last elections four years ago, argues David Crouch

OPINION: The far right now dominates the immigration debate in Sweden

In the build-up to the 2018 elections, the world’s media descended on Stockholm, expecting a breakthrough by the Sweden Democrats (SD) who had been polling as high as 25 percent. In the end, SD took third place with around 18 percent of the vote.

Four years later, SD are hovering at around the same level in the polls. However, Swedish politics has been utterly transformed, as the other main parties have moved onto political terrain previously occupied by SD.

This would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago. When they first entered parliament, SD were treated as political pariahs, a racist party, held at arm’s length by the other parties who refused to cooperate with them in any way.

Attempts to bring the SD into the mainstream of Swedish politics fell flat. The leader of the centre-right Moderates lost her job after suggesting it was “time to stop demonising” the SD. Her replacement, Ulf Kristersson, said he would neither negotiate nor govern with them. After the elections, two smaller centre-right parties – the Centre and the Liberals – agreed to prop up the coalition of Social Democrats and Greens to prevent the SD gaining any influence in parliament.

It was clear, however, that the only chance for the centre-right to govern would be with SD support. After all, in Finland and Norway right-wing populist parties had entered government with the centre right. And in Denmark, the centre-right had governed with populist support. If it worked there, why not in Sweden?

In early 2019, the SD leader Jimmie Åkesson famously had meatballs for lunch with Ebba Busch, the leader of the tiny Christian Democrats, who acted as a bridge-builder. A few months later, Kristersson met the SD leader for the first time in his Stockholm office. By early 2021 the cordon sanitaire dividing the parties had been truly dismantled, and in the autumn the three parties presented a joint budget.

Meanwhile, the Moderates stepped up their rhetoric against immigration and crime. But perhaps the influence has worked both ways? Maybe the far-right have toned down their policies, compromising with the centre so the parties can work together?

On the contrary, Åkesson and other leading SD figures have stoked up the fire and brimstone in their anti-immigrant message. For the SD, the problem is dark-skinned immigrants from Muslim countries whose values conflict with Sweden’s and who should therefore be deported.

The response among the Moderates – and also the governing Social Democrats – has been a deafening silence.

After the Easter riots in six Swedish cities, the Social Democrat government proposed a package of coercive measures to help the police and social services crackdown on criminals.

A televised debate between the party leaders last weekend brought this out very clearly. More than that, it showed how the Sweden Democrats have shaped Swedish politics since the country last voted four years ago.

In the debate on Sunday, prime minister Magdalena Andersson talked about being tough on crime and boasted that Sweden now has one of the strictest immigration regimes in Europe.

It was left to the Green Party (polling 4 percent) and the Centre Party (6 percent) to challenge the SD on immigration. They pointed out that the violent minority is tiny, and that tens of thousands of recent immigrants hold down jobs, obey the law and contribute to Swedish society.

Centre Party leader Annie Lööf listed some of the SD’s more extreme proposals, including demolition of high-immigration neighbourhoods, dawn raids on refugees, and collective punishment for crimes committed by a single family member. This was “pure racism”, Lööf said – where were the “red lines”, beyond which the centre-right would turn against the SD?

All the parties agree that segregation along ethnic lines has gone too far in Sweden, that integration efforts have failed and that something must be done. But there is a paucity of bold ideas that could really make a difference.

Immigration will once more be a battleground at the elections in September, with key politicians competing to be the toughest in dealing with unruly “foreigners”. Meanwhile, the underlying problems that have fuelled disaffection among people with immigrant backgrounds are unlikely to be addressed.

A few weeks ago, Swedish journalist Janne Josefsson spoke to Ahmed, one of the stone-throwing youngsters who shocked the country at Easter.

“We are second class citizens. You let us in, but then Sweden doesn’t care about us,” Ahmed told him. “We are trapped here. I have studied, but will never get a good job. At least once a week we are stopped by the police. In the end, you feel hunted, like a quarry. Do you understand?”

It seems that Swedish politicians don’t really want to.

David Crouch is the author of Almost Perfekt: How Sweden Works and What Can We Learn From It. He is a freelance journalist and a lecturer in journalism at Gothenburg University.

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Listen to a discussion on Sweden and immigration on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

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