Pope Francis has on more than one occasion spoken with respect about Islam and Islamic believers, and after his visit to Burma he said, “The presence of God today is also called Rohingya”, referring to the persecuted Muslim people there.
Of course it is right that there should be mutual respect between world faiths, and we must defend each other where religion is persecuted.
And yet there will inevitably be some concern at the latest demographic projections about the increase in Muslim populations in Britain and Europe. Pew Research (the leading authority on religious statistics) calculates that in just over 30 years’ time about 17 per cent of the British population will be Muslim – and 4.4 per cent of the Irish population.
The numbers and percentages vary noticeably in different European countries. Sweden will be over 30 per cent Muslim, according to the figures. Germany will be over 19 per cent and France and Belgium around 18 per cent. But Poland, Lithuania and Latvia will be less than one per cent Muslim, and the Czech Republic and Slovakia will also be low in Muslim percentages. So the picture is, overall, uneven.
The projected growth figures derive not just from immigration, but also from greater fertility among Muslim women.
Major changes in population profile can cause stresses and strains, and it would be naïve to deny that. In France, where intellectuals have such influence on national thinking, there is also an increase in critical attitudes among intellectuals who suggest that these population shifts will bring about a deep, fundamental alteration of the national culture.
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