Early Thursday morning on January 24th, a CNN broadcast segment reported the grim breaking news that climate change will continue to exact irreversible changes world over. Following this bleak update, the morning news transitioned to another apocalyptic story: In the next 20 years, the US Muslim population will more than double—from 2.6 million in 2010 to 6.2 million in 2030.
Store food, brace yourself and try to gracefully accept this predicted upcoming global vicissitude, because this population increase will come as a global phenomena—with the world’s Muslim population increasing by about 35 percent, from 1.6 billion to 2.2 billion—according to the latest Pew report, “The Future of the Global Muslim Population”.
This substantial increase will be an asymmetrical combination of factors; an increase in the numbers of Muslims of childbearing age, a relatively high birth rate and immigration. The role of conversion remains uncertain, but is not suspected to play a large role.
Allow me to make a dry distinction from the field of formal statistics: a Type I error is committed when we observe something that is not really there and a Type II error is made when we fail to observe something that is there. The predicted population mix will certainly have far-reaching implications—and failing to observe, or simply overlooking these implications, would be a mistake.
Education, the workforce, the arts, your neighborhood and everything in between will be altered. And given the current climate of Islamophobia that is permeating and shaping so much of Western socio-political rhetoric, the report’s results will have a critical impact on foreign policy.
But let’s stay away from the percentages of the report and the comparative reproductive success of different religious groups. Scrape away the sci-fi trappings and this report can be read as a treatise on morality.
Our generation, Generation Y, will play a pivotal, dual role in the unraveling of this saga. First, the large number of Muslims of childbearing age in the US today will serve as the biological vehicles directly contributing to the increase in numbers. Secondly, all youth in the US today will, in the next 20 years, be subject to the ramifications of this projected twofold increase of Muslims in the US.
Since the current climate of Islamophobia can be hostile, this report unintentionally creates a proverbial word war over the water cooler by raising important questions. What will it be like in the next 20 years for the Muslim diaspora living on American soil? In what ways will this doubling of numbers manifest itself within the American social, political and economic fabric? And just how will non-Muslims respond to the increase in numbers in the upcoming years?
Despite the obvious difficulty in predicting a future response, one thing remains true— any treatise on morality requires compassion, respect and the pursuit of knowledge.
The good people at the Pew Research Center released their report with hopes for intelligent discussion. In a time when a fear of the ‘Other’ oft prevails, the need for solid, reliable, empirical estimates is pressing.
Yet, beneath the noise of politics, misunderstandings, the arrogance of belief, a culture is being built across America, where the future is more evenly distributed and far more optimistic.
I’m hopeful that as the numbers of Muslims in America increase, so do desires for mutual understanding and respect.
In one fell swoop we cannot knit up the strands of a season of irrationality into one synergized knot. Not even close. Instead, escaping the trappings of a binary mind and breaking free from the circular hell of a polarized us vs. them mentality will demand our time and an unadulterated, no holds barred dialogue.
Lucky for us, we have twenty years.