*A Convergence of Civilizations*

That’s the new book by Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd and the subtitle is The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around the World.  I read it as offering three major messages: a) there is no unique pattern for Muslim demographic evolution, b) there is more civilizational convergence than divergence, and c) the demographic data we observe explain a good deal about various Muslim countries.  Here are some specific points:

1. In 1998-1999 about 55 percent of married women in Burkina Faso lived in polygamous relationships.  In the Muslim parts of Nigeria, rates of polygamy can run forty to fifty percent, as opposed to about thirty percent in the Christian parts of Nigeria.

2. Demographically, Iran is very much a Western country with a 2.08 fertility rate, and the authors strongly hint that Iran has a reasonable chance of modernizing as Turkey has; the authors also worry that Turkey has not made a complete demographic transition and thus is vulnerable to backsliding.  In general the authors seem to believe that the modernizing properties of Shiism are underrated.

3. Less than five percent of Uzbek or Tajik women are unmarried at age thirty.  In Morocco it is 41 percent unmarried at age thirty, in Tunisia it is 54 percent, 50 percent in Lebanon, and a staggering 58 percent unmarried at age thirty in Algeria.

4. Palestinian birth rates are not as high as they are often made out to be: “If one takes Israel and the occupied territories together, one can grasp the absurdity of the demographic confrontations: The high fertility rate of Israeli Arabs is an internal threat to the Jewish state, whereas the high fertility rate of the Jewish settlers threatens Palestinian predominance in the West Bank.” (p.67)

5. In Shiite Azerbaijan, there are almost twice as many abortions per woman as live births, 3.2 to 1.7.

6. Among the Muslims of Europe, the Kosovars are arguably the least religious but also the most demographically conservative.

7. The Muslim Malays seem to have combined high birth rates with relatively high status for women.

Speculative throughout, as they say, but always interesting.  Here is one short but accurate review.  For the original pointer to the book I thank Chris F. Masse.  Chris also points us to the DSK prediction market.


This is about your link to Chris F. Masse and his post on which he writes that BHL is a disgrace for France and DSK a shame for France. There is a third Frenchman whose comment on the DSK affair cannot be ignored. He is Jacques Attali, an economist by training but an intellectual by European acclamation. Read his column in his own website
I hope you take some time to comment on it.

Attali does not understand the difference between the known unknown and the unknown unknown. He is arguing essentially that someone should be considered innocent until proven guilty. And he is correct, in a legal sense, all else being equal. And for a regular citizen this is as it should be.
But DSK was not a regular citizen in any way. DSK was entrusted with enormous power, officially based on knowns (his experience and capabilities) and known unknowns (the trust that he would do the right in new situations). For someone in that suspicion to be suspected of doing something bad like this, at least to someone like me, means he has lost a substantial amount of trust. That he was at risk for this behavior was to most people an unknown unknown.
But on top of that, instead of being handed this power based on popular acclaim, he was put into his position through shady backdoor dealings and political maneuvering. And, it turns out, that what happened was a known unknown, not an unknown unknown (as to most of us) to the insiders in the IMF, the press, the French elite, etc.

So it is the fact that the people who put him there knew this was a risk, and still decided to put him there, that made me lose all trust in these insiders, and thereby in him (because those insiders put him there). So whether he is found innocent or not, he cannot be trusted, nor can those insiders be trusted.

And it is this that Attali, an insider himself, does not get.

And as a Jew, it does not make me happy at all that these are all Jews (DSK, BHL and Attali) disgracing themselves and their country. Bad days indeed.

That's just probability. A high proportion of finance bigwigs are Jewish. This will reflect in crimes too.

Who is writing a book titled "The Transformation of Previously Christian, Hindu, Atheist, Agnostic Societies into Muslim Societies"? Take previously Christian Lebanon as an example.

That would be Mark Steyn.

A big part of marriage is cost in conservative Islamic states. See this story at AJE: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/2010/10/20101031145751586410.html

"As is customary in Yemen's highly conservative culture, Muhammed al-Khouja has never met his fiancée. The couple have been engaged for almost two years and set multiple wedding dates, but every time the day draws near, the wedding is delayed. Yemen is full of single young men like Muhammed who cannot afford to marry.

Weddings are pricey in Yemen - bachelors have to pay their fiancée's family to marry their daughter. The groom and his father split the cost of a dowry to the bride's father, normally around $5,000, and the family of the groom is also expected to pay for the wedding expenses.
"MTN, a South Africa-based telecommunications company that operates mobile phone networks in Yemen, has organised an annual mass wedding for its local Yemeni staff for the past few years. At the most recent ceremony, 30 colleagues were married simultaneously."

Iran is also mentioned in the article as having significant mass-weddings.

shiism doens't necessarily have modernizing principles (it comes in mystical, moderate, and ignorant fundie flavors, as with other religions), but it does inoculate people against saudi-led salafist bullspit, because that's SUNNI.

It seems to me that progress in Iran would come much faster if the United States wasn't so bent on destabilizing the existing regime by hurting Iran's middle class. I argue as much in an August 2010 article I wrote, "Unintended Consequences of Trade Sanctions".

This should not come as a surprise. Muslim societies are no more culturally homogeneous than Christian societies. Why should Maghrebins and Malays share the same demographic patterns because of their religion?

> 5. In Shiite Azerbaijan, there are almost twice as many abortions per woman as live births, 3.2 to 1.7.

Well, the rest of Europe can sleep a little more easily knowing that there isn't a campful of future Eurovision entrants.

Religion and religiosity have complex interactions with fertility, see Viva Hammer's fascinating study in the Orthodox Jewish community, both in Israel and the world


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