*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.


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