B.J. Richardson's Reviews > The Myth of the Muslim Tide: Do Immigrants Threaten the West?

The Myth of the Muslim Tide by Doug Saunders
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I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. Those of you who know me understand that I am as strongly in favor of a more generous immigration policy, especially for refugees, as one can possibly get. I was hoping that this book would actually bolster my arguments on the issue, but his defense was so weak at some points that I was actually questioning my own stand. After all, if this is the best "my side" has to offer...

Where was Saunders strong in Myth: He did an excellent job showing the parallels between how Muslim immigration is talked about today with how waves of Jewish, Eastern European and Irish/Italian Catholic immigration in the past were discussed. While I think there are many great parallels, I think he ignored two dynamics that make this wave unique. 1) The rise of communication technology and social media gives immigrants a stronger connection to their previous homelands. This will likely reduce the urgency and rate of assimilation in their new homes. 2) There is a current geopolitical trend the world over to associate or take pride in one's cultural identity or heritage and nationalism is a much weaker force than it has been over the past couple centuries (although this is less true than it was 5-10 years ago and nationalism seems lately to be making a comeback). Because of this, I think there might even some parallels among immigrant communities with Central Europe in the mid 19'th century rather than with the more recent immigration waves to the US and Western Europe.

Another thing I felt Saunders did well was show how the Middle East itself is undergoing drastic changes and is not the stagnant, monolithic entity it is often portrayed to be by anti-immigration fear mongers. While he expertly showed how as immigrants are flowing westward, they are sending ideas like freedom, individualism, democracy, and his religion of choice: "secularism" back eastward. For obvious reasons, he did not but easily could have included Christianity. The three countries where the Church is growing fastest (at least in 2015, the most recent years I know the numbers for) are Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

One area where I think Saunders was completely missing the point was his insistence on showing all kinds of numbers and statistics about birth rates. He shows how birth rates in Muslim nations have dropped over the past few decades and why he believes they will continue to do so. He shows how 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants have significantly fewer kids per average household than their parents and how after that there is almost no statistical difference than the community at large. So what? Saunders seems to miss the point that Islam is a missionary religion and that births are not the sole (or even primary) means of growth. The big concern among anti-immigration fear mongers is not how many babies they are having so much as how many are coming and how many they are converting. This is something Saunders seems completely unable to grasp but perhaps a quick glimpse at the Pentecostal denominations of the church will illustrate the point. At the start of the 20th century, there were no Pentecostals. None. The movement did not exist before Kansas, Azusa Street, and the Welch Revival. By the time Myth was written that number had passed 280 million and accounted for more than 1/8 of the global Christian population. That didn't come from a couple hundred people in Los Angeles and Wales making babies. I don't care how prolific they were.

Finally, I believe that Saunders was being deliberately disingenuous when he tried to show that Islam itself was a peaceful religion. He actually has the audacity to write at one point that fundamentalist Islam itself might be a means to preventing terrorist attacks and that the more devoutly religious a fundamentalist gets, the less likely they are to commit an act of terror. Seriously. He wrote that.
The terrorists have a simpler, shallower conception of Islam than fundamentalists —that is, their degree of interest in the actual teachings of the Koran is fairly minimal.

I wonder if he would have written this nonsense a few years later after ISIS (headed by Al-Baghdadi who has a Ph.D. in Islamic studies) came into being. It was already patently untrue, but it is oh so much more so in the world we live in today.

In all, I believe Saunder's heart is in the right place but his head is in the sand. I am glad he made the attempt, but I wish this book was never published. It has so many holes in so many places that I believe it does more harm for "my side" than it does good.

Please head over to Kingdom's Collide for a more complete discussion of this book.
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Reading Progress

July 21, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
July 21, 2016 – Shelved
June 22, 2018 – Started Reading
July 2, 2018 – Finished Reading

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