Washington Foreign Press Center: Engagement With Muslim Communities Around the World
Special Representative to Muslim Communities
MODERATOR: Good morning. Thank you for joining us. Welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. I’m J.B. Leedy. I’m going to be moderating for you today. Please make sure your cell phones are on silent, of course. The other thing that we would ask – we are going to be taking some questions at the end. We need your name – please wait for the mike – we need your name, your organization, and in this case, please let us know who your question is directed to.
The reason I say that is that we’re fortunate today to have two esteemed speakers. We’ve got Alan Cooperman, who is the associate director for research at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. He’s going to be speaking specifically to the results of their newly released study on the future of global Muslim populations – very interesting statistics, and you guys have copies of those on your chairs.
And then we’re also going to have some remarks by Farah Pandith, our special representative to Muslim communities at the U.S. Department of State. So questions related to policy, U.S. engagement, and initiatives should be directed to her. Anything related to demographics and the study, obviously, to Mr. Cooperman. Okay?
And we also ask that in your questions – we know that there are fascinating, dynamic things happening in the Muslim world today – please try and keep to the topic at hand, being the study and U.S. engagement to Muslim populations. Okay?
With that, I’d like to introduce Alan Cooperman.
MR. COOPERMAN: Thank you, J.B., very much. Before I came to Pew, I was a journalist for 25 years, including eight years as a foreign correspondent, so I have some idea how busy your lives are, so thank you very much for coming.
Very quickly, I just want to say a word about the organization I work for. You may or may not have heard of it. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life is a project of the Pew Research Center, which is a non-partisan, non-advocacy, non-profit organization. The most important of those words is non-advocacy. That is, we do not – almost – unlike any other think tank in Washington, we do not attach policy prescriptions to any of the studies that we do. So I cannot talk to you about the political implications of these numbers. Our effort is to provide credible information that is timely but impartial about issues at the intersection of religion and public life in the United States and around the world. But we don’t take positions in any policy debates.
Now, some of you may know about the Pew Research Center mainly because of our polling data. That’s probably what we’re best known for. But in the last few years, we’ve also been doing demographic studies, studies of population trends in the United States and around the world, which are a natural complement to our survey work. And we started with the Muslim population because even though Islam is the second largest faith globally, good, hard statistics about the size of the Muslim population globally have been scarce. And in the absence of hard information, there’s been a lot of speculation, as you probably know, and a lot of controversy.
And so we have stepped in and tried to do the best we can to provide transparent and objective figures on this worldwide. But we’re not stopping with Islam. We’re already collecting data on the size of the global Christian population, or populations, and we intend to publish those later this year. Over the next couple of years, we intend to do all of the world’s major faiths, so not only Christianity and Islam, but Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, and the unaffiliated. So I don’t want you to think that this is just about Islam. We’re already working on these other studies.
Now, a year ago, we came out with our baseline study of the current number of Muslims around the world. Yesterday, we released the second study that goes deeper and provides some historical data and projections out to the year 2030.
So the report itself is 209 pages. It’s got 150, approximately, charts and graphs. What I brought for you this morning is just a very quick sample of some – to try to illustrate, some of the broader trends, so that’s what you’re looking at. I don’t want you to think that what you’ve got on your chairs is the full report. It’s just a quick selection to give you an overview of the report. Please go to our website and please give me a call if you have questions about the broader report.
If you asked me to sum up this entire, again, 209-page report in a single phrase, I would say the Muslim population of the world is growing but slowing – growing but slowing. And what I mean by that is the population – the Muslim population is growing and it’s growing fast, but it’s not runaway growth. On the contrary, it is likely to grow at a slower pace in the next 20 years than it did in the last 20.
So let’s start with the growth side of this equation and look at it from the broadest global perspective. The world’s Muslim population is growing both in absolute numbers and in relative terms; that is, as a share of all the people in the world. So we expect, based on our projections, that the number of Muslims will increase about 35 percent globally over the next few decades, rising from 1.6 billion, with a b, to about 2.2 billion, with a b, by the year 2030. Now, by way of comparison, and you could see this in the first – the very first graph that you have, if you’ll turn to the very first one, this one, Muslims as a Share of World Population, and you can see the way that the Muslim population and the overall world population have been growing, and in relative terms, what’s been happening. And you’ll see that the Muslim population has been growing slowly but steadily as a share of overall world population.
So over the next 20 years, by comparison, while the Muslim population will grow about 35 percent, the overall world population will grow about 16 percent. And so all others, everybody other than the Muslim population, for comparison purposes, will rise from about 5.3 billion to about 6.1 billion people. And so if current trends continue, by 2030, Muslims will make up a little more than a quarter of all the people in the world. In 2010, there were a little less than a quarter. So it’s a 3 percentage point difference, again, from a little less than a quarter to a little more than a quarter – really, in many ways, not a dramatic shift, but let’s remember that those 3 percentage points represent about 600 million people. So in real terms, it’s a lot of people.
Now still another way of looking at this is in terms of growth rates. So you can flip to your second chart here and see that the Muslim population has been growing. Over this period from 1990 to 2010, over a 20-year period, it grew at about an average of 2.2 percent per year – that’s an average annual compounded rate – while the non-Muslim population, or everybody else, grew at a considerably slower rate. And over the next 20 years, we project, if you average these numbers out, that the Muslim population will grow at about 1.5 percent per year, while the – everybody else, if you will, everybody else combined – I know that’s a gross term, but nonetheless, everybody else, all non-Muslims, if you will – will grow at about 7/10ths of 1 percent, so less than half as fast.
However, let’s also look at the slowing side of this equation. From 1990 to 2010, the global Muslim population increased at 2.2 percent. Over the next 20 years, it’s coming down to 1.5 percent. And you can see the downward slope of these lines. The declining growth rate is due primarily to falling fertility rates in many Muslim-majority countries. The number of children per woman has been dropping in places such as Indonesia and Bangladesh as more women get a secondary education, as living standards rise, as people move from the countryside to cities.
And I think one of the most telling graphs in the entire report is this graph on trends in fertility that you’ll see in front of you. And you’ll see that the lines are really converging; that it, fertility rates in Muslim-majority countries, and that’s the line at the top of your graph, have been and remain higher than in other developing countries; that is, developing countries that don’t have Muslim majorities; and a lot higher than in the more developed countries such as in North America or Western Europe. However, those lines are converging. They’re getting closer and closer over time. This is why it’s important to say – to see that the recipe here is not of unbridled growth; it is of convergence and a slowing of the growth. The difference in the rates between Muslim population growth and overall population growth are decreasing; they’re getting closer together; the lines are converging.
We don’t see absolute convergence, but we do see – look at these numbers out at 2030: 2.1 is, roughly speaking, depending on other matters, it’s roughly speaking to replacement rate, the bare minimum necessary for a country to replenish its population. Quite a few Muslim-majority countries are already at that rate. It’s coming down – fertility rates are coming down in virtually all Muslim-majority countries, and by 2030 we expect that overall Muslim-majority countries will be very close to and at, or maybe in some cases – well, actually, quite a few cases – below the replacement rate.
I did bring some other graphs. One quick point I want to make, but it is a very important point that we make throughout this report, is that the Muslim – so-called Muslim world is something of a misnomer. There is no one Muslim population. There is no uniform Muslim world. There’s enormous amounts of variation within this very large group of people and within this very large group of countries. So this chart that I’ve given you on highest and lowest fertility rates, you can see that there are countries such as Niger and Afghanistan where fertility rates are six children per woman or more. That’s the average woman expected over her lifetime to have five or six children in countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali and Guinea; whereas, there are also Muslim-majority countries, like Iran, that are below the replacement rate, that are below 2 children per woman on average, and quite a few of those. So again, a huge amount of variation there. Let’s not – let’s – I’m aggregating numbers for important purposes, but we also in the report disaggregate them. And that’s an important point.
So one way I suppose, though not a very scientific way, to make population projections would be to look at the size of a population, say, 10 years ago and look at what it is today, and presume that in the future it’s just going to continue growing at that rate. That would be a linear extrapolation. We have not done that. I want to repeat: We have not done linear extrapolations. What we’ve done is use the very best demographic practice which is used at universities and by government agencies around the world and by the UN, and it’s called the cohort component method.
You begin by looking at the baseline population of a country, or any baseline population. In this case, we look at Muslims globally, we look at Muslims regionally, and we look at Muslims in each of 232 countries and territories. And you need to break that population down into age and gender cohorts, men and women, and you look individually at each of those cohorts and you project them forward into time by applying the age-specific fertility rates of women in each cohort, how many children a woman of a particular age is likely to have over a period of time, so you add in those gains from birth. You take out the mortality rates, how many people are likely to die in each cohort, and you also add in immigrants and taker out emigrants.
So it’s a complicated projection model. It, in many cases, involves changing fertility rates over time and it takes into account that populations can be younger or older to begin with. It’s a much more accurate way than to try to do a linear extrapolation.
And I want you to understand that and I’m going to wrap this up quickly, but I have a lot more to show you. As I said, part of the important element of these projections is not just fertility rates, but also mortality rates. And one of the reasons that the Muslim populations are growing in many places in the world and overall so rapidly is because life expectancy is increasing and the infant mortality is decreasing. And from, in many cases, a relatively low base – that is, from relatively high rates of infant mortality – the improvements in Muslim-majority countries are very dramatic. So people are living a lot longer.
And I, again, will point at the variation. So we have a chart here, and you’ll see that there are places, Muslim-majority countries, where already life expectancy equals or exceeds life expectancies in the United States, for example. But there are also places like Afghanistan and Sierra Leone where the average life expectancy is still under 50 years.
I will make one last important point, and that is that the Muslim population overall is aging, and that is a concomitant of fewer children per women and people living longer. Obviously, what that means is populations age. And so you can see that the median age in Muslim majority countries has already increased rather dramatically from 1990, when it was 19, to 24 today, approximately, in 2010. And we project by 2030 it will reach – the age of 30 will be the median age in these countries. They’ll still remain relatively youthful compared to other countries, but they are aging.
And the percentage of people in the youth category, percentage of teenagers and people in their early 20s, is declining, as you’ll see in this age-structure graph, really interesting with very important implications you may want to talk about. But the percentage of people under the age of 15 is, we project, going to drop. It was about 40 percent back in 1990. We see it going to 26 percent by 2030. The percentage of people in middle age in Muslim-majority countries is rising rather dramatically. And the percentage of elderly people, over the age of 60, is going to more than double over the next 20 years in these countries.
With that, I’ll conclude. But I do look forward to your questions and I do hope that you’ll go to the report. There’s also a pretty cool interactive component to the report which allows you to look at any particular country that you’re interested in, your own country for example, see what the number and proportion of Muslims was in 1990, see what it is today, and see what it is projected to be in the year 2030. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: And thank you very much, Mr. Cooperman. Obviously, this report has generated a great interest in the Department of State as well, so we have invited Special Representative Pandith here to talk a bit about the initiatives that we have in engaging Muslim communities around the world and what the State Department does with information like that outlined in this report.
Special Representative Pandith.
MS. PANDITH: Well, good morning to everybody. The first thing I wanted to say was congratulations to Pew. I read this study, and I thought thank goodness we have something that is concrete to stop the speculation and the craziness out there in terms of what’s happening with Muslims around the world. I spend a lot of time online, and I want to echo what my colleague just said: The maps are very cool and they’re very interesting, and they help us to understand what’s really taking place on the ground.
My goal today is not just to congratulate Pew, which I’m doing very enthusiastically, but to talk about their report marries with the strategy and the engagement that we are doing as the American Government with Muslims around the world. And I’m happily standing before you because what they’ve said is what we’re doing and what we have been doing. It would have been a disaster, of course, if we had looked at the numbers and thought, oh my goodness, we’re doing the wrong stuff and we’re not looking in the right places. But in fact, what they are saying is very important to what we have to think about in terms of long-term implications of partnership and relationship building.
And it also has to do with how we think about the conversation that’s happening globally, and that’s where you all come in. The way you craft the message in terms of what’s taking place with Muslims absolutely impacts the way people think about themselves and they think about the opportunities and the challenges ahead. So I’m hoping today that the combination of both the reality on the ground from Pew and some of the things that I’ve been seeing on the ground around the world in the last two years of being – almost two years of being special representative will give you a larger picture of places that we think are strengths out there, why we’re looking at the youth demographic, and how we think about the partnerships that we’re building over time.
I want to just take a step back so we’re all on the same page and you understand what my job is. I am the special representative to Muslim communities at the U.S. Department of State. This is a position that was established for the first time in American history two weeks after the President gave his speech in Cairo in June of ’09. Secretary Clinton has asked me to work with our embassies around the world, whether in Muslim-majority countries or Muslims that live as minorities, to focus on how we can use our teams on the ground to be the convener and the facilitator and the intellectual partner with the ideas that we’re hearing on the ground from the grassroots.
I work with the grassroots. I work with civil society. My job is people-to-people. And so I have been working with finding out what’s taking place with this demographic. We have been very eager to hear what entrepreneurs and bloggers, civil society, NGOs, foundations, faith leaders, scholars, students, have to say about what they are doing. So whether I’m talking to Muslims in Sao Paulo or I’m talking to Muslims in Solo, Indonesia, we are working hard to listen to what they have to say so that it can help us understand where we can build those partnerships. That’s my job, and that is what I’ve been doing since I was sworn in in September of ’09.
Now, this is an unprecedented moment from the government perspective. You have a President of the United States that has said that he wants to engage with almost one fourth of humanity in a way that no other Administration in the history of our country has done. The President, at the very get-go in his inauguration speech, on the steps of the Capitol, talked about how he wanted to reengage and to build and restore new relationships around the world with Muslims. It was the only faith group that he reached out to in that speech.
Of course in Cairo, you all heard his words, “mutual interest and mutual respect.” The vision of engagement, how we engage, the tools that we’re engaging – we can talk about in the Q&A. But it’s this larger frame, this moment in time, when the President has looked at how we can use the strength of the United States Government to be energetic and eager in building these partnerships that I want to focus on. And it’s important for us to think about how we take the energy and the passion and the commitment of this President and this Secretary of State and move it forward on the ground through our embassies, which is what we’re doing.
Now, one of the pieces that I found so interesting in the Pew study – and I want to move to that piece of it here – they talked – and you heard from our colleague the trends that are taking place in terms of fertility. You’ve heard where the movement is in terms of what parts of the world are growing, the fact that Pakistan is going to be the largest Muslim populace country in the world in the next 20 years. The fact that you’re looking at changes that are taking place in communities in Africa, across Africa, not as a lump but different things are taking place. The idea that Canada and Argentina have growing Muslim populations. The idea that Europe has countries that are recalibrating in terms of where Muslims will come in and who are not. Keep your eyes on Sweden, take a look at what’s happening in Italy, take a look at what they’ve said about what’s taking place in these parts of the world and how we think about what’s happening. It’s really important to how we think about the frame and the texture of what’s happening with Muslims around the world.
So I thought it was very interesting to read the piece about Africa, how important it is that we think about what’s taking place with diversity of Muslims around the world. I almost did a little jig up here on the stage when my colleague said there is no one Muslim world. The lexicon in our government has changed. We talk about Muslim communities around the world because there is no monolith. We need to give respect to the diversity of Muslims around the world and to give dignity and respect to the cultures and the differences around the world, and we don’t treat everybody in exactly the same way. What are the programs that we can do that are different in Africa, in different parts of Africa, in Central Asia, in Southeast Asia? It is not just one big brush that we’re painting with everybody and everyone.
Now, the other thing that they talked about was youth, the youth demographic. And while my colleague said it’s growing but slowing, the demographics of Muslims around the world, this moment in time has hundreds of millions of Muslims that are under the age of 30. Sixty percent of the world’s Muslim population right now is under the age of 30. And as we think about how the U.S. Department of State is engaging, we are very much focused on what we’re calling generation change.
This is a Facebook generation. This is a generation that is connected online like no other generation before it. And how we think about how we’re reaching out to these young people will impact us over the long term. The ideas that we sow with these young people, the opportunities for partnership, the ability to listen to their ideas on the ground will inform the future of our planet because this generation is getting into positions of power both in the business world and in the political world. How will our relationship to them impact over the long term? So I’m very happy to see the conversation in the Pew report about youth because we are focusing very heavily on that under-age-30 demographic.
Now, the other thing that we’re doing is we’re building networks of these youths. We’re connecting ideas across the world. And that is very important as well, because as you all know, something that is happening in one part of the world absolutely affects another in a moment – in a moment. It is no longer a full-day news cycle. It is an instant in which we think about what a young person has to say. What we are doing, why I’m telling you it’s important that we’re focusing on youth and we’re focusing on civil society, is because the Secretary has asked us to listen to what people on the ground are saying.
The people-to-people interaction isn’t an unprecedented thing that’s never happened before on behalf of the U.S. Government, surely. But we’re paying more attention to how we think about the figures that are not just making news, but have interesting and innovative ideas. That creator, that innovator, in one part of the world that’s doing something that can be connected to another person in another part of the world; we are connecting them. In a time where it is the Facebook generation, you have a generation that does not need to meet face to face. Whether you use Skype or you use a Facebook connection or you connect on Twitter, you are able to send ideas, connect with people, and learn from each other. And I think it’s a fascinating thing that’s happening right now.
This young generation is a generation that every day, all day, from September 12th onward, has seen the word “Islam” or “Muslims” on the front page of anything online or offline. How does that influence the way they think about themselves, about the global conversation, about their opportunities for the future? What we’re doing is we’re engaging in this conversation with this generation and trying to find ways to lift up their ideas, to connect their ideas globally, and to make sure that we are doing as much as we can on behalf of the United States Government to bring their ideas forward so that we can change the narrative about what it means to be Muslim, about what is, in fact, taking place.
And I want to end where I began. The importance of the Pew study is vital to the way policymakers have to think about trends. It is one piece of a larger puzzle. They’re showing us data. They’re telling us projected trends that we think we ought to be thinking about. With that, we have to overlay many pieces that go with it, which means: What are we hearing on the ground? How do political things happen influence the communities on the ground? How do conversations that are taking place among and between this youth demographic make a difference? And those are the things that as we combine and as we think about policymaking, as we think about places where we need to put our efforts and engage in the kinds of programs, that we need to work together on all these data points to create robust initiatives and strategies that are not just for today but are thinking long-term in terms of the partnerships that we’re building.
Secretary Clinton has talked a lot about long-term partnerships. This isn’t just the flavor of the day in terms of what we’re doing. With one fourth of humanity that is Muslim, with so many of these Muslims that are under the age of 30, with growing connectivity online, this is the moment that we have to partner, that we have to give respect. We need to think about what’s taking place, and we need to do as much as we can as the United States Government to create tools that will help this generation move their ideas forward to make a stronger planet.
So I’m going to stop there and I’m looking forward to your questions and answers. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you very much, Special Representative Pandith. If you could please, again, wait for the mike, give us your name and your organization and to whom your question is addressed. And if I could ask our speakers to return to the podium to take those questions, that would be helpful.
QUESTION: Brian Beary from Europolitics, European affairs newspaper. Ms. Pandith, I think this question is for you. There’s a long narrative about European Muslims and American Muslims and the fact that European Muslims are supposed to be, like, poor, they don’t have jobs, they’re not well integrated, and they’re more susceptible to becoming terrorists, whereas American Muslims are supposed to be better educated and that – and I know that’s changing a little bit. But I was curious, because I saw on your bio you had experience of working with the European Muslim community, I’m just wondering what your take is on that narrative and if you could just sort of unpack it and give your view of it.
MS. PANDITH: Thank you for that question. For those of you who didn’t read my bio, I spent the last three years before this job working on Muslims in Western Europe. It was a position that was created right after the Danish cartoon crisis happened. When we understood that something that happened in Copenhagen affected a life in Kabul, how were we as the United States Government thinking about what was happening in Western Europe? For a long time, as we thought about Muslims in Europe, we were looking at Muslim-majority countries. We were looking at Bosnia. We were looking at parts of Europe that didn’t necessarily seem, quote/unquote, “Muslim.”
But if you look at the Pew report, you’re looking at the changes and the numbers that are across Western Europe. You’re seeing what’s happening. France is the country that has most Muslims in it. But what’s happening in the UK, what’s happening in Italy, what’s happening in Spain, what’s happening in Austria and Germany actually influences the global conversation.
Muslims in Europe have the tools that are available to everybody else: Everybody is online; it’s a free and open society; you can go across borders; you can share ideas; you can project your innovation and your creativity and also your challenges across the world and to each other.
So as we think about what’s been taking place in Europe over the course, in fact, of the – I’m going to say the Danish cartoon crisis onward, we’re seeing a lot of changes that have taken place within these Muslim communities. I am not going to tell you that this is something you need to look at and think it’s all destructive, because I want to be very clear. In the time that I have spent on the ground in Europe between the years of 2007 and 2009, I went to 55 cities across Western Europe. And there are remarkable and amazing young Muslims doing incredible things. They’re innovators and they’re creators. They’re entrepreneurs and they’re founders of new ideas. They’re connecting with not just Muslims but others to make their communities stronger, and they want a voice. And that’s the larger chapeau I want to put on here. Muslims across the world want the ability to take part in the conversation, to not have people look at an “us” and a “them,” to look at Muslims as if they’re different. They are part of the communities, and across Europe they are engaged in doing some very productive things.
Having said that, to your question, there are some very great challenges that are happening across Europe for Muslims. Of course, we see this every day. There’s a great need, a great need across Europe, to think about the issue of diversity and integration and social cohesion. These are not just for Muslims, but for all immigrant groups across Western Europe.
The conversations that are happening on the ground about how we think about those challenges, the fact that many of these young Muslims are feeling a great strain over the fact that with an education and with the right credentials, they’re not getting the opportunity to enter into the workforce the way some of their peers do because of issues of prejudice or discrimination. But I will also say that European governments are doing more than they have, that I have ever seen them, to talk about these issues and to try to figure out ways to restore an opportunity where a growing part of their population has a chance to succeed.
This pulling apart of where Muslims live in Europe, it is very different from the – and I want to get to the United States in a second, but just to shape the conversation, Muslims in Europe are very much sort of living among themselves. Many communities don’t, in fact, connect with others. You can go through most of your life and not spend your time integrating with people who are different than you and sharing ideas that are different from you. There are conversations in Europe about – and you all know this as well as I do – about the opportunity for Muslims to express themselves. As an American and as part of our country believe, we believe in freedom of expression, the ability to be able to dress the way you want to dress, to be able to practice the way you want to be able to practice. Depending on what country in Europe, those conversations are happening.
So there is a lot of very challenging pieces to what’s happening with Muslims in Europe, but it is not a terrible story. I want to be clear. Muslims in Europe have and are actively engaged in some very tremendous and important things that are happening in Europe, initiatives that are trying to help their communities become stronger, initiatives in which they’re pushing back against stereotypes, in which they’re showing a different side of themselves. The next generation – this is very important. What generation are we talking about? Are we talking about a third-generation person, or are we talking first-generation? Which ethnic background are we speaking about?
There’s so much diversity within Europe and even within countries. I often say that a Madrid is not a Barcelona. You can’t look at Spain and say this is what’s happening to Muslims in Spain. Where do you mean? What are you talking about? A Munich and a Dusseldorf and a Berlin are not the same. A Marseille and a Paris are not the same. If you look at what’s happening in Malmo or you look at what’s happening in Stockholm, you also see very – they’re very, very near to each other, but things are different. So I want us to be more respectful about what’s taking place as we think about European Muslims and the challenges and, by the way, the opportunities that exist for them.
When you talk about what’s happening in America, people – and this is – this is sort of the West, you know. I brought up Canada and I brought Argentina and I brought up the diversity of Muslims around the world, because I think it’s important for you as journalists to help us talk about this in a sophisticated way. The West is not one big lump either. How we think about what’s taking place – the challenges that I’ve talked about in Europe are very different than the challenges that may exist here in the United States for any faith group or any immigrant group that’s taking place.
The American narrative has created a very different context from which we are starting. And I think when you think about the fact that America is a place that has every country in the world represented, every faith in the world represented, when we have a Constitution that provides the right for every citizen, no matter what creed or ethnicity or faith, to practice freely, you have a very different foundation. And the laws of our land, our civil rights and civil liberties, are out there to protect each citizen. That changes the frame from which we think about what’s happening to a particular faith group.
There are challenges that are happening in our country today that are very different than two or three years ago, and you are all seeing the rhetoric that has changed. We have a very strong country. We have a foundation on the Constitution that provides the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of faith. And if you talk to many in this country that have watched very difficult conversations happening on extreme sides, whether it is the conversation that happened after the preacher in Florida made his comments, or it’s the conversation around the Park51 issue, or it’s other things that are taking place, Americans are coming to the table to talk about things in very different ways than they have in the past.
But I think to think that European and American Muslims can be compared – it is apples and oranges. And even within Europe, it is not fair and right to compare Europe as a big lump and to suggest it’s all the same, because it really is not. Thank you very much for that question.
MODERATOR: Okay, the gentleman right there.
QUESTION: Ms. Pandith, again this for you. Thanks for the presentation. I have two quick questions. And one of them is you mentioned that you are especially focusing the age group below 30 in the Muslim world. My question is --
MS. PANDITH: There is no Muslim world.
QUESTION: Yes. Okay.
MS. PANDITH: I got you off track. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Yes, you did.
MS. PANDITH: With Muslims around the world. Yes.
QUESTION: Could you please tell us what has changed between last couple of weeks that you have been seeing this revolt in the Arab world and part of the Muslim world? Has this changed enough to think that you have been doing last for two years and you suddenly wake up and added more analysis?
And my second question is, there have been quite few commentaries and reports published, some of the former national security officials in U.S. suggesting that there is a danger of sharia in the U.S. and there must be done something about it. Is this study and trend, new trend, give you any kind of analysis to come to reinforce these studies? Thank you.
MS. PANDITH: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: Ilnan Tanir from Turkish press, Vatan and Hurriyet daily news. Thank you.
MS. PANDITH: Nice to meet you. You had two very different questions. I want to talk more broadly. We’re here to talk about the Pew study, and I want to connect with what they were saying about young people.
It is no surprise to anyone that young people of any faith, of any creed, of any ethnicity want to be heard. They are – you are seeing these trends across the board. You’re seeing it in every part of the world. Ideas are coming into action. You no longer have to wait until you’re much older to be able to make a lot of money on your idea. Entrepreneurs are of all ages, everywhere. You’re seeing more comfortability with the idea that someone who is young has some power in terms of their capacity to make change, to bring an idea forward.
I think about the Alliance of Youth Movements, which is an organization that was started a few years ago – if you go to movements.org you’ll see that – of young people around the world who have taken the strength from their own ideas to push back around things that are happening in the world that don’t make sense, whether it’s gang violence or it’s violent extremism or it is domestic violence. Things that are of concerns to them because they’re citizens, they are no longer waiting to be heard. They’re putting people together and marching into action, whether virtually or physically. They’re making change on the ground.
You’re hearing about young people that have innovative ideas that can solve very serious problems, whether it is with health or education or it has to do with nutrition, that their ideas are coming forward and they’re getting the support that they need from others to say that’s a cool idea, how do we invest and make a difference with it. When I think about that global trend, it is no surprise that we are seeing more and more the connectivity of young people that say we’re not going to wait for something else to change, we’re going to change now.
You talk about what’s happened in the Middle East over the course of the last few weeks. And of course, you’re seeing young people want to be heard. People have – a lot of press, some of you maybe, have been talking about it in terms of a youth revolution. And in fact, it’s young people trying their hardest to get their hopes and their grievances out, asking for reform. Whether it’s political reform or social reform, they are asking their governments to do more for their future.
Secretary Clinton gave a terrific speech in Doha at the Forum for the Future in which she talked about this youth demographic. She talked about the need for us to do as much as we can to listen to the ideas of young people. She talked about the urge that – urging that she had put forward for governments in that part of the world to listen and respect the voices of their populations so that they can express themselves and be part of the creation of the future.
And whether we’re talking about that in terms of job creation or social cohesion or political reform or transparency, you’re talking about a need for people that look around the world, that are connected, the Facebook generation, that is able to look around the world and say, “They have it. Why can’t I? I want an opportunity to do things, I want to have my ideas go forward, I want to create robust communities that are going to make a difference on the planet.”
That’s what we all want. We want strength in small communities. We want to think about what’s happening at the local level and understand that. And all governments should be pushing towards hearing what their people have to say. So when I look at what’s happened, I look at, frankly, the numbers in the Pew study, which represents, I know, only Muslims.
But I also think about that growing trend. Now look, I have – I’ve been traveling quite a bit, 85 percent of my time since I was sworn in. I’ve been to every region of the world, and I’ve talked to thousands and thousands of young people. If you go online and you go to my Facebook or my Twitter account, you will see me highlight some of these young people that I’ve met. I’ve spent time talking with them about what they want.
Now, it is true that many people talk about foreign policy, many people talk about issues of job creation, many people talk about the issue of education, which is central and unbelievably important to how we think about the future of these generations. But they also talk about their need to be part of the conversation. You cannot exclude so many people from the conversation and expect everything to be okay. What can we do as government, what can you do as press, what can others do as business and civil society, to hear their ideas and to take the time to help those ideas grow? That is unbelievably important as we think about what needs to happen next.
Now, I also wanted to touch base on what you said about – I think you said that there were national security folks in the United States that had issued –
QUESTION: Yes, former national security officials.
MS. PANDITH: Who? Because I haven’t –
QUESTION: Leading by Frank Gaffney.
MS. PANDITH: Okay. I haven’t actually seen the report that you’re talking about. There is a lot of conversation around the world about what sharia means, what it could mean for countries, quote, “in the West.” You’ve heard conversations in Europe the politicians and civil society have had. You’ve also seen that trickle into the United States and you’ve seen very – in my view, some very uninformed conversations about what sharia is and what could happen to the country.
If you look at the numbers in the Pew report – which I want to really want to go back to the Pew report because that is why we are here – look at what they are talking about in terms of the Americas, the numbers of Muslims that are in the United States of America, which is a very small percentage, by the way. It doesn’t say in the Pew report, in terms of the educational background or when these Muslims came how new they are to our country, but to think about Islam in America is important and to think about it in the context of who we are as Americans. Okay?
I think it’s very important to think about the fact that Islam is not new. It is a face that has been part of America since America’s founding. It came to America with the slaves. To think about the fact that our presidents from John – from George Washington to John Adams to Eisenhower to Bush to Clinton to Obama have talked about Muslims in respectful ways as part of the American family, as President Obama said just a few days ago. And I think I’d like to leave it there on that question.
MODERATOR: Okay, and with that, has anyone got any questions for Alan Cooperman?
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m Lauren McGaughy from the Asahi Shimbun. It’s a Japanese newspaper. For Mr. Cooperman, on the fertility rate page, I noticed that Iran was one of the only countries that saw a slight – it’s a slight rise, but though you’re projecting that there will be a slight rise in fertility until 2030. Can you explain where you got that specifically?
MR. COOPERMAN: Sure. Iran is at present below the replacement rate; that is, absent other factors like immigration, the population is not replenishing itself, so it’s actually decreasing in numbers. Demographers generally think that over the long haul, fertility rates move toward the replacement rate. If they’re below replacement, they tend over the long haul to move toward replacement. So this is leaving aside issues such as government programs to try to increase the number of children or, in some countries, to try to decrease the number of children, but within which can have a great impact, or economic factors which can have a great impact. But our projection is, just based on demographic theory, that it will tick up a little bit in Iran.
MODERATOR: Thank you. While he’s up there, has anyone got an additional question, perhaps, for Mr. Cooperman?
MR. COOPERMAN: I’ll say something very quickly about the Americas in answer to that previous question. We have some information about the breakdown of the Muslim population in the United States and in the Americas more generally in terms of age, et cetera. But in a prior report that we did just a few years ago, which you can find on our website called Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mainstream, if I recall, is the title, from 2007, that’s based on polling data and would give you a good sense about what that narrative that you talked about, what Muslim Americans think about things and how they may be different from Muslims in Europe.
And I’ll note very quickly one thing, which is that there’s no country of origin among American Muslims or Muslims in the United States that represents more than about one in eight Muslims. So no single ethnic group of Muslims represents more than about 12 percent of all Muslims in the United States; whereas, in many European countries, Muslims of one particular ethnic origin – say South Asians in the United Kingdom or Turkish Muslims in Germany or, say, North African, Tunisian, Algerian, and Moroccan Muslims in France – may represent a much higher percentage. So that the American Muslim population, the U.S. Muslim population, is quite heterogeneous. It’s also, we found in that report, quite middle class and mainstream in its views overall. Thank you.
MODERATOR: All right. We’re only able to take about one more question. We have to go ahead and finish this portion of the briefing. Could we take your question?
QUESTION: My name is Joyce Karam with the Al Hayat newspaper. I actually have question for – two questions for both of you.
For the gentleman from Pew, I mean, how do you number – if you want to look at what’s happening today in the streets in the Arab world – Tunisia, Egypt – I mean, is it the youth? Is there any growth in the youth in these countries? I mean, how do you reflect on that?
And to Mrs. Pandith, are you communicating at all with groups in Egypt, non – NGOs or protesters that are out on the streets today? And we are seeing reports that Syria and Libya are cracking down on the internet and Facebook today. If you can have any comment on that, that’ll be great.
MODERATOR: Alan, do you want to briefly address the demographic question?
MR. COOPERMAN: Sure. Very quickly, we have a number of pretty interesting statistics, particularly about Tunisia, in this report. And of course, we had no idea that what’s happening in Tunisia was going to happen when we were putting this report together, so we don’t address it in any way directly.
But Tunisia, you’ll see in the section on education in this report, has today – a girl born in Tunisia today can expect to receive on average 15 years of education. That puts Tunisia up among the Muslim-majority countries with the most projected education levels for women. And highly correlated with that are fertility levels. Tunisia has relatively low fertility rates. So its population is not by any means exploding.
And you can also see in our numbers that Tunisia has a relatively low percentage of people living below the poverty line. And basically, you’ll see a series of statistics that altogether I think indicate that there’s a substantial middle class of educated Tunisians. And that may indeed play a role in what’s happening today.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PANDITH: If you will permit me for a second, I just want to go back to the question on America and Europe for just one other moment. One of the things I find really interesting about what’s happening with American Muslims and European Muslims is that they are very active online and they are creating spaces that didn’t exist, even in the course of the last three years. You’ll see initiatives and news blogs and different kinds of movements that never existed before, where they are trying to take back the microphone and redefine who they are and talk about their needs and challenges that are out there. And I think that’s a very – they’ve actually helped each other, I think learning from each other and ways that we can actually get the reality on the ground and not be stereotypical about what’s taking place.
The gentleman from Pew also talked about the fact that American Muslims are earning – they’re earning more than their European counterparts. They are also higher educated than their European counterparts. And there is a – and I stated and I want to confirm again that I don’t think you can compare; it’s apples and oranges. But it’s important to think very, very specifically about the last point that he made in America, that there isn’t one major ethnic group that makes up Muslims here. And I think that changes the shape and the texture of what’s happening in America vis-à-vis the Muslim population.
To the question in the back from the woman from the Turkish newspaper, I want to talk about internet freedom because I think it’s really important for us to focus on what the Secretary said about the need to keep – I can’t see you anymore – to be able to have people express themselves online and to keep those channels open. We believe in freedom of expression, of course.
I also wanted to go back to the relationship we have with Egypt, okay? We have – Egypt is a valuable partner. It has been and it will be a very important partner to us, the United States. And our relationship with Egypt is multifaceted. It isn’t just around one thing or another. We have a relationship with both the government and with the people of Egypt, and have for a very long time. We have shared goals in the region and around the world and we’ve worked together for decades on those.
And as a valuable partner and as someone where we have talked very candidly both publicly and privately, we have talked about reform, and we have and will continue to do. So there have been a lot of conversations by senior government officials on the United States side, whether it has been the press briefing that Jeff Feltman did the other day – and I urge you to go to that – or it is the wonderful interview that Tamara Wittes did with NPR the other day about our relationship in Egypt, you can hear us echo the same things. Egypt is a valuable partner. It’s a multifaceted relationship with both the government and the people.
Our programs in Egypt have spanned decades in terms of what we’re doing with civil society and our investment in many different things. The Middle East Partnership Initiative is one of many tools that we have in our toolbox in which we’ve used our skill sets to build partnerships and to lift up civil society and to invest in young leaders in Egypt and also across the Middle East. And I want to thank you for that question.
MODERATOR: Excellent. And with that, we’re going to have to finish. But we’d like to thank our guests for coming out to brief today, and certainly all of you for attending.