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Muslim birthrate plunges in North Africa

Catholic World News - April 04, 2011

Philip Jenkins, author of The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice and The Next Christendom: The Rise of Global Christianity, notes that the birthrate has plunged in recent decades throughout the Maghreb.

“Since the mid-1970s, Algeria's fertility rate has collapsed from over 7 to 1.75, Tunisia's from 6 to 2.03, Morocco's from 6.5 to 2.21, Libya's from 7.5 to 2.96,” Jenkins writes. Smaller families could help foster a secularism and democracy similar to contemporary Europe’s, he believes.

“Church prestige rode high when priests were shepherding hundreds of local children through annual confirmation classes,” Jenkins adds. “But as the children became scarce from the 1970s onwards, so the churches emptied. At the same time, couples highly concerned with their own personal and emotional fulfillment became increasingly impatient about clerical attempts to enforce morality laws.”

“If the European precedent is anything to go by, that could well provide a model for religious developments in the Maghreb over the next decade or two,” he continues. A society so dependent on women in the school and the workplace simply cannot support the kind of intransigent orthodoxies offered by the familiar Islamists. Extremists may not vanish overnight, but they will have to adapt substantially to present their message in a civil society with a powerful taste for democratic values and gender equality.”

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