Religiousness and fertility among muslims in Europe : does Islam influence fertility?





Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus. Fakultet for samfunnsfag



Master in International Social Welfare and Health Policy


There seems to exist a concern over and a belief that fertility among Muslims in Europe is much higher than among non-Muslims, and that this together with Muslim immigration will create a Muslim majority Europe. Furthermore, there is an assumption that Islam is essentially pronatalist and that this causes higher fertility among Muslims. The hypotheses that are investigated in this study are: (1) Muslim fertility rates in Europe are higher than non-Muslim fertility rates, (2) Muslims in Europe are more religious than non-Muslims, (3) Muslims’ higher levels of religiousness correlates with higher fertility rates, and that (4) Islam influences fertility rates. The thesis combines qualitative and quantitative methodological approaches. The aim of this study is to investigate the relationship between Islam and fertility, with an emphasis on the fertility behavior of Muslims in Europe. Core findings of this study are that (1) Fertility of Muslims is higher than that of non-Muslims, (2) Muslim women are much more religious and subscribe more to family values than do non- Muslim women, and (3) More religious women have more children than those less religious. The study finds (4) The odds of having at least two children are significantly greater for women who are religious and who hold strong family values, with the strongest associations among Muslim women. The study also finds that the textual ambiguity of the sacred scriptures, and the lack of a recognized central authority in Islam result in the possibility of simultaneously justifying opposite stands on issues regarding reproductive health. Using the Islamic Republic of Iran as an example, I demonstrate that (5) Islamic scholars can adjust their teachings to either a pronatalist or an antinatalist stance, and thereby can choose to influence fertility behavior of the faithful accordingly; given that they have access to communication institutions that enables them to enforce their teachings. This is a complex debate with need for accurate knowledge and scientific evidence for claims. This study is hopefully such a contribution.


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