Friday, June 15, 2007

Russia's army majority Muslim in 2015?   posted by Razib @ 6/15/2007 11:44:00 AM

I am a bit tardy with my second part of my review of God's Contintent, Christianity, Islam and Europe's Religious Crisis. There are some other things I have to take care of, and the previous post, though fruitful, took a lot of my time in terms of moderation (once the post went off the front page I didn't keep track of it and it seems more ignorant and/or low IQ people started commenting). But, yesterday someone made the comment that they'd read that the Russian army was going to be majority Muslim by 2015. I deleted the comment since it seemed such an implausible assertion and it really served no use to me. That being said, I decided to google this assertion and came up with Daniel Pipes' post. Now, I don't know about you, but a lot of the "data" seems to be basically hand waving. For example, compare & contrast:
Plus, Russians of Orthodox background are converting to Islam. (For one important case, see the story of Viacheslav Sergeevich Polosin.)
Another indication of Islam's progress among Russians concerns former-Russian-spy-turned-dissident Alexander Litvinenko, who died of Polonium-210 poisoning in London on November 23. He converted to Islam on his deathbed...
Silantyev also dismisses as myth the idea of mass conversions of ethnic Russian to Islam. "Less than 3,000 ethnic Russian have converted to Islam" during the past fifteen years, he says. In contrast, over that same period, almost 2 million ethic Muslims have become Orthodox Christians. In 70 percent of marriages between a Muslim and a Christian, for example, the Muslim spouse converts to Christianity.

One would have to look up the source of these data in the last case, but at least there are some numerical figures here as opposed isolated cases which are held up as exemplars. Additionally, one might be a bit skeptical about mass conversions to Islam by Russians when one considers that half of Russian men are dying from alcohol related causes. I am pretty sure that most readers of these alarmist headlines are also unaware that the vast majority of Russian Muslims are native born and indigenous, part of the absorption of Muslim peoples which occurred during the 18th century expansion (that most Russian Muslims are part of native ethnic minorities is implicit in Pipes' data, but I suspect that most readers won't connect the dots and will project Western European realities of foreign migrants and their offspring). This is the reason that Islam is one of Russia's historical religions. Though like most Russian monarchs Catherine the Great encouraged and facilitated the conversion of Muslims to Orthodoxy, she also sponsored religious notables within the Islamic establishment who argued for the acceptability of subordination of Muslims to a non-Muslim potentate (though who did not accept this emigrated to the Ottoman Empire). Of course cultures change and Russian Islam is now being influenced by Saudi backed ideologues, but the point is that a little historical context is necessary to really understand what it means when one say that "10-20% of 'Russians' are Muslim."

Now, of course the demographic profile of Russia's ethnic majority is pretty dire. That being said, please because cautious of translating "if current trends hold" to "current trends predict the inevitable." After all, before the fall of Communism ethnic Russian fertility was higher than in most of the West, but today it is lower. Much has changed in 15 years demographically, so predicting the current moribund state 30 years into the future seems a bit much.

P.S. Small historical footnote some might find amusing. Click here to read about a prominent European general and strongman who won battles with the help of at least 40,000 Muslim soldiers on European soil in the 20th century.

Note: Again, I'm going to be deleting comments of no use to me. Use to me = offer up more data, generate an insightful analysis, cite some good sources, etc. Sincerity without knowledge is best not seen or heard.