As readers will know, we regularly add footnotes to letters we feel have strayed from valid opinion into portraying as fact information that is either plain wrong, misleading or out of context.
We hit pay dirt this week with a letter that was based solely on fake information and featured only made up stats, some of which stand up to scrutiny about as well as a pantomime cow in a field of pedigree cattle. (Our correspondent claimed illness and lack of familiarity with the internet were to blame).
As with most hoaxes, this featured the rise of Muslims who are — in case you’ve not noticed —plotting to take over the country.
We once knew someone who claimed the same about the Chinese, back in the 70s: “All these Chinese takeways, one in every town — think about it. One day we’ll wake up and they’ll have murdered us in our beds.” Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?
While we agree with free speech and are happy to run letters and then add a footnote, this one was so bad we felt unable to run it. We worried that someone would read only the letter and not the explanation and go away believing it was true. It would also make our correspondent look silly.
Instead we’re going to list the claims in the letter. If you see any of these made anywhere on social media, distrust anything that person has to say.
The letter claimed to contain information from German state statistics in 2007. (Nine years ago, see: the person who invents this rubbish hopes you won’t be able to check).
The letter was based on a speech made by Walter Radermacher, the vice-president of Germany’s Federal Statistical Office.
He said: “The fall in the German population can no longer be stopped. Its downward spiral is no longer reversible,” to which a hoaxer has added the words: “It will be a Muslim state by the year 2050.”
Herr Radermacher was talking only of German population trends in general.
He later told the BBC: “The quotation that reads as if the German government believed that Germany will become a Muslim state is simply not true. There is no source which can be quoted that the German government has published such an expression or opinion.”
Our correspondent went to great lengths to explain that Muslims would have more children and take over Europe; we rebutted a similar claim last week via Channel 4’s FactCheck.
Our correspondent quoted actual figures: in France the “native” birth rate is 1.8 children per family, while for Muslims it’s allegedly 8.1.
In reality, the French government doesn’t collect statistics by religion, so it’s impossible to give the fertility rates among different religious groups. (France’s overall rate is 2.08).
Also, no country on earth has such a high fertility rate as 8.1. Algeria and Morocco, the two countries that send the largest numbers of Muslim immigrants to France, have a fertility rate of 2.7 and 2.15.
The country with the top fertility rate is Niger, at 6.89, followed by Mali, 6.16, Burundi, 6.14, Somalia, 6.08, Uganda, 5.97, Burkina Faso, 5.93, Zambia, 5.76, Malawi, 5.66, Afghanistan, 5.43 and Angola, 5.43.
Note: Burundi, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi and Angola are not Muslim. Burkino Faso is 60% Muslim.
Down at the bottom are Bosnia and Herzegovina (1.26) and Albania (1.5), which have around 50% Muslim populations. The Maldives, with a birth rate of 1.76, is 96% Muslim, as is Uzbekistan (1.76). Bahrain and Brunei are both at 1.8, with Azerbaijan and Qatar at 1.9. Looking at political hotbeds, Iran’s birthrate is 1.8, Syria 2.6 and Libya 2.0.
There’s no evidence that Muslims have a higher birth rate than anyone else, at least not because of their religious beliefs. There is a link between birth rate and poverty, with a high infant mortality rate more of an accurate predictor than religion. (Catholic Ireland has a birth rate of 2.1).
We checked this out: Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world (as of 2015) at 115 per 1,000 live births.
Of the top 10 countries for birth rate, another five are also in the top 10 for infant mortality (all 2015 figures, deaths per 1,000 live births): Mali 102.23, Somalia 98.39, Niger 84.59, Angola 78.26 and Burkina Faso 75.32.
Of the rest, Zambia is 17th worst, with 64.72 deaths per 1,000 live births; Burundi is in 20th place with 61.89; Uganda 21st with 59.21. Malawi is the oddity, coming in at 42nd, 46.26/1,000.
By comparison the UK has a rate of 4.38, 187th in the league.
Back to France and its 1.8 children per native family/8.1 for Muslims: it makes no sense anyway. For every single family in France that has one child, a Muslim family must have eight kids, and for every two-child family (the average), there would be a Muslim family with 16 kids.
It’s possible that the racist who put out these figures has used the live birth rate: young and healthy migrants will have more children (the live birth rate in Ireland is 16) but no-one would know — France does not record that statistic. The live birth per year will be high if you have a young population, even if those women stop at two kids to give you a low fertility rate.
(3) Over in the UK…
Our correspondent claimed that in the last 30 years, the Muslim population of Great Britain had grown from 82,000 to 2.5 million, a 30-fold increase. Part of that is true: the 2011 census recorded about 2.6 million Muslims in the UK. However, 30 years takes us back to the 1980s and the 1981 census did not ask for respondents’ religious beliefs. The creator of this figure has picked 82,000 at random, as it’s not in the census.
(4) Baby factories
The letter also claimed that in the Netherlands, 50% of all new-borns were Muslim, while in Belgium, 25% of the population and 50% of all new-borns are Muslim.
In a famous 1978 court case, Mr Justice Foster used the phrase a “moron in a hurry” — specifically only a person of limited intelligence rushing by would have confused the Communist Party’s Morning Star and Express newspapers’ planned title Daily Star, he said.
Similar, only a similarly pressed-for-time intellectually challenged individual would believe that half of all babies in Holland were Muslim or that a quarter of the Belgian population was Muslim.
As of 2012, Muslims comprised about 4% of the population of the Netherlands, so for this population to account for “50% of all new-borns,” Muslim wijfs would have to be popping about two or three babies a year each.
As for Belgium, Muslims are the second-largest religious group in Belgium but account for 4%-5% of the population, making the “50% of all new-borns” as nonsensical as it was in Holland.
(5) Population growth
The letter went on to complain: “Of all population growth in Europe since 1990, 90% has been Islamic immigration.”
In fact, immigration drove 85% of the population growth in EU countries in 2005 but that 90% includes all immigrants to EU countries, not just Muslims.
The internet is great; it allows you access to so much information.
But it also exposes people to lies and misinformation, which far too many people are too lazy to check.
This isn’t new: our man in the 70s had had the “Chinese rising up” tale from his mates at work and it was presumably held as correct by enough people for it to spread across the country.
Social media just makes it easier to see the guff people believe.