Demographic changes in a society aren’t unnatural, but they have their associated baggage, especially where identity politics has well established its foot, or when it is on the rise.
Figures are often important to illiberal or quasi-liberal people as these numbers define communal majority, minority, or population percentages which are quite frequently used to lay claims on state resources, often scarce, and to the public square, meaning, by and large, how the symbols or ethos exclusive to a community are represented by the state publicly in the various spheres of statehood and also in the society at large.
Examples from developing countries like South Africa, India, Myanmar, etc demonstrate that demographic changes due to immigration, higher community birth rates, etc are becoming serious socio-political issues often resulting in violent persecution of the growing minorities in question.
Often, the majority right-wing tends to stretch the issue until it reaches boiling point. Established equilibriums of whatever harmony was achieved are often put to the test for political gains.
The developed world has also been struck by this phenomenon. Anti-immigration mobilization in Europe, UK, and US further proves the fact, including Islamophobic attacks on Muslim communities. Immigration has in fact become an issue of mainstream politics in the US.
The election of Donald Trump, an ardent opponent of immigration, to US presidency demonstrates the seriousness of the matter. Support for tougher immigration policy is one of the key reasons for the “Leave” win in the Brexit referendum in the UK. This is also the prime reason other right wing political forces across continental Europe have been gaining ground.
Preventing or slowing down demographic changes due to immigration entails tougher immigration policies which many developed countries are already in the process of implementing.
But if certain problems in certain countries continue to exist, it will be difficult and tricky to physically stop it as desperate conditions in the source countries will force the leavers to take greater risks and be more innovative in trying to slip into developed or middle-income countries.
Another issue is that, any blockade or high restriction in the channels of skilled migration might become disruptive itself. A balance is imperative.
Dealing with demographic changes caused by reproduction is trickier. Sometimes, it happens due to cultural or religio-cultural trends in a sizable chunk of the communities -- further compounded by socio-economic and educational causes.
It is ludicrous to imagine a Muslim community conspiracy, as often brandished by Hindu fundamentalists, to increase their numbers especially in case of such a large, diverse, and spread out community like Indian Muslims.
In the same country, the Dalit population has also increased at similar rates as the Muslims, mostly due to socio-economic and educational reasons, but the talk about that is much more muted due to Hindu political consolidation issues.
It’s difficult to avoid some community-based conversation on these contentious and historically sensitive issues, both in the developing and the developed world, considering the current global climate.
It may be difficult for communities in developed nations to accept the trend of fast demographic changes which would decisively change the inter-community status quo of societies
An ultra-liberal approach may end up in futile academic exercises. It may be difficult for communities in developed nations to accept the trend of fast demographic changes which would decisively change the inter-community status quo of societies; neither will it help the overall progress of these societies.
It’s hard to imagine that the mere expansion of fringe communities will do anything good for the betterment of human kind. Uncontrolled and irresponsible reproduction is putting pressure on the resources of the planet and the environment.
Poor families having more and more children isn’t in the greater interest of that family for the simple reason that they won’t be able to raise them up properly, and these children will have much less of a chance of attaining success of any sort in life.
Dealing with the issue should focus more on educating people, both domestically and internationally, coupled with some reward for compliance measures rather that the increasing trend of persecution and oppression by the powerful.
Some minorities are of the opinion that an increase in numbers will make them stronger in the future.
They don’t appear to have the understanding to foresee the counter-productive sides of it.
Enlightened community leaders of these expanding communities have to take initiatives for community level education to help the cause from their end. The success and prestige of a community is not in increasing numbers.
Rather, it’s in the constructive contribution it can make to society.
Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury is a freelance commentator on politics, society, and international relations.