New statistics about the birth rate have revived old political fears in India. The fear is a rising Muslim birth rate might increase the payoff from the practice of “vote banking,” and threaten India’s secular democracy.
Vote banking; called block voting in America, occurs when members of one group vote as a block. Politicians notice this and reward the vote bankers with laws; and policies, tailored to their demands. The fear is that a higher Islamic birth rate; and lower Hindu and Christian birth rates, will lead to more Muslim voters and more effective vote banking.
The Demographic Evidence behind Hindu Fears
There is some statistical evidence to back such fears; the Muslim birth rate exceeded the Hindu and Christian birth rates in the state of Kerala in 2015, The Times of India reported. A vital statistics report found that the birth rate for Muslims in Kerala in 2015 was 42.87%, while the birth rate for Hindus was 41.45%. The birth rate for Christians in the state was 15.42%.
Some secularists are disturbed because the birth for Hindus in Kerala fell from 46% in 2006 to 41.45% in 2015. That indicates a 4.55% decline in just 11 years; another such decline would put the Hindu birth rate in Kerala at 36.9% by 2026. Kerala’s Christians fared even worse; their birth rate fell from 17% in 2006 to 15.42% in 2015.
These fears are compounded by a growing Muslim birth rate in Kerala. In 2006 the birth rate for Kerala’s Muslims was 35%, it increased by 7.87% to 42.87% in 2015. Another decade of such increases and Kerala’s Muslim birth rate would be 50.74%, or more than half of the population.
If the birth rates stay the same Kerala; which had a Hindu majority of 55% in 2011, is on track to becoming a Muslim majority state at some point in the 21st Century. Some Hindus in Kerala are scared; because as recently as 1901 they made up 69% of the state’s population, Swarajya reported.
Politicians Pandering to Muslims
One group that has noticed these demographic changes is politicians. Smaller groups; such as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Utar Pradesh, are already pandering to Muslim voters.
The BSP has a policy called “social engineering;” which deliberately targets Muslim voters, and divides the electorate along religious lines, Livemint reported. As part of “social engineering” the BSP has added the Rashtriya Ulema Council to its leadership. The Oxford Dictionary definition of ulema is: “a body of Muslim scholars recognized as having specialist knowledge of Islamic sacred law and theology.”
India’s Islamic Law was Harsher than Saudi Arabia’s
Such pandering to Muslims has already led to laws that are in conflict with India’s secular constitution. On 21 August 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that Muslim divorce law was unconstitutional because it denied women’s equality, Reuters reported.
Three of five judges found that traditional Muslim divorce law; which is based on a doctrine called “triple talaq,” was unconstitutional. Triple talaq is an ancient Islamic practice that gives a man the right to abandon his wife by saying the world “talaq” three times.
Disturbingly, India’s triple-talaq was actually harsher than divorce laws in many conservative Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Triple talaq only survived in India; because the government lets religious communities apply their own laws in personal matters such as divorce.
Strangely enough it was BJP Prime Minister; and Hindu nationalist, Narenda Modi who led to the opposition to triple-talaq – not Muslim leaders. Modi and the BJP joined with Muslim women to mount the legal challenge.
Trump shows how Muslims can Undermine Secular Democracy
Ironically U.S. President Donald J. Trump; who has a reputation as a foe of Islam, might have demonstrated how minorities like Indian Muslims can undermine democracy and take power.
Trump and the Republican Party used vote banking of Evangelical (America’s largest Christian group) voters to win the 2016 Presidential election; even though Trump lost the popular vote. Trump’s opponent Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.9 million or 48.2%, CNN reported. Trump received only 46.1% of the popular vote.
Yet Trump won the election, because he captured a majority of seats in the Electoral College. In the United States, it is the members of the Electoral College that actually elect the president. That helped Trump because the Electoral College is selected by a majority of voters in individual states.
Vote banking was one of Trump’s strategies. He appealed strongly to Evangelical Christians; who often vote as a block, and dislike America’s secular constitution and society. Many American Evangelicals; like Indian Muslims, fear that secularists are out to destroy their faith and way of life.
Trump’s tactics were similar to those of groups like the BSP. He courted the support of Evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr., and promised to appoint judges sympathetic to Evangelical positions.
The strategy worked; 80% of white (European) Evangelicals in the United States reported voting for Trump, The Washington Post reported. This gave Trump enough Electoral College votes in low population and rural states to win the election – despite losing the popular vote.
Trump Showed that Muslims Do Not need a Majority to Control India’s Government
Indian secularists should be concerned because a similar strategy might help an Islamic party or candidate manipulate the parliamentary system to elect a prime minister.
Evangelical Christians; or Evangelical Protestants, make up just 25.4% of the United States population, the Pew Research Centre reported. Yet they were able to dominate the 2016 presidential election with vote banking.
That means Muslims might be able to dominate India’s political system by increasing their percentage of the population by just 10% to 11%. Muslims currently compose around 14% of India’s population.
An 11% increase would give Indian Muslims a 25% share of the population, similar to that of Evangelicals in America. Muslims might not need a majority to impose Islamic Law, change government policies, control the courts, or subvert democracy.
India’s Hindus, secularists, feminists, and Christians are right to be concerned about the rising Muslim birth rate. It might enable a Muslim minority to try and impose its will on India, or totally polarize parliament and the government.