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The media is allegedly misreporting the PM-EAC population study to targe Muslims | Representative image

Rise in Muslim population | PFI to media: Don’t misinterpret to create fear, division

The NGO has cautioned media organisations against using the PM Economic Advisory Council study to spread alarm over the growth of Muslim population

In an appeal to media organisations across the country, the Population Foundation of India (PFI) on Saturday (May 11) cautioned against misrepresentation of the findings of a population study conducted by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India and has urged not to spread alarm with regard to the growth of the Muslim population in the country.

“Population Foundation of India is deeply concerned about the recent media reports that are misreporting the findings from the study by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister ‘Share of Religious Minorities: A Cross-Country Analysis (1950–2015)’ to spread alarm regarding the growth of the Muslim population. Such interpretations are not only inaccurate but also misleading and baseless,” the PFI said in a press release.

The study which focuses on changes in the demographic status of both majority and minority religious groups globally over a period of 65 years should not be used to incite fear or discrimination against any community, the PFI urged.

Selective portrayal of data

“The media’s selective portrayal of data to highlight the increase in the Muslim population is an example of misrepresentation that ignores broader demographic trends,” said PFI Executive Director Poonam Muttreja.

Contrary to the myth of an explosion in the Muslim population in India, the Census of India data shows a steady decline in the decadal growth of Muslims over the past three decades. The decadal growth of the Muslim population decreased from 32.9 percent in 1981–1991 to 24.6 percent in 2001–2011 and this decline is more pronounced than that of Hindus. In the same period, the decadal growth of the Hindu population saw a decline from 22.7 percent to 16.8 percent which is 2.41 percent less compared to the decline in Muslim population growth.

“The census data is available from 1951 to 2011 and is quite similar to the data in this study, indicating that these numbers are not new,” said the release.

Highest TRF decline in Muslims

The PFI also discussed the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) to buttress its point which again saw more decline among the Muslims than the Hindus. “The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) among all religious groups is declining. The highest decrease in TFR from 2005-06 to 2019-21 was observed among Muslims, which dropped by 1 percentage point, followed by Hindus at 0.7 percentage points. This trend underscores that the fertility rates are converging across different religious communities,” the PFI said.

Then, fertility rates are closely linked to education and income levels, not religion, it said. States with better access to education, healthcare, and socioeconomic development, such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu, exhibit lower TFRs across all religious groups. For example, the TFR among Muslim women in Kerala (2.25) is lower than the TFR among Hindu women in Bihar (2.88).

Don’t create fear and division

“The most effective way to manage population growth is through investment in education, economic development, and gender equity,” said Muttreja. “Our analysis indicates that women’s education is the most critical factor in reducing fertility rates. Therefore, interventions should focus on providing education and family planning services irrespective of religion,” she added.

Urging the media to refrain from using demographic studies to create fear and division in society, the PFI said, “It is essential to present data accurately and contextually, highlighting the role of education, income, and socioeconomic development in shaping demographic trends.”

The PFI, which was founded in 1970 by JRD Tata, is a leading NGO in the fields of population dynamics, gender equity, and sexual and reproductive health.

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