Pushing back against anti-immigration sentiment, journalist Doug Saunders says there’s little evidence to support the notion that Muslim immigrants to the West have a propensity for religious extremism and are growing in large numbers.

“Generally Muslim immigrants are converging with Western populations in the same way Jews and Catholics did when they were the latest and most controversial wave of immigrants -- probably a little bit faster actually,” he told CTV’s Canada AM on Wednesday.

Misconceptions about Muslim immigrants -- whether it’s their loyalties, cultural behaviour or population growth -- are the focus of Saunders’ new book “The Myth of the Muslim Tide.”

Among those false beliefs, Saunders says, is that Muslims immigrants have a proclivity for religious extremism. He points to numbers suggesting otherwise in France, a country which has one of the largest Muslim populations in the West.

“In fact, they are practicing atheism and non-attendance of mosques at about the same rate as French-Christians do,” notes Saunders, who writes for the Globe and Mail.

Many strong, often illiberal beliefs about Muslim immigrants gained traction after the July 2005 London bombings and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City.

Some of those far-right ideas were seen again in an anti-multiculturalism manifesto written by Anders Behring Breivik, who carried out twin terrorist attacks in Norway last summer.

In the rambling document, Breivik ranted about the impact of Islam on the West, quoting a number of texts claiming that Muslims would become a majority of Europe’s population.

The idea that Muslim immigrants are going to become a majority in European or North American cities is misleading, said Saunders.

“New immigrants, when they first arrive, have large families. That’s true whether they’re Roman Catholic or Jewish or Hindu or Muslim. But usually within two or three generations (they) converge roughly with the reproduction rates of the country around them,” he said.

Saunders stressed that his book isn’t intended to be a defence of Islam, but rather a text that will debunk popular misconceptions about Muslim immigrants.

“I honestly wanted to ask myself if this was true … Whether people from Pakistan and Iran and Turkey and so on were different from people who had come from Italy, Portugal and Poland.”

Having lived in New York during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and in London during the July 2005 bombings, Saunders said he witnessed anti-immigration ideas budding around him.

But, as he stated in the first chapter of his book, these ideas are not based in fact:

“Promoting these myths about Muslim immigrants has become a significant mainstream theme in the electoral politics of the United States, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, with scarcely any proper fact-checking of the underlying claims,” he wrote.