World Muslim population doubling, report projects
January 27th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

World Muslim population doubling, report projects

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

Twenty years ago, the world had about 1.1 billion Muslims. Twenty years from now, it will have about twice as many - and they'll represent more than a quarter of all people on earth, according to a new study released Thursday.

That's a rise from less than 20 percent in 1990.

Pakistan will overtake Indonesia as home of the largest number of Muslims, as its population pushes over 256 million, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life projects.

The number of Muslims in the United States will more than double, to 6.2 million, it anticipates.

Afghanistan's population will nearly double, to about 50.5 million, making it home to the ninth largest Muslim population in the world.

Israel will become nearly a quarter Muslim. The Palestinian territories have one of the highest growth rates in the world.

Fractious Nigeria, where Christian-Muslim violence has left thousands dead in the past decade, will become a Muslim-majority country by 2030, the Pew Forum projects.

And two western European countries - France and Belgium - will become more than 10 percent Muslim. Sweden will hover just below that level, at 9.9 percent.

Iran, on the other hand, will see very slow growth. Iranian women have among the fewest children of anyone in the Muslim world. They use birth control at exactly the same rate as American women, 73 percent.

Explore our interactive maps showing the growth of Muslim populations by country

The Muslim share of the global population will rise primarily because of their relatively high birth rate, the large number of Muslims of childbearing age, and an increase in life expectancy in Muslim-majority countries, according to the report, "The Future of the Global Muslim Population."

Conversion will play relatively little part in the increase, the report anticipates. It says little data is available on conversion, but what little there is suggests Islam loses as many adherents via conversion as it gains.

Pakistan's rapid growth - adding an estimated 70 million people in 20  years - could create "a potentially lethal cocktail,"  said Ghaffar Hussain of  the Quilliam Foundation, which calls itself and anti-extremism think tank and  does work in Pakistan.

"Pakistan is an unstable country, there are literally hundreds of  jihadist groups," he said.

And the government is not doing much to slow population growth, unlike in nearby Bangladesh, he said.

"In Bangladesh they have tax incentives not to have large families.  Pakistan doesn't have that strategy - they're not even talking about it," said  Hussain.

"More effort should be made to finding some solutions, especially in the  border region with Afghanistan," he advised.

Governments in Europe, meanwhile, should do more to explain the value of  immigration, he argued.

Muslim growth there "is coming from the first generation having large  families" and will slow down, he predicted.

But the large new Muslim populations are not always welcome, he said.

"A lot of European countries don't tell their people we need immigration  for (economic reasons)," he said, adding that government also should do more to  help new immigrants assimilate.

European government need "some sort of strategy of what to do when people  come. Integration has been managed very badly," he said.

The key phrase in the Pew Forum report is "growing but slowing," says  Alan Cooperman, associate director of the think tank.

The increase in the last 20 years is greater than what we expect in the next 20 years," he said. Muslim population growth "is a line that's flattening out. They're increasing, but they're getting closer to the norm, the average."

In other words, Muslims are coming into line with global trends toward fewer children per woman and an aging population. But, the report points out, because of the existing Muslim "youth bulge," or unusually high percentage of young people, Muslim population growth has a certain momentum that will take decades to come into line with world averages - if it ever does.

The Pew report, more than a year in the making, is part of an ambitious attempt by the think tank to calculate the number of adherents to each of the world's major religions. The Islam report comes first, and a Christian project is in the works.

They started with Muslims, Cooperman said, because they are "the largest group for which data was lacking, and we saw public interest in knowing more."

Despite the rapid growth of Islam, Christianity seems set to remain the biggest religion in the world for the next 20 years. There are currently more than 2 billion Christians - 30 to 35 percent of the global population - making it very unlikely that there will be fewer than 2.2 billion Christians in 2030.

"There is nothing in these numbers to indicate that in 2030 there would be more Muslims that Christians," Cooperman said.

In fact, both Christianity and Islam could be growing, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the whole, he pointed out.

"We don't want people to jump to the conclusion that if Islam is growing, everyone else is shrinking," he said. "Christianity and Islam could both be growing at the expense of other religions."

Sub-Saharan Africa is a case in point, he said.

"Tremendous numbers are being added in sub-Saharan Africa, but... Christianity and Islam are both growing rapidly. There is not a change in the overall proportions of Muslims to Christians."

He's aware that the report has policy implication, but insists that the purpose of the Pew Forum is simply to provide unbiased data.

"It's not our role to say what should be done," Cooperman said.

What they're aiming to do, one of the project's leader said, is to make sure there's reliable information available.

"There has been a lot of speculation about the growth of the Muslim population around the world, and many of those who speculate don't have good data," said Brian Grim, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum.

For example, the report undermines the notion that Europe is heading toward having any country with a Muslim majority. The continent will be about 8 percent Muslim in 2030, it projects.

"The data that we have isn't pointing in the direction of 'Eurabia' at all," Grim said.

"The Muslim population is growing and slowing. Instead of a runaway train, it's trending with the general global population," he said.

Cooperman hopes that information will help make for more intelligent discussions, he said: "In the midst of heated debate and speculation, we think that solid, reliable, empirical estimates are valuable."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Afghanistan • Indonesia • Islam • Israel • Muslim • Pakistan • United States

soundoff (1,248 Responses)
  1. أبو هزاع

    the problem is within Islam itself that does not believe in family planning. It also believes that people should marry emulating the example of the prophet and therefore you see in poor areas people are married with children, many of them. The spread of Islamic thought in the area and the defeat of the other alternatives help this baby boom...

    January 27, 2011 at 6:21 am |
  2. Dejardins

    And that is even without the use of Viagra

    January 27, 2011 at 6:20 am |
  3. Erc

    i read some very stupid comments on this discussion, people trying to spread the hate toward a group of people, makes me sick to be called human, most people here should be ashamed of them selfs. the point of view to islams have beem twisted becuase of what they see on TV, dont judge any group of people becuase of their religion or skin colour becuase of an minority

    January 27, 2011 at 6:19 am |
  4. scott

    Its not about being afraid you idiot. Muslims are vile war mongers. They're trying to take over the planet. If you think I'm crazy then go research history. They want sharia from the east to the west. The world is in trouble with these statistics. Just like the bible says the great deceiver and the wolf in sheeps clothing. That's islam folks.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:19 am |
  5. Blogs-Clearly for Idiots!

    While I support anyone who says that contraception should be practiced and I believe that organized religion should actually encourage condoms, I find it hilarious that portions of the left wing will only crucify the Catholic Church in these regards. Is the left wing too cowardly to say that Muslims should also practice some responsible family planning...

    January 27, 2011 at 6:14 am |
  6. irshad

    O' people of ignorance, one day definitely you will going to see the truth.. that day will be too late...no one help you except Allah, the only religion accepted by Allah is ISLAM, Islam is submitting your all wills to almighty Allah and follow the messengers from the beginning (Adam till Mouahmmed) please be upon them all.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:13 am |
    • Name*Chedar

      Irshad , Dig further and you will see that both Muslim and Christianity come from only one so called " Abrahamic Religion" You will be surprise that millions of Muslims and Christians does not know this. While they are both fighting each other, the so called "God" they are worshipping are at their back laughing and saying " What a bunch of idiot have I created"

      January 27, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  7. angel

    nice doug i like that comment lol.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:11 am |
  8. The one

    Something is terribly wrong as if islam get the majority and dictates its views and ways of living there will be a world war. Dont forget islam target is to destroy humanity.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:10 am |
  9. BuddyKowalsk

    Then there will be the muslim evangelist crying on TV who, if he doesn't get $1 million dollars he will be dead by next week....explosves cost money !

    January 27, 2011 at 6:09 am |
  10. angel

    I'm not talk about allah.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:08 am |
  11. S

    don't panic, come to ISLAM...

    January 27, 2011 at 6:08 am |
    • Surefire179

      Yes, let's all follow the pedophile murderer that recommended drinking a mixture of camel milk and camel urine when you feel ill. I'm not lying, it's one of the Islamic hadiths.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  12. Arpad101

    Whatever the percentages are of Muslims to Christians, etc..., the problem is that there is now and will be more so in the future of a sustainable over population of people on the earth and our resources in all categories will be depleted. How many people can mother earth handle?

    January 27, 2011 at 6:07 am |
  13. S

    don't panic, come to ISLAM.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:05 am |
  14. angel

    God is really! And one day we will all see him.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:05 am |
  15. Tony

    and this is good news ?

    January 27, 2011 at 6:04 am |
  16. Tiogaone

    The followers and believers of Allah, are no different than the followers and believers of Hitler were.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:03 am |
  17. Yes I. Would

    Imagine there's no Heaven
    It's easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people
    Living for today

    Imagine there's no countries
    It isn't hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace

    You may say that I'm a dreamer
    But I'm not the only one
    I hope someday you'll join us
    And the world will be as one

    Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the people
    Sharing all the world

    January 27, 2011 at 6:02 am |
  18. angel

    for they now not the truth.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:00 am |
  19. Teddy

    This article with spark hysteria in the hearts of people who have no global understanding, prejustices, and a lack of knowledge about the people on earth in which they share breathing air and water.

    Seriously people. Your hate and fear are the reasons why such rancor and inhumane treatment of peoples of different faith and skin colors exist today. Most people with heightened fears should really analyze why they have them. Most should pick up a comparative studies book and dig in. Most should travel outside of their boxes and see how 'the others' are living.

    I've had it with stupidity in whole age group of people afraid of their own shadows. Man up CNN commenters. Man the hell up and fix yourselves before you start worrying about your world changing. That change is a fact of life, and you are only a player in the world, not the world itself.

    January 27, 2011 at 5:57 am |
  20. angel


    January 27, 2011 at 5:57 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.