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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. Chad

    The number of suicide bombers has doubled too! Coincidence?

    January 27, 2011 at 7:03 am |
  2. bone doctor

    The biggest hole in this story is the assumption that the human population will ever reach 8.3 billion.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:00 am |
  3. IDon

    Great! Just what the world needs, more terrorists!!!

    January 27, 2011 at 6:55 am |
  4. Greg Gilbert

    Whats even worse is that ALL the dumb people are producing at a faster rate. The intelligent Muslims aren't going to double, they are on for the short ride with the rest of us.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:55 am |
  5. TOMTOM

    HAHAHA the Holy War will never end. If you people take the time to understand who owns the media then it will help shed light on why we have SOOO much propaganda towards muslims. For some reason I don't think we should be fearing Muslims.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:52 am |
  6. pugs

    Thanks to Sarah Palin though, the world's moose population is expected to decrease by 20%!

    January 27, 2011 at 6:51 am |
  7. its all about you

    it explains why the army wants more bullets

    January 27, 2011 at 6:49 am |
  8. Jewbacca

    infidels are scared lmao

    January 27, 2011 at 6:48 am |
    • its all about you

      Jewbacca

      infidels are scared lmao

      not really we just will have to increase our defence budget..and keep all muslims 1000ft or more away from airports

      January 27, 2011 at 6:52 am |
  9. abc

    One thing to "Realist" u are very lucky but only for little time , ur time will come and for all these ignorant swines which are not even sure who their real fathers are enjoy ur time but just for a little while, we are winners now and we will be winners in the end.......

    January 27, 2011 at 6:46 am |
  10. Remon

    SO WHAT!!!

    January 27, 2011 at 6:45 am |
  11. Grow Up

    I don't really know where to begin with these comments. It doesn't give one great faith in humanity does it? First off – 9/11 IS NOT AN ACT REPRESENTATIVE OF GLOBAL ISLAM. Would you say that IRA bombings in London were representative of the worldwide Catholic church? How about Fred Phelps and Westboro being representative of the American Baptist Community? ARE YOU INSANE? If you knew ANYTHING about the Koran and the teachings of Mohammed (and I don't fully believe you can argue on them if you know nothing about them) you would know that it, like every world religion teaches peace. If you think, likewise, that there's no war mongering in the Bible, then just read the book of Revelation ffs. I'm a Christian, and I have a huge amount of respect for the Muslim/Arab world. Did you know that during the Dark Ages the vast majority of cultural development and scientific research was being done in the middle East? The manner in which Muslims are treated in the modern media is equivalent to that of state treatment of the Jews in pre-1938 (that is to say, pre-Kristallnacht) Germany. It is disgusting and absurd. Muslim teaching sees Jesus Christ as one of the most important prophets.

    Now for those of you who have a problem with religion, I agree, it is "irrational" in a modern, post-Enlightenment sense. But is it really so irrational when we believe so fully in the scope of human progress and development? Could a man born in the 1300s have conceived of microwaves? What about the big bang? I'm not saying God will be a "discovery", all I'm saying is that we need to accept that we don't know everything. Have a bit of imagination – consider Plato's cave, or for those of you with more modern cultural sensibilities, The Matrix. Are you certain that your perception of the world is totality? Just because something is in front of you doesn't mean you're seeing all of it. It's simply a matter of perspective. As a Christian, my belief in God is, naturally, based upon a level of indoctrination (I was a chorister, regularly went to church etc) but at the same time it is based on a fundamental belief that we have inhibitions and failings within us, and to recognise them is to recognise the possibility of a higer power. There is nothing irrational about accepting history and seeing that we have done terrible things to one another. Religion teaches peace. CHRISTIANITY above all else, tells us to love one another. Anyone who uses it, or the Bible, as a vitriolic attack on those of other faiths is ENTIRELY MISSING THE POINT.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:42 am |
    • dave Richman

      Muslims are not about freedom. Muslims are not about democracy. Muslims are not about tolerance. Muslims do not recognize the good given right of individuals. Islam is intertwined with Sharia law, one of the most repressive legal/social systems anywhere.

      January 27, 2011 at 7:01 am |
    • Grow Up

      You talk about 'Muslims' as though you can generalise an enormous and diverse group of people! There are thousands of Muslims living in both Britain and the United States today who have no intent to make non-Muslims wear the veil, or to repress democracy. In Britain, we have Muslims working in our parliament! What needs to be said to make it clear that not all Muslims are radical!

      January 27, 2011 at 7:15 am |
  12. Jewbacca

    them haters still hating, islam still winning. keep on hating morons

    January 27, 2011 at 6:41 am |
  13. its all about you

    looks like we are going to need more drones and bigger bombs

    January 27, 2011 at 6:41 am |
  14. dave Richman

    Islam is rooted in beliefs that are not about god given rights. Sharia law is intertwined with Islam and is also counter to the rights of individuals. For these reasons Islam will have to modify its fundamental beliefs before they can be successful in a world that is awakening to the idea of freedom.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:36 am |
  15. Alvin

    If Muslim population is over Chritinanity by 2030, the world order will be more confused and have more riots because world Muslim will submerge the current Christianity World and change the world. Is there any solution of religional conflict between Christianity and Muslim?

    January 27, 2011 at 6:34 am |
    • dave Richman

      Yes the solution is that the primitive beliefs within Islam regarding the god given rights of individuals will eventually have to change in order to be accepted by a population that is continuing to seek freedom.

      January 27, 2011 at 6:39 am |
  16. stanchman

    Everyone needs to take up the religion of golf and play by the same rules... then we could talk about something that really matters..

    January 27, 2011 at 6:31 am |
  17. kite005

    oh oh

    January 27, 2011 at 6:31 am |
  18. dave Richman

    Muslims follow a religion with many contradictions to western beliefs about the god given rights of individuals. Sharia law is a primitive set of rules to live by that are based on beliefs that run counter to individual rights and freedoms. As the people of the developing world become more enlightened, they are turning more and more to the pursuit of freedom. (see Iran). For this reason alone the Muslim Countries of the world will face stiff opposition in the decades to come, as they continue to try and dominate their populations.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:26 am |
  19. BionicBub

    These predictions are all wrong. At the rate Muslims are killing each other, there may not be any of them left in 20 years.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:23 am |
  20. Hitler

    Where's Hitler when you need him?

    January 27, 2011 at 6:23 am |
    • Inyourimage

      Actually Hitler said that if he were any religion, he'd be a Muslim. And the Grand Mufti of Palestine was a Colonel in the SS. He spent much of the war as a guest in Berlin.

      January 27, 2011 at 8:59 am |
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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.