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. zero_population_growth

    What a stupid world we live in, destroying the planet's environment through selfish procreation. Just goes to show you the destructive power of religious belief. Expect more conflict as nations fight over the world's dwindling resources. Earth is bursting at the seams.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:28 am |
  2. joe

    Alla is a pervert

    January 27, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  3. Mark Yelka

    godisimaginary dot com – the world is massively delusional. Imagine believing in a god! Any god is so easily proved to be fake.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  4. I'm Ron Burgundy?


    January 27, 2011 at 7:24 am |
  5. http://www.youtube.com/user/00merna

    my youtube

    January 27, 2011 at 7:24 am |
  6. Anthony Q

    Boy that's a lot of people wasting their lives on a made-up religion. . .

    January 27, 2011 at 7:22 am |
  7. USone

    If Islam does not change till then it will remain the only producers of terrorists. When an oppressed woman raises children the boys will be oppressors and the girls will become ready to be oppressed like their mothers. Muslim Women have a big role in changing this world. Refuse being a mere reproductive organ and revolt against the prison that men put you in. If Muslim women do that the whole world will be a better place.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:21 am |
  8. Bo-bo

    Would be nice to send a missile to the middle of that crowd on the picture....

    January 27, 2011 at 7:20 am |
  9. Listen & Verify B4 Accepting

    Before you trash a religion based on just rumors and propaganda, why not research on it based on its central text?

    Islam is the only authentic Monotheistic faith left on earth today. The origin and compilation of the Quran can be proven to be authentic. Can any human being write a holy book in the middle of a desert that has stood the test of time and guided a billion people across all races and nationalities? The verses were revealed to the prophet one after another over a period of 22 years. They all have historical context. So quoting them out of context will only manage to terrify people. The Quran speaks far more times about mercy and peace than about the eternal punishment of unbelievers. Even today the scientists and scholarly are surprised at the scientific accuracy of the data presented in the Quran. The quran invites you to rfute its claims and to reproduce something like it. Please verify!

    The reason why most of the Muslim countries are poor today is because they were ruled over by colonialists who sucked out their wealth and have left a legacy of dictatorships and corruption. How many dictatorships do the US government support and fortify today? At the same time they preach about democracy and human rights! Muslims have stopped practicing their religion and have fallen prey to worldly gains. They stopped educating themselves and do not protest against injustices. Although they are Muslims by birth, they hardly represent the faith. Please verify!

    Islam is the faith that preached democracy, that gave women rights to property and self-sufficiency, to abolish racism, poverty, corruption and injustice. It isnt evident because the actual tenets of the faith are not properly followed. 9-11 has not made Muslims in this world dearer, or richer or more powerful. I belive it was perpetrated by covert CIA agents (including bin laden) to create grounds for intervention in Asia and to exact western supremacy. Why else do we only hear about the 4000 US soldiers that perished compared to the 600,000+ Iraquis that died? How can it take a mighty nation like America over a decadse to find and punish a single person if not they are involved in it themselves? Has it made the US any safer or popular? We need to wake up and see who the real villian is. Please verify.

    Whenever we talk about faith we assume Christianity as the standard. But can Christians prove that their holy books are free from adulteration and manipulation by the priests? Tehn why are there so many versions of the Bible? Why are Christian values changing every year? Does it mean that God is still undecided about what is right and what is wrong? If monotheism was practiced before why is trinity practiced now? If gay marriage was forbidden before, why is it permitted now? Why are the nuns wearing scanty uniforms that display their cleaveges and ther hair? Does it mean God is imperfect and needs pointers from humans?

    I will tell you why. It is because we have trivialized the comcept of God. We seem to call each and everything a God these days? Let me tell you what the word God means. It means the creator of everything, the sustainer of all living things, the deity that is not subject to time and space, hunger, lust or pain; the creator who creates out of nothing! A creator who knows our past, present and future and the most intelligent. A creator who is just and merciful. A creator and diety you could never have seen or imagined capable of semingless bounties! Does that sound like God to you?

    If you agree with my definition of God, then why do you disagree when Muslims seem so inflexible. Is it a crime to obey God? His rules are fixed. They dont require human updates because God himself is the hardware manufacturer. Please take some time out to learn what Islam is really about. Maybe then you can understand why there are 1.4 billion+ Muslims on this planet. Even a non-practicing Muslim liar and cheat will testify that there is nothing in comparison when it comes to Islam. Please hate Muslims after getting your facts straight!

    To all the aethiests out there, I respect your right to not believe. But I cannot understand how educated and well-bred humans can be so filled with bigotry and ignorance! Read the Quran and its context and then criticize all you want. Only bigots talk about pedophiles, 7x virgins, polygamy, terror and hate when they talk about Islam. enlightened people dio not slander others in the pretext of freedom od speech. Verify that as well.

    Peace to you all!

    January 27, 2011 at 7:20 am |
    • USone

      The argument is not with the part of islam that deals with the religious faith. The arguments is with the teachings that involves others. You can believe whatever you want but Islam was built on imposing this belief by force on others.
      Apostasy in Islam is punishable by death, blasphemy is punishable by death, women are stoned , shariaa law is totally disrespectful of human rights..... This is the problem not believing in GOD or not.

      January 27, 2011 at 7:26 am |
    • Listen & verify b4 u accept

      I have already mentioned before, the religion is not adhered to according to it's vasic laws. The prophet did not put anyone to death for rejecting Islam. Islam has become a global faith today with lots of cultures including their inputs into practice. Death for blasphemy is not a Queanic law. But ignorant muslims demand it! Islam is a moderate religion. I can quote versesto you as soon as I get of the train and to my home.

      January 27, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • eclectical

      I ask from all Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, who is on the right path as all of you have so many sects & sub-sects in your religions. Who will go to Heavens? Only people from your own sect. The rest will go to Hell?

      If your answer is no all people who do good will go to Heavens, then why do you fight with other sects & religions & preach your religion or sect to be the best. Why don't you just preach to be good humans.

      But if you think that people only from your own sect and religion who are good people will go to Heavens & the rest will go to Hell even if they are good people then that means maybe a few thousand will ever go to heavens & billion & trillions of people who have & will ever come to this world are doomed. If that is the probability then why bother or try?

      Though I personally feel that everybody will go to Heavens as God has Infinite Kindness, maybe there are some higher levels of Heavens to which better humans will go & to the lower levels the people with less good deeds. That itself will be quite a punishment for the people who are bad here.

      January 27, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • steve

      you must talk to hear your limited # brain cells rattle

      January 27, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • eclectical

      Let me also say, 99.9999% people follow the religion they were born into, & never bother to see their religion objectively & see others unbiasedly, & yet blindly think they are following the best religion. And then so zealously & ferociously fight to guard & preach it. They just believe first & then collect & concoct arguments in its favor instead of checking out first whether they are believable or not.

      If they study their own religion & others like an intellectual or researcher they will find that all of them have inconsistencies, self & other contradictions & implausible dictates, & so many other holes & failings.

      There can’t be even one fault, inconsistency or a fact contrary to observation if it was the word of God. Thus the minimum one can say is all religions are adulterated & altered in time, so the best course left to have hope & peace is believe not in religions but believe in One God, Love God & all His creations.

      January 27, 2011 at 9:51 am |
  10. KidCanada

    If guns don't kill, how can religion kill?
    Oh wait, now it works in your favor...

    January 27, 2011 at 7:19 am |
  11. Troytmkh

    All I want to say is that I'm proud to be Muslim. =]

    January 27, 2011 at 7:19 am |
  12. django

    ..just what we need even more religious zealots and primitive ideology..seems the more we move forward the more backwards some parts of the world get...if they get out of control we just nuke em...the end

    January 27, 2011 at 7:18 am |
  13. Chris

    This is why so many people are against giving aid to the third world. If you continue to make the problem worse at an exponential rate, i dont really feel the need to help you out. Paul Kennedy attributes the rise of the western world in part b/c others continued a rapid population increase without a similar increase in industrial capacity. The former without the latter creates poverty.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:18 am |
  14. Mark Yelka

    Any religion doubling means trouble. God is imaginary. People who believe in any god are delusional. Yikes, double the number of delusional people in the world! Double Yikes... they're Muslims.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:18 am |
    • Denizen Kate

      While I agree that god is an imaginary friend for grown-ups, more than 90% of the world's population believe in god in one form or another. What does that say about our species?

      January 27, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  15. iShane

    Probably just Facebook social networking and iPhone apps gone wild......my quess.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:17 am |
  16. Tina

    The levels of hatred and bigotry on these articles always scares me because it makes me wonder if the anonymity of the Internet shows the true face of people. I do a lot of work in the Middle East, and the Muslims I meet are to a person delightful, friendly, and intelligent people (and I'm a woman).

    January 27, 2011 at 7:13 am |
    • Matt

      LOLOL. You certainly do not get around then as Muslim's are nothing but rude, racist, terrorists. You have not traveled to a Muslim country as you would not have written that statement, especially being a woman.

      January 27, 2011 at 7:17 am |
    • Tina

      Matt, thanks so much for underscoring my point in such a perfect way!

      January 27, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  17. ELI3K

    There is another thing missing from this story. That is the founding of new religions. With social media influencing our thoughts and actions it's only a matter of time before a new religion takes hold. When it does there will be no ethnic or geographical constraints.
    Maybe then the Abrahamic faiths will unite together.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:12 am |
  18. Ken

    Not unexpected. It's been well identified in the past that birth rates in human societies is more closely tied to economics than anything. Hence the poorer nations or areas (like the Palestinian areas or Pakistan) experience more rapid growth, while groups in more affluent areas (like Iran or in European areas) growth slows down. It's also been proven that religious ties also in general weaken as an economic base increases. Hence you have the up and coming students and their oh so liberal views in Iran competing with the rigid theocratic authority (which over time will influence up and coming clergy members, and slowly weaken the autocratic grip as clergy views moderate over 30-50 years). And of course, as the poor continue to have childern, their frustrations over limited economic opportunities will boil over more and more in places like Tunisia and other countries like Egypt, Algeria, Pakistan, and such. Again, no surprises there, exactly what was projected to happen back in 1990, and still on course.

    So overall, this means we will continue to see the same things in the news for the next 30-50 years at least.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:11 am |
  19. Rob

    Well what did we think was going to happen? We've made money our god and things like kids get in the way of the nice home, care, career etc. And when you kill off 40 million plus with abortion, what did we expect was going to happen?

    January 27, 2011 at 7:10 am |
  20. allen

    cool,does this mean longer seasons and increased bag limits?

    January 27, 2011 at 7:05 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.