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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. Jupiter777

    I am so struck by the number of negative impressions surrounding this study. Why don’t you give Islam a change away from prejudice and stereotyping? Islam and Muslims are not a coincidence. Islam is the last testament for God’s wish. I know this is not the core subject here, but it’s so intertwined.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  2. Dan

    If you don't like America, then you can get out.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  3. Just4theComments

    I think I come on everyday to check the Middle East related stories, skip the article, and just go straight to the comments. Please feed the trolls...it makes my morning so much better. After all, we get hungry too.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:46 am |
  4. Tony

    If they continue to kill each other off maybe their numbers will decrease.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:44 am |
  5. ayo

    Islam, a religion that allows one man or woman to go an blow someone up is a religion of PEACE! don't think so. I also think that most people turning to islam are doing so in order to do more harm than good, most turn to bomb people and places up. I can only pray that they look and see that it's a completely wrong religion to go into and turn to Christ.
    Turn to the light of the world JESUS CHRIST and you'll find peace, be happy and would live in eternity.
    God bless.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:44 am |
  6. Mixmatch

    Time to start hiding birth control pills in the halal goat meat!!

    January 27, 2011 at 7:44 am |
  7. Robert

    Hnnnnn...... Dick Channeyyyyy...... Liba ,iran, Sudia. Pakistan, UAE, Soudan, Egapit, Seria, malysic , etc they will be Atmoic Power soon ,,,some one alredy under Constraction, then what Is-real, what In-the-end, America and what Germany, what FraNCE. I DONT WANT TO SAY ABOUT UK...PLEASE NOT TIME COME FOR LIVE WITH Peace...

    January 27, 2011 at 7:43 am |
  8. bill stapp

    By the way, regarding the pie charts. Although the population of the world according to the pie charts is expected to increase by 60% from 5.5 to 8.3 billion, the size of the pie chart increased about 250% in area. Hardly proportional. It would seem that someone has a hidden agenda.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:42 am |
  9. Ali

    All you christains must know that. we muslims are the only people in the world . who respect jesus christe as a honorable prophet of GOD. and we are waiting for jesus , when jesus comes he will eliminite hate between christains and muslims. and both will be the followers of Jesus Christe.. we muslims beleive this.. but when it comes to jews. who tried to kill jesus .. you always loved them. you always favor of jews. even they don't accept jesus as phophet. ....

    January 27, 2011 at 7:42 am |
  10. White

    That part of the world requires one BIG reset button.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  11. SD Mario

    Oh joy, a return to the dark ages...

    January 27, 2011 at 7:38 am |
  12. victorg

    The article never mentions the current world Moslem population

    January 27, 2011 at 7:38 am |
  13. bill stapp

    And why is this article written?

    How many Irish will there be in 2030? I hear that population is realy going to grow.

    Fat people? Old people? Atheists? Rich? Tall? Lefties? All populations are expected to gain signigicantly by 2030.

    Hindu? Buddist? Shinto? .... Home owners? Baseball fans? Dead people? Tax payers?

    I hope the information in the article was not a revelation to the author?

    January 27, 2011 at 7:37 am |
  14. John

    Do those statistics account for those ragtops who will blow themselves and others up? As they increase in population, so will the virgin seekers?

    January 27, 2011 at 7:36 am |
  15. Forhad H. Chowdhury

    I hope the inhabitants of the earth will find right direction and submit to Allah and He will lead us on the straight path.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:35 am |
  16. Turgut

    If the epidemics of Islamic doctrine continues to spread it is a real threat to the entire world. I invite foreign head of the governments to take this matter seriously and tackle the spread of this cancer.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:34 am |
  17. John

    God save us all from this scourge. Women will go back in time some 3,000 years.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:34 am |
  18. One of those Muslims

    Calm down guys. Why do you worry about them so much, think about yourself.

    By 2030 some of you will be dead, your clock is ticking. We shall leave this world sooner of later.

    I have recently started studying Islam. And I'm amazed. This religion makes so much sense.

    I'm convinced that Islam is the only true religion. I challenge you.

    Don't you believe, check it yourself. Study it from authentic sources.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:32 am |
    • Mark Yelka

      True religion? When god shows up, I'll believe it. Not until. God is imaginary. Belief in god is delusion. Delusion makes people do bad things.

      January 27, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • church goer

      lets face it! the muslim world is growing. eventually it will be over populated by the muslim. want a scary thought, what would happen that if so many would immigra over to north america(usa) and one of these persons would run for president> the muslim would vote for their own and then establish their own religion on everyone of us, it would be their laws and all those who beleive that alah is a joke get persecuted because we have different beleifs than them. then what would happen??? mosaic law in america??? the only to heaven is THROUGH JESUS CHRIST! NOT MOHAMID OR ALAH!!! JESUS CHRIST. ITS A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE THE TRUE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST will be persecuted. but fear not christ is king!!!

      January 27, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  19. http://www.youtube.com/user/00merna

    WoooooW Spectacular accident with a truck (Ontario, Canada)>>>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YN25HB8X07U

    January 27, 2011 at 7:30 am |
  20. joe

    allah is a perverted twit

    January 27, 2011 at 7:28 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.