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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. Greg C

    I can't see how they keep blowing themselves up – bunch of extremist idiots.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:03 am |
  2. joe p

    time to dump the jews/israelis. they do absolutely nothing for the U.S. but beg, borrow, steal. Becuase of their greed and deception we were atttacted on 9/11 without no warning. Israel is useless. Israel only serves itself.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  3. Mark Yelka

    Religion is a response to people's insecurity. Belief in any god is delusional. Imagine if we we talking about praying to Thor, or Zeus. They were once considered to be gods. But, gods NEVER show up? Why? Because god is Imaginary.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • Catie

      There are many who feel just as you do. I cant imagine it myself. But, you cant belive if it would be fake just to appease others. Are you fulfilled though? I am curious, because I have gone through some heavy heavy stuff and would be six foot under if I didnt feel comforted by God. Also, weird things happen that I cannot explain. I know scientist, not all because 90% of scientists believe in a higher bing, but scientist will say when a person dies it is a chemical reaction that gives them that going to heaven feeling, not really going to heaven. But, when my brother was taken off of life support, 3,000 miles away from me and I did not even know, he came to me and said goodbye. How does science explain that. At the precise moment his machine was unplugged, 6am ny time, I woke up, it was 3am, and he came and layed down next to me, something he would do if he had a bad dream, he was much younger, and when I asked if it was him, an incredible peace surrounded me. How does science explain that

      January 27, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • Mark Yelka

      It is merely coincidence. Human beings are also very good at focusing on successes and forgetting failures. People may have dozens of thoughts of a loved one passing away that don't come true. And, finally, a thought happens that is near the time of death of a loved one. Then, they say that it must be some higher power, or that their experience is proof of an afterlife. In reality, it is not.

      I am very fulfilled... and, in fact, not believing in any god or any afterlife encourages me to live this life to the fullest and to try to leave my positive mark on society. I will not abandon reason just because I'm mortal and will one day be gone.

      January 27, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  4. Perk Cartel

    I'm am atheist but according to the US Census Bureau around 1.4 billion more humans is what 20 years from now will have to handle. I suggest this is a bigger picture to examine than what weird and wonderful beliefs may be rattling around in their heads, toweled or not. Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt are already showing signs of social revolution. As others have noted this is a fear mongering piece of propaganda designed to fan xenophobic hatred among the ignorant. It appears to leave out the flow of social and political change which is a dynamic force emanating from the stream of human evolution. Intellectually backward religions are historically doomed, all of them, because change is unstoppable, a universal force. Future projections crudely based on contemporary paradigms are foolhardy at best. Plan the planet sustainably for the population's needs and transforming what bizarre social or political beliefs they have will be manageable.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:00 am |
  5. John

    Hi All,

    First check who (which organization) created this statistic and who paid for it! Nonsense BS to create fear among non-muslims! There is a big difference between being a believing/practicing muslim and a muslim by birth!

    There is a BIG reason behind this article: To make you fear muslims!!

    A muslim has the same daily struggles as a non-muslim, how to find a job, how to pay the bills etc.

    STOP spread fear and hate!!

    January 27, 2011 at 7:58 am |
  6. IaCheNeHe

    I guess you'd better get busy making more white Christian, hate loving, order taking, american babies for the cannon fodder eh?

    January 27, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  7. Hmmmm

    While the intent of this article may not be what it has sparked, CNN needs to thoroughly review how it handles topics that are sensitive. This article in my opinion will further create tension and paranoia, it is totally unnecessary and will cause more harm than good.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  8. T. Lee

    MULTIPLE WIVES – will do the population-growing trick every time !!!

    January 27, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  9. ecibu33

    I start the day with a horror story....

    January 27, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  10. Layric

    iin this world only one religion are biggest religion , and MUSLIMS are king of this world , and in the future MUSLIMS are lead whole world.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  11. paul

    This article is as authentic as weapons of mass destruction in IRAQ.......The rate at which Climate Change is happening....I don't SEE ANY ONE Walking on Mother Earth in 15 years....

    January 27, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  12. JackNagger

    And while you guys are jealous and panicking for nothing..., instead of reproducing..., the preachers are molesting the children...

    January 27, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  13. IcemanN4

    Horrible. All the reason for us (as citizens) to CONTINUE to buy guns. For all you whiney anti-gun people out there...READ the Koran...that will tell you right there what a muslim thinks of the "non-believer" and what should be done with them. World takeover is the prize. Recognize....Muslims= enemy. PERIOD.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  14. Mustafa

    Any way to double their emotional intelligence and sense of pertinence to the human race?

    January 27, 2011 at 7:49 am |
  15. zero_population_growth

    The extreme overpopulation of this planet makes me so angry

    January 27, 2011 at 7:49 am |
  16. SatanSlayer

    Population growth can be good for the economy. The west has nothing to worry about as long as everyone respects that each country has its own laws, and that those laws apply for all citizens.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:48 am |
  17. Amazing

    Sounds like we better start that game of "cowboys and muslims" pretty soon or the terrorists are going to outnumber everyone else. Then we'll either have to convert or be killed/enslaved per the islam way.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • Jupiter777

      Amazing! Here comes ignorance, shall I lay the red carpet for you? You need to read about Islam and not let the acts of a very few who misrepresent Islam dominate your impression if Islam. Your only path is to read and ask. I can't let people like David Koresh make me call Christians terrorists; I never called the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a Christian terrorists group, yet when an individual from among 1.5 billion Muslims commits an act of violence, he is automatically called a MUSLIM terrorist... think... don't let the media think for you!

      January 27, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  18. sagar

    no worry every one is going to die in 2012

    January 27, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  19. LiberalNN

    Hooray, then we'll have twice as many terrorists in the world! I'd better hurry up and convert. Oh wait, I forgot they kill everybody don't they? Never mind.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  20. NonPCrealist

    FFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

    January 27, 2011 at 7:47 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.