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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. John

    There are many changes in the works for the Islamic world, and the most important is representative government. Government that is answerable to the people. Increasing populations only increase that pressure on weak, foreign-supported governments from Morocco to Pakistan.

    More responsive and responsible government will greatly increase the economic (and food) output in Muslim countries and solve all sorts of problems that might have otherwise limited Muslim population growth.

    Also, a new world with multiple powers will reduce terrorism, just like during the Soviet era; no country will be able to singlehandedly oppress an active opponent, or to overrule justice and international law. Oppressed populations from Afghanistan to Africa will get more focused on nation building, not freedom fighting.

    Finally, does it really matter what "percentage" a religion ends up at? I mean, the world is 25-30% Christian? Most people aren't practicing it, and really only view it as a heritage rather than a guiding force to be quoted and assimilated into their behavior. What matters is economics, basically. Technology, production, distribution, quality of life ... those are the factors that progress, defend, and spread our ideals.

    The real statistic is: economic power.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:28 am |
  2. Abdi

    Yay, me. Halal Market at every corner.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:28 am |
  3. Sane Human

    Great, the number of delusional lunatics will be doubling.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  4. Jeffrey Allen Miller NY

    Wonderful news that such an enlightened, peaceful religion is taking over the earth. Just be sure to shoot me squarely in the head so I die instantly when you all arrest me for being an atheist.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  5. husna

    Islam means peace. We got nothing but love for the people of world <3

    January 27, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • msblue

      actually it means 'submission' you should check out ali sina's website called faith freedom. Your prophet wasn't exactly a role model of peaceful behaviour.

      January 27, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  6. The Joker

    hide your kids, hide your wife, AND hide your husbands....

    they Islaming eveyone out here tonite

    January 27, 2011 at 8:25 am |
  7. alex

    we have to start crusades company against muslims like our forefathers did in 12 of century

    January 27, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  8. Lost

    Any religion is a failure and disgrace when it allows for the devalue of womanhood on a social and traditional level. Womanhood is an important vessel of life and civilization, and the greatest mistakes and horrors of mankind is the use of the womb to create armies for the purpose of destroying one another. Gender inequity is a direct path to genocide, racism, bigotry, and ongoing war. Allow women to be free to develop fully, and the world will begin to improve for the better. Allow women the freedom to respect womanhood. Teach men from birth to respect and reverence the womb.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  9. Name*Chedar

    These two religions – Christian and Muslim belong to the so called Abrahamic religion. When people don't know any better, they invent a "Delusional God" that will protect them. This very same "God" is and will forever instigate to let themselves kill each other. Obliterate them to pieces in the hidden word of "Omnipotent God".

    January 27, 2011 at 8:21 am |
  10. Sybaris

    The mind is a terrible thing

    January 27, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  11. KennyG

    Think about the events that will happen then. The crazies will be doubled. Hopefully, the rest of the Islam population will control them.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  12. Lauren

    THis article reminds me of a conversation I once had at a park with an Israeli mom. She asked me if my son was my only child and when I said yes, she told me I better get busy and have more kids or Muslims were going to take over the world. I thought it was odd at the time but maybe she was on to something!

    January 27, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  13. Justin Observation

    History is repeating itself.

    First the Christians murdered, brainwashed, and procreated their way to the top, now the Muslims are trying it. I guess they didn't learn from history, as their fate is they same as Christianity's. They can only be known as an evil organization filled with greedy, child molesting, murdering, power loving, war mongering hypocrites, and their only contribution to mankind will be murder, oppression, and hate, and the same retardation of scientific progress, world peace, and human knowledge, as their sister religion.

    No organization can completely crush the human spirit. Whether from a god or not, it is instilled in people that freedom is far greater than oppression. Even a sheep will escape if it can get over its fear of the sheep dog.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  14. Catie

    You people are awful. There are many loving non violent Muslims who condemn the actions of the Extremists. I am a Christian but I certainly am not in the same category as that crazy Phelps guy from that Baptist chruch that pickets gay or military funerals. Just calm down people. It is extreme Islam that we are concerned about.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:15 am |
  15. Hala White

    Oh no !! How many more will we have to kill in Afghanistan, Pakistan & Iraq ?? :@

    January 27, 2011 at 8:14 am |
  16. massoud

    Islam is the best thing to have happened to Humanity. Through Islam Humanity is allowed FREE ACCESS to their Creator. It does not have to believe in his variables like Jesus Son of God and all that rubbish. Humanity just needs to keep sound belief in GOD Almighty and keep the Ticket to his Glorious Opera for ever.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  17. RangerDOS

    Silly figures: There's a saturation point in population, where the levels take care of themselves, rather quickly too. We see it all the time in Africa – even China back in the late fifties. Population grows beyond resources (mostly food), half starves to death, the other half fights over what food is left, that leaves a manageable population... Just the facts.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  18. ADENYEMEN

    Everyone Stay Calm! There's no reason to panic....these are just numbers! Please don't start attacking Muslims over this report, so calm down! Keep this mind, there are more than double the number of Christians around the world than Muslims.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:08 am |
  19. David

    We are all doomed!

    January 27, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  20. iprefernotosay

    That's about the worst news I've heard in a long time – imagine more Irans and Pakistans, more terrorists and violence, more human suffering because of a make belief religion established by a pedophile. I always thought humans would get smarter as years advanced – not be thrown back to Medieval times. The other 3/4 of the population will have to join forces to combat this evil.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:06 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.