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. JJ

    That's assuming they don't all start celebrating their new holiday, Kaboom, as widely as some think it should be.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  2. Ben

    I've read two stories from this blog this morning. So far, I am not impressed. A lot of fact-twisting going on here. The world population in general is expected to double, so it only makes sense that the "Muslim" population would do the same. Especially when you consider that many 3rd World, and traditionally Islamic, nations are among the fastest rising populations.

    This is just a bunch of fear mongering to worry the under-educated and easily panicked American public. Hack.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  3. Chris

    Who cares, they won't be able to feed themselves anyways.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  4. Kracker

    There's no way the numbers will get that high, with all of those extras running around, that just means twice as many suicide bombers will be killing twice as many of their own people , which means the population will actually decrease, which means more room for me and my cheeseburgers, and pie. ummmmmmm, pie. If one Muslim suicide bomber kills 20 innocent Muslims, you do the math.
    But seriously, they can't get along with each other now,what happens if the numbers do get that high, WWIII between the Sunni's and the Shiites, or Shiites and Sunni's depending on who you need to put first.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  5. T

    Just like AIDS.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  6. oriental

    Well as a believer in asian philosophy i find it quite amusing that folks here are fighting over who true God is? well God is neith Jesus or allah nor a he nor she.. God is more complex and manifests in me and you.
    stop your silly fights folks...

    January 27, 2011 at 8:46 am |
  7. Chachi

    They're an easier target than the native americans. We know exactly what time everyday they're all going to be gathered together bending over on their knees. Instead of smallpox, this time let's use the aids.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  8. Jack

    People...people....we have to think possitive way about the increase of Muslim population! Think about Entrepreneurs or opportunities...I'm sure they will need more body bags, coffins, bombs, bombs making materials, sucide bombers vests, and guns. They will kill each other more and more. We will make more moneys and get rich!

    January 27, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  9. Silly Human

    Silly humans believing in magical sky wizards. All religions are myths

    January 27, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  10. A

    lol @ whoever selected this story to go on the front page. OMG PANIC

    January 27, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  11. Cowboy1

    Once we were many and now we are few – said the Indians after playing Cowboys and Indians –

    Maybe its time to start playing Cowboys and Muslims.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  12. Chachi

    Does this mean we can expect an increase in flying carpet traffic jams?

    January 27, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  13. Cruzader

    OMG! We are in deep trouble.!

    January 27, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  14. Josh

    ... just another toilet water religion corrupting the minds of gullible nimrods. There is no god. Wake up.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  15. anony


    The picture at the top of this article would be the perfect place to drop a bomb.
    love this haha

    January 27, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  16. Cindi

    When the community balance of diversity becomes unbalanced with a majority who believe strongly that their way is the only way to live, is what concerns me. When that majority group starts to impose laws that change our way of life, then it's too late. Majority rules, right?

    January 27, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  17. Michael, Chapel Hill

    It is a "Biological Warfare." Muslims from the inception of the religion preached and practiced the population growth as a means to overtake the local population and establish Islamic State. The shrinking European/ Western population & advancing Muslim population in those countries, eating into the social welfare system of those countries will overtake those countries in sheer numbers alone within next 30 years.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  18. sisi

    Were all gonna die!

    January 27, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • tristan

      shut up that is so ignorant you sound like the kids in my school and that's an insult cuz dose morons can't pass a test

      January 29, 2011 at 8:30 am |
  19. Abdi

    All religions are anti-racism

    January 27, 2011 at 8:30 am |
  20. bhasky

    I wish to see a similar data anlysis for other religion. mainly "Christians"

    January 27, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • Denizen Kate

      Try reading the entire article. They did state that their report on Christianity was next, just not finished yet.

      January 27, 2011 at 11:43 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.