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. Brian

    Christians need to look in the mirror. As crazy as the Muslims look and act and as crazy as their crazy beliefs are, Christian folklore is equally crazy. Both crazy! Organized religion keeps getting more and more polarizing to the point where the core tenants of all major religions (be a good person, be humble, etc) are getting lost in folklore that doesn't matter

    January 27, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  2. Taufik

    Some people here are real idiots. Islam is growing in the West where "freedom of religion" and women are not "oppressed", is not it time for you to see clearly yet.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  3. jjgogo

    They're smart! they know how to manipulate the world system, more people more votes more control.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  4. SonOfWodan

    Ragnarok is coming. Sharpen your blades.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    Just goes to show how rapidly something dangerous can take over, when it is forced upon people, and they have no recourse.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  6. Eric G.

    My hope is that the "Youth Bubble" will be smarter than my generation. I see the youth of today viewing their parents religious beliefs as more of a social tradition than a belief system that should be used to form their world view. I think the youth of today realize that the religions practiced by their parents has lost it's social relevence. They see the holes. They are skeptics. They are smarter than we. Within two generations, current religions will have the same influence as our daily horoscope does today. They will realize that the only hope for humanity is solidarity and religion has become an obstacle that can no longer be tolerated.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  7. whatever

    You breed'em, we'll convert'em

    January 27, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  8. MarylandUSA

    I'm Jewish, and in 3,300 years, my people haven't done a very good job spreading belief in pure monotheism. Muslims have, and I salute them for it.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  9. lefty avenger

    This article is irresponsible as all the christian right wing wackos are going to stockpile their many guns in their bomb shelters to wait for the judgement day when the muslims come for them. The Muslims and the Christian right have so much in common: fierce ancient religious dogma, complete intolerance for non-believers, faith over intellect and non-stop war to back up their beliefs. When you don't believe in any of this man-made religions, it's always curious to see all the hate and destruction they cause. Religions of peace? What planet are you from? Did you miss the past 3000 years....

    January 27, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  10. James Walsh

    I think there are mistakes in the stats on this article, particularly with regard to middle eastern populations which give Egypt a 100% muslim population when at least 10% of those 80 million are Coptic Christians, similarly with Iraq and Syria non-muslim minorities are ignored. In an already over-populated world these stats are alarming particularly in the context of so many violent and fanatical muslims already out there. Richard Allan Greene needs to double check his facts with regard to ME countries.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  11. search4truth

    if this does occur it only points to the tactics in which muslims indoctrinate and trick igbnorant people into the fascist death cult of islam. first they persecute and force conversion by oppression and bigotry toward non muslims. then they persecute or kil those who want to leave. they lie about islam and mohamed stating that it is a loving compassionte religion similar to christioanity. when that couldnt be further from the truth. they also make false claims about mohmed. who was a war lord, thief, loote

    January 27, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  12. Dana

    How does this compare to the rate for Mormons?

    January 27, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  13. ttiiiiimmeeehhh

    ugh, all this hoopla over a stupid book

    January 27, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  14. Inyourimage

    When Jesus was insulted, he never said, "I think you should kill them."

    January 27, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  15. Joe

    How did Muslims get into North Korea? LOL.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  16. Marc

    Maybe it's time for some mandatory control of their population. After all, aren't there enough terrorists in this world?

    January 27, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  17. James

    I guess evolution is not true after all, because this article is proof that humans are actually becoming dumber.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  18. robert

    GREAT!!!....twice as many bombings and deaths....gives you something to look forward to in 20yrs....if you're not blown up first that is...

    January 27, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  19. RZ

    Hey Christians! Do you know why us Muslims can't accept Jesus as a god? See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeJPVjEB_no

    January 27, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  20. bush limbush

    So there will be even more people to believe in rubbish!

    January 27, 2011 at 8:51 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.