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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. thend

    As someone from Toronto, Canada, this trend couldn't be more obvious. What's scariest is these Muslim immigrants like all our immigrants are not being assimilated or educated into our culture/society and are allowed to express their religious & hateful views with no legal way to stop it. Why? Because Canadians have no balls and will allow the takeover of any radical group to infiltrate in our society. That's the problem with living in a country with too much freedom, outsiders come in and take advantage of it to pursue their own agenda. This is already happening in Europe’s freest nations like France and Finland. I predict in less than 100 years we in Canada will be at war fighting for all the freedom rights we’ve all worked so hard for over the past century. Americans themselves should take a great concern in this trend that’s happening here, because it will effect you as it already is, you just don't know it yet.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  2. VR

    Thanks to politics played by the Congress party (current ruling party) in India, population control measures are not mandatory. There was talk of adopting 2 child per family during previous administration, but that party never got re-elected. The big catch with enforcing the 2 child per family rule is with Muslims. Some of the laws are not applicable to them. The previous administration wanted to have one law for all including Muslims, but did not receive majority of the votes to form a government. And the current Congress administration does not have the will to enforce such laws as nearly all the Muslims have voted for Congress party for years.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • Nonimus

      Just curious, are there laws in India that apply only to Hindus, or only to Muslims? In other words do the laws of India specify different rules for different religions and if so how common is it?

      January 27, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  3. Irene

    Much as I worry about the increase in the Muslim population, I worry more about the overall increase in population. We can hardly support what we have in this world, millions are starving, people are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, we do not have enough doctors and healthcare people, with the present economy and weather conditions, essential items are being eroded – food is rising in price and production is down due to weather conidtions, farmers selling up as they cannot make a profit etc. We really need to control population levels but we need to be wary of drastic drops as we would then have an excess of elderly people with no one to support the economy with taxes etc. People might live longer due to better healthcare etc but is this essentially a good thing if we do not have the economy to support it. Why don't we all realise that we are all humans made of the same things and learn to work together to improve this world so that our children can live in peace and enjoy the fruits of this wonderful world that we live in.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  4. JUtah

    Do you know why "They" fear Islam???? Because it is the only thing that can awaken the masses from their zombie like trances. The trances that are allowing them to be controlled, manipulated and cohersed into doing anything. Islam stands up against their nefarious causes. Wake up people, the truth shall set you free.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:13 am |
  5. Kevin

    CNN, why don't you write about the democratization of the Muslim countries instead of writing about the growth of the Muslim population.
    There is a unique chance for our government to support democracy with the events that happened in Tunisia, a debate that would focus on education of the population.
    Maybe you should have statistics on the number of weapons sold to oppressing regimes compared to books and computers to promote openning.
    These governments are the cause of organized of what it is called islamism, as the only opposition, and they are supported by our country.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:13 am |
  6. Frederic

    That's why we can never have too many nukes.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  7. Tyros

    When I read these comments I feel ashamed to be surrounded with so much ignorance.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  8. Ray

    To all the Islamophobes and bigots who have been spewing ugliness and calling all Muslims filthy: we will remember.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • sanjosemike

      Ray, I am not calling Muslims filthy. But I wonder what you have to say about the on-coming internecine wars between Muslims to decide which branch of Islam will rule the New Caliphate? As Iran is now getting nuclear weapons, this war is inevitable. Can the World survive a nuclear war between branches of Islam? What do you have to say about that Ray?

      January 27, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • DisgruntledGrrl

      While yer at it, remember "Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia" and the tale of how her friend was bound in chains and thrown into the pool.
      Remember your precious "Honor Killings" and realize: this is why we really hate you.

      January 27, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Nonimus

      Fighting the fear of an Islamic threat with... a threat.
      Hmmm...
      Let me know how that works out.

      January 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  9. DisgruntledGrrl

    Gonna say something rather rude here: How are they doubling? They keep killing their women.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • Denizen Kate

      For every woman they kill, there are a dozen being forced into a life of servitude and baby production.

      January 27, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  10. gerry

    Why are racists and bigots always so worried about population growth? If they spent half as much time worrying, and instead actually getting to know a Muslim, maybe the world would be a more peaceful place.

    does anyone that is non muslim rally have any friends that are,where I live they dont want to mix with us at all.They take from our beuatiful country and live in a parallel society.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  11. BlazeNGraze

    Irrelevant, rising standards of education, quality of life and breadth of scientific knowledge across the world over the next twenty years will signify the rise of the Atheist. The one true religion.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  12. Johnny

    This is the real Muslim Demographics. Its viewed by more ten Million.

    Watch this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-3X5hIFXYU

    January 27, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  13. Johnny Caia

    So. what we have here is a population of dumb poor people, that believe in a dumb religion...perfect...sigh.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  14. Ray

    There needs to a lot of healing in the world – we all must live together and cursing out someone due to their faith is against every good principle we know. For those who insist on broadbrushing 1 billion Muslims as evil, what world are you creating for future generations? Go out and meet someone from the Muslim world and you will find them as engaging and interesting as you are. Let there be peace among us because that is the only way.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  15. SearchingForAnAtheistExtremist

    I wonder if they will ever do an in depth study on the growth of atheism around the world. That would be a study I would be interested in reading.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • Eric G.

      The Atheists are comming out!

      January 27, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • BlazeNGraze

      Atheist alert! Defenses up! Zealots man your battle stations! !

      January 27, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Militant Agnostic

      I don't know...
      AND YOU DON"T EITHER!

      January 27, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  16. Noni

    Hello everyone, I'm a Muslim girl living in the U.S.A . Islam is really a great religion if you try to read about it in the right way. We respect Jesus and all other religions especially Christianity and Jeiwsh. Islam also calls for peace. Islam doesn't has a relation with the terrorists people. we do hate them and want them to go to hell. Please guys who didn't read about the really Islam don't talk about what you don't know.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  17. carol

    i will rephrase so it posts – muslims = filthy dirt

    January 27, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  18. Hologram

    "Pakistan will overtake Indonesia as home of the largest number of Muslims, as its population pushes over 256 million"

    I know right. Pakistan has the most polluted water source in the world, but it will be able to add another 100 million people. The problem in Egypt right now is food prices since the government there subsidizes them, but prices went way way up because of heat waves and fires in another part of the world. The entire Arabian peninsula is a ticking time bomb since their water supplies will only last a few more years. The Levant will also start fighting over the Tigris, Euphrates, and Jordan rivers as those start to dwindle too.

    Unfortunately there are imams telling these people that Allah will provide, so no one bothers with birth control until they rush full speed off of a cliff.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  19. johnny

    The only solution to all religious plagues..... is to keep developing computers just like in the movie terminator....
    Machines won't be shy to impose atheism and objectivity upon all animals including humans....

    January 27, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  20. Indian

    Not surprising.. in india their "Imams" & "Maulvi (religious leaders)" are forcing and doing brainwash of their people to produce more childern. They also force and reward muslims who marry non muslim girls, especially Hindu,Jews & Christain.
    Surprisingly, even highly educated Muslims have more than three children, in slums this count goes to 6-7. This leads to increased crime and terrorist activity.
    While goverment tried to request and impose restrictions, they come on streets and protest stating it is against their religion.

    We can not blame the entire religion for certain activities but statistic and figures are also the mirror of reality.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:02 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.