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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. Jim

    I don't like seeing any religion growing in numbers, it is supposed to be going in the other direction. We should be evolving as a human race not de-evolving into ignorant followers of false gods that will only cause violence and hold us back in science and discoveries.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  2. Paul Lytle

    Conflicting information there CNN Did you not do your homework http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4019826,00.html

    January 27, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Normon

      Did you read the articles? They are saying the same thing and are sourced from the same study.

      "Muslims will number 2.2 billion by 2030 ... making up 26.4% of the world population ... according to estimates by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life." (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4019826,00.html)

      "Twenty years from now ... they'll represent more than a quarter of all people on earth, according to a new study released Thursday [, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life projects]." (article above)

      January 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  3. Kyle

    Why would anyone even be concerned about this? I'm more that happy to have a muslim around me than a nig nig that is going to sell drugs to my children. At least they have some self respect!

    January 27, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  4. Biff T

    durka durka

    January 27, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  5. SoSad

    God help us if this report is true

    January 27, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  6. Dave D

    Ahh...they blow up so fast don't they.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  7. malek

    this article underestimates the number of muslims bigtime. it shows for example in brazil there are 204000 muslims in 2010 while i know from a small country like lebanon there are 3 million lebanese in brazil more than 1/2 shiite muslim. Ive read estimates that in france the muslim population will be over 30 % by 2030 so think cnn gotta relook at the facts.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  8. Usman Chopra

    Subhan Allah !!

    January 27, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  9. Phil

    The numbers will constantly shift because people die...especially when the moron muslim blows himself up along with 50 other muslim people.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  10. Mario

    This is terrible news, just terrible, devastating news.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  11. khilafah

    Have you ever thought about the fact that you did not exist before you were conceived and then born into the world and that you have come into existence from mere nothingness?

    Have you ever thought about how the flowers you see in your living room everyday come out of pitch black, muddy soil with fragrant smells and are as colorful as they are?

    Have you ever thought about how mosquitoes, which irritatingly fly around you, move their wings so fast that we are unable to see them?

    Have you ever thought about how the peels of fruits such as bananas, watermelons, melons and oranges serve as wrappings of high quality, and how the fruits are packed in these wrappings so that they maintain their taste and fragrance?

    Have you ever thought about the possibility that while you are asleep a sudden earthquake could raze your home, your office, and your city to the ground and that in a few seconds you could lose everything of the world you possess?

    Have you ever thought of how your life passes away very quickly, and that you will grow old and become weak, and slowly lose your beauty, health and strength?

    Have you ever thought about how one day you will find the angels of death appointed by God before you and that you will then leave this world?

    Well, have you ever thought about why people are so attached to a world from which they will soon depart when what they basically need is to strive for the hereafter?

    Man is a being whom God furnishes with the faculty of thought. Yet, most people do not use this very important faculty as they should. In fact, some people almost never think.

    In truth, each person possesses a capacity for thought of which even he himself is unaware. Once man begins to use this capacity, facts he has not been able to realise until that very moment begin to be uncovered for him. The deeper he goes in reflection, the more his capacity to think improves, and this is possible for everyone. One just has to realise that one needs to reflect and then to strive hard.

    Someone who does not think will remain totally distant from truths and lead his life in self-deception and error. As a result, he will not grasp the purpose of the creation of the world, and the reason for his existence on the earth. Yet, God has created everything with a purpose. This fact is stated in the Qur'an as follows:

    We did not create the heavens and the earth and everything between them as a game. We did not create them except with truth but most of them do not know it, {وَمَا خَلَقْنَا السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا لَاعِبِينَ (38) مَا خَلَقْنَاهُمَا إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ}, Transliteration: Wa Mā Khalaqnā As-Samāwāti Wa Al-'Arđa Wa Mā Baynahumā Lā`ibīna, Mā Khalaqnāhumā 'Illā Bil-Ĥaqqi Wa Lakinna 'Aktharahum Lā Ya`lamūna [Surat ad-Dukhan: 38-39]. Did you suppose that We created you for amusement and that you would not return to Us?, {أَفَحَسِبْتُمْ أَنَّمَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ عَبَثاً وَأَنَّكُمْ إِلَيْنَا لَا تُرْجَعُونَ}, Transliteration: 'Afaĥasibtum 'Annamā Khalaqnākum `Abathāan Wa 'Annakum 'Ilaynā Lā Turja`ūna [Surat al-Muminun: 115].

    Therefore, each person needs to ponder the purpose of creation, first as it concerns him himself, and then as it pertains to everything he sees in the universe and every event he experiences throughout his life. Someone who does not think, will understand the facts only after he dies, when he gives account before God, but then it will be too late. God says in the Qur'an that on the day of account, everybody will think and see the truth:

    That day Hell is produced, that day man will remember; but how will the remembrance help him? He will say, "Oh! If only I had prepared in advance for this life of mine!", {وَجِيءَ يَوْمَئِذٍ بِجَهَنَّمَ يَوْمَئِذٍ يَتَذَكَّرُ الْإِنسَانُ وَأَنَّى لَهُ الذِّكْرَى (23) يَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي قَدَّمْتُ لِحَيَاتِي}, Transliteration: Wa Jī'a Yawma'idhin Bijahannama Yawma'idhin Yatadhakkaru Al-'Insānu Wa 'Anná Lahu Adh-Dhikrá, Yaqūlu Yā Laytanī Qaddamtu Liĥayātī [Surat al-Fajr: 23-24].

    The truth can be told to a person in many different ways; it can be shown by the use of details, pieces of evidence and by every means. Yet, if this person does not think over this truth on his own, sincerely and honestly with the purpose of comprehending the truth, all these efforts are useless. For this reason, when the messengers of God communicated the message to their people, they told them the truth clearly and then summoned them to think.

    While God has given us a chance in the life of this world to reflect and derive conclusions from our reflections, to see the truth will bring us great gain in our life in the hereafter. For this reason, God has summoned all people, through His prophets and books, to reflect on their creation and on the creation of the universe:

    Have they not reflected within themselves? God did not create the heavens and the earth and everything between them except with truth and for a fixed term. Yet many people reject the meeting with their Lord. {أَوَلَمْ يَتَفَكَّرُوا فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ مَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ وَأَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى وَإِنَّ كَثِيراً مِّنَ النَّاسِ بِلِقَاء رَبِّهِمْ لَكَافِرُونَ}, Transliteration: 'Awalam Yatafakkarū Fī 'Anfusihim Mā Khalaqa Allāhu As-Samāwāti Wa Al-'Arđa Wa Mā Baynahumā 'Illā Bil-Ĥaqqi Wa 'Ajalin Musammáan Wa 'Inna Kathīrāan Mina An-Nāsi Biliqā'i Rabbihim Lakāfirūna [Surat ar-Rum: 8].

    A man who reflects grasps the secrets of God's creation, the truth of the life of this world, the existence of hell and paradise, and the inner truth of matters. He gets a deeper understanding of the importance of being a person with whom God is pleased, and so he lives religion as is its due, recognizes God's attributes in everything he sees, and begins to think not according to what the majority of people demand but as God commands. As a result, he takes pleasure from beauty much more than others do, and does not suffer distress from baseless misapprehensions and worldly greed.

    These are only a few of the beautiful things a person who thinks will gain in the world. The gain in the hereafter of someone who always finds the truth by thinking, is the love, approval, mercy and the paradise of our Lord, which are above everything else.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Mark Yelka

      God is imaginary. No need to study, pray, believe. If god visits, I'll believe. Not until then. I don't take the word of people caught up in delusion. Why don't you believe in the god Thor, or Zeus? Because they are imaginary. So, is every other god. God does NOT visit the earth today. Why? Because, god is Imaginary!

      January 27, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • John

      Well said! But how to bring ppl to start thinking? 😉

      January 27, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  12. Jubril

    Allahu Akbar we are increasing in size,Open your minds read the Quran , you don't have to be a muslim, but it's better to understand a religion and know it's not a bad cult like the press is trying to paint us to be, I come from a christian family and i am proud to be a muslim. I am not saying its the only religion acceptable to God, no that would be foolish to say if God wanted all human Beings to have one religion we would, like we all have one nose

    January 27, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  13. Forreal89

    Great more crazy worthless complaining muslims in the world. A disease to any country. We need to learn they protest in countries that house them and commit crazy act.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  14. Diplomat Rena

    I wish there was much less fear and anxiety against the Muslim population.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  15. FEAR OF A MUSLIM PLANET

    FEAR OF A MUSLIM PLANET. Afraid, perhaps you should be depending on your position, or perhaps not. First, the numbers are grossly distorted downward. As a Muslim American convert (Born and raised, go Steelers) I assure you there are three times as many Muslims in America as they are reporting. Second, I have been Muslim twenty five years, and have travelled, lived and done business all over the world, and despite all of the negative media, distortions and missionary work, I only know of two Muslims who converted to Christianity, but I have personally seen literally hundreds of Christians convert to Islam (Interestingly enough, mostly white educated Americans). Throw in empty Churches, abortions, AIDs and birth control that primarily effect the non-Muslims, and you are talking about a world Muslim majority in ten years if not now. So what happens when Muslims inevitably dominate the world. Lets look at history. When Muslims dominated southern Europe for 800 years, these became known as the golden years of Europe. Minority Christians and Jews were protected and thrived. Once the Muslims lost control in 1491, the world has seen unprecedented attrocities from the dominant Christian culture from world wars to slavery, genocide, abortions... During this time, Jews fled from Christian persectuion, and found safety in Muslim countries. To this day, there are still thriving Jewish communities in Moroocco, Iran... Women will be judged not by their youth, beauty or bra size, but by their character and intellect. Also, don't worry about the handfull of nuts who the media keeps parading in front of you so that you don't feel bad about the military budget that is sinking our economy. Should we fear Islam, no we should embrace it, we will all be better off. Have at me!

    January 27, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  16. Agnostico Bombastico

    Nations of millions, dominated by wild-eyed lunatics who clamor for a seventh-century existence: anti-science, anti-thought, anti-women, violently 'anti-infidel'... ...and their defenders claim the rest of the world is 'ignorant'? That's staggering stupidity... couple it with malnutrition and disease... and when the West switches back to coal to grow food, the Manic Muslimz will be in more trouble even than the Kristian Krazies and the Loonie Jewz...

    January 27, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  17. anti-ignorance

    How is this article/study unbiased when it promotes fear of the increasing rate of Islam then however manages to "comfort" that fear, don't fret Christianity is on the raise as well. The media does a disservice by prolonging ignorance and ignorant beliefs. Instead of focusing on the commonalities of all three major religions and the sole fact that no matter what name you use, it the belief in the same God. 1st came Judaism, then Christianity (Christ, the predecessor to Moses), followed by Islam which is the continuation of where Christianity left off and Mohammed the predecessor to Jesus.

    The Media only considers events important when hate and violence is involved. When do you see reports on the good Christians and Muslims (which majority of both religions' followers are). Instead reports emphasize the radicals on both sides. Which influences both national and international opinions of America and the Muslim population.

    As for the Muslim population we only see reports concerning terrorist, Iran, and other extreme branches (followers of the shiite and Wahabi sects, both divisions stemming from power hungry individuals). TERRORISTS are not muslims and any one who harms another is not a muslim but a person suffering from a psychopathic personality deficit (the same goes for anyone else who commits such acts and claims to follow any other religion). Shiites and Wahabis make up a very small group compared to the majority Sunni sect population.

    Like the two abrahamic religions that came before it, Islam is a beautiful religion when practiced as it was intended to be practiced. Islam/Quran does not promote violence or hatred towards others. Instead it asks us to become more tolerant of others and encourages its followers to read the Holy texts (like the Torah and the Gospels of Jesus) that have come before, as they are also the word of God. Hatred is promoted by ignorant/closed minded individuals (including cleric and so called Imams). All of Islam can not be blamed for the opinions and acts of a few.

    Promote peace and brotherhood as we all are descendants of those that came before us (our ancestors, those who have practiced Judaism and Christianity, and even those that do not practice at all).

    January 27, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • Buzz

      I think you'll find that the vast majority of acts of secular bombing, kidnappings, and mayhem are committed by the followers of the Sunni sect of Islam in Iraq, the religion of Sadam and his followers.

      January 27, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  18. LEBFORCES

    LONG LIVE LEBANESE CHRISTIANS AND ALL CHRISTIANS AROUND THE WORLD... JESUS CHRIST IS OUR LORD.. HE IS GOD .... ANYTHING ELSE SAID ABOUT HIM IS BLASPHEMY.

    LA ILAHA ILA LAHHH W LMASSI7 HOU IBN ILAH ( NONE IS GREATER THAT GOD, JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD )

    January 27, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  19. Will

    The report I'm waiting for is the level of Flying Spaghetti Monster adherents in 2030

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

      I hear ya, brother!

      Ramen

      January 27, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  20. jamalibrahim

    The real Muslim Demographics

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

    January 27, 2011 at 9:18 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.