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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. Flyee

    A percentage of muslims are radicals that want to destroy all human life in other nations. This percentage will double soon. Muslims need to do more to discourage the radicals.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  2. J

    I guess that means the number of suicide bombers will be doubling too.... awesome...

    January 27, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  3. Akhan

    This board is funny. There are atheists spewing hatred towards religion. Christians spewing hatred towards Muslims. Muslims spewing hatred towards Christians. Americans spewing hatred towards non-Americans. Everyone wants to blame everyone else for the problems of this world, yet they can't see the real problem even when its being spewed from their own mouths: hatred.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  4. Ray

    The downside with everybody having access to the internet. No longer are discussions causing division only at the dinner table.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  5. Zhang

    Dont worry Chinese atheists are still numerous 🙂

    January 27, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  6. Ricardo

    CNN trying to rise the Islamaphobe ration in the world or what?

    January 27, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  7. Alex

    Is the writer's are juice? Opss sorry I mean Jewish? If not why the hell he us worried about Muslim people?

    January 27, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  8. Jesus Christ died for me!

    I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY MEN AND WEMON WANT TO BE MUSLIMS. THERE HOLY CREED WAS WRITTEN BY A MAN NOT INSPIRED BY GOD. NOT ONLY CAN YOU SEE THIS PROOF IN THERE TEACHINGS THAT IT WAS WRITTEN BY MAN BUT YOU CAN ALSO SEE IT IN THERE LIFE STYLE. THE ONLY THING THERE MISSING IS CHRIST IF THEY WOULD PUT HIM IN THERE LIFE THEY WOULD BE FINE . OH AND BY THE WAY THE CORAN WAS WRITTEN WAY AFTER THE HOLY BIBLE THE HOLY BIBLE IS THE BREATH OF GOD. I JUST WISH THEY WOULD LET CHRIST INTO THERE LIFES.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • King Richard the Lionhearted

      What in the world is a Wemon?

      January 27, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  9. AL FATAH

    To all of you who insult our Prophet and our religion time will come and you will be our servants like now you americans are serving our beloved brother Osama our prophet said "one will arise from us and dominate" well that is whats happening now america has spent trillions in trying to put us down but you will never succed our fighters are real not like your toy soldiers quoting again our prophet"no people will ever stand against Islam" so prepare yourselves to be our slaves

    January 27, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Jesus Christ died for me!

      NOT ONLY CAN I PROVE THAT YOURE A CRAZY BUT WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT SLAVES SHOWS YOURE RELIGION. READ IN YOURE QURAN SURAH 4: 91 IT SAYS YE WILL FIND OTHERS WHO DESIRE THAT THEY SHOULD HAVE SECURITY FROM YOU AND SECURITY FROM THERE OWN FOLK. SO OFTEN AS THEY ARE RETURNED TO HOSTILITY THAT ARE PLUNGED THEREIN. IF THEY KEEP NOT ALOOF FROM YOU NOR OFFER YOU PEACE NOR HOLD THERE HANDS TAKE THEM AND KILL THEM WHERE EVER YOU FIND THEM. AGINST SUCH WE HAVE GIVEN YOU CLEAR WARRENT. THE QURAN DOSE NOT UPHOLD THE CLAIM OF PROPONENTS FOR PEACEFUL ISLAM. IN FACT IT EXPLICITLY AUTHORIZES THE USE OF FORCE WHENEVER ISLAM NOT THE RELIGION OF ONES ENEMIES. HOW CAN ONE HOLD THE PRINCIPLE AND AUTHORIZATIONS OF THE QUROAN AND AT THE SAME TIME REJECT CLEAR WARRENT TO USE FORCE? THE ANWSER IS COMMON TO ALL MAN-MADE RELIGIONS AND GOVERMENTS LEAVING AN IMBROGLIO OF GARGANTUAN PROPORTIONS. THEIR JUSTIFICATION LIES NOT IN HISTORY NOR IN A STRICT INTERPITATION OF THE QURAN. BUT RATHER ARISES FROM AN OFTEN OSTENTATIOUS PONTIFICATION OF MODEREN IDEOLOGIES.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  10. Maria olomi

    If you dont know about islam then keep your moute shut. All religions lead us toward God and show us the right way to live. If you think Islam is a voilence religion then you are the most unknowlageable person in this world. If you have time read about Islam and make yourself understand instead of being STUPID.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  11. katie

    Hey America! you better start having more babies! Average Muslims families have 6 children! no wonder why their population is growing so fast! Women stay home to take care of their kids and they keep having more and more!! Thanks God we have lots of Hispanic people who not only have many children, but are Christians by default. They said it..[Muslims], that they would take over the world...I never thought it would be with babies...

    January 27, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  12. RayName*

    Thank God for the internet... allowing anyone with access to a computer to comment on a topic, that once would have only been division at the dinner table.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  13. angels and demons

    Another religion/race baiting article by CNN. Yesterday they had that article about the Oscars and now this

    January 27, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  14. King Richard the Lionhearted

    I don't care if their numbers triple; just as long as they stay in their sandy desert paradises in the Middle East and Central Asia. Anyway, there's no population that good healthy war can't bring back down to more manageable levels. I think I demonstrated that pretty well during my march through the Levant at the end of the 12th century.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  15. Ryan

    Poop!

    January 27, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  16. stevie

    Muslim population doubling?? That's all we need in this world. You'd think it would be dying, after all the abominations perpetrated in the name of Allah.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  17. a Christian guy from Lebanon

    What good did Islam bring to the world? Nothing but war, conquering and killing in the name of their "allah" and persecution of the people who aren't muslim. If I had one wish, it would be that islam never existed. The world would be a better place. And the only reason islam became present is because they would force people to become muslim or they die. Sadly.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  18. Brian

    My my, soo much hate and fear regarding this article. No bother, if your dont convert in 20 years, then one of your children will, and if they dont then possibly their children for sure.

    You can't stop it. Muslims have been coming to dominate since 632 AD, you wont stop you can't stop uh uh baby.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  19. D Frost

    Religions that preach "I will kill you if you don't believe what I believe" is the scourge of the planet. Islam should be named a "state system" and not a religion. Any "religion" that has a fringe hell bent on killing in the name of God is no religion at all. Last time I looked, organized groups of Christians, Hindus, and Bhuddist weren't out killing people. Maybe in the past, but not now. When religion is used merely to control people by a select group of zealots that believe what they think God wants it has no place in today's world. God, or the orderly unknown, is real. Man's interpretation is unreal.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  20. Flyee

    Handing out millions of additional handguns throughout the world is the message I get.

    They are safe except for the small percentage who are radicals. What's 1% of 2 billion?!?

    January 27, 2011 at 9:54 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.