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. Jake

    Ok...so the whole world goes Muslim...does the killing, stoning, and terror stop? No. Cause by then it's not about killing the infidels (since there are none). The killings continue because some (Taliban) will believe that you are not Muslim enough.

    Sorry if you are a peace loving Muslim but the Muslim faith is all kinds of jacked up.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  2. Devin

    So that's where all the Christians went hehe

    January 27, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  3. btw

    20 Years samples are really misleading. Every category has big numbers. Whats interesting is annual birth rates today – In some countries which are at peace and which we associate with being radical they have low birth rates. Iran's is now 1.3% and Saudi is less than 2%. In Irans case its really even lower because they have more refugees enter than immigrants leave so this factors in new people. Amazing considering it used to be well over 3% BEFORE the revolution. Places in conflict have much higher rates. Palestinian grew by 2.7% and Afghans by 2.9% last year. If every Islamic country was like Iran where woman have less rights BUT are 100% literate then the muslim population would actually decrease. Something to think about when we attack the next country. Case in point: Iraq has historically had a declining birth rate because the Bath party was anti Islamic and women were well educated – now its reversing as more and more girls miss out on schooling and having more kids.

    War = more babies.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  4. WIll III

    The muslims don't scare me. The amount of racism, hate and plain misinformation about each other we seem to have is the most terrifying thing. All i can hope is most of the racist post are by the same person who is making different names. Most Islamics are not terrorist, I think anyone with a double digit IQ knows that. Most christians also know that their religion has a shady past of conversion called the inguisition, and lets not bring up what happened in the America's up until about 1970. I am not a muslim, and the way people act I don't really think I want to label myself christian anymore. I just say I'm spiritual.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  5. Saddam

    I agree all americans are cuirs they will never be like us our prophet was right when he said all nations will be at your feet

    January 27, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  6. Wadhams

    Why is this the top headline? If you read the entire article, it clearly states that the Muslim population is growing proportionate to the world population and that Christianity is, too. This is another attempt by CNN to take a story and distort it for effect. In this case it simply fuels the already raging fire by trying to scare the world into believing everyone will be a Muslim by tomorrow. Maybe we can get the economy in the top spot on the page and have a forum with ideas about how to solve the major problems there. Because if we don't figure that one out soon, we won't be thinking about Muslims, we'll all be working in labor camps for the Chinese. Step it up, CNN!

    January 27, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  7. lestalk

    People should stop fornicating and start farming! Just what the world needs, more starving people.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  8. Peace loving Muslim

    There goes the neighborhood. Maybe I'll open a store that specializes in designer bomb belts and I will be rich.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  9. Peace loving Muslim

    There goes the neighborhood. Maybe I'll open a store that specializes in the designer bomb belts and I will be rich.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  10. Jones

    This report is laughable.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  11. Baxter

    So what is it???!!! Two other news sites say that the muslim population will drop in the next two decades due to lower birth rates amongst muslims. Which news agency is dyslexic?

    January 27, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  12. LookAndSEE

    What is Islam's view of the future, What hope is there in this world?
    Truth is not in numbers. All through human history, the majority was not in with God.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  13. areno

    Great. If .1 percent are terrorists, that's what, 1.1 million terrorists?

    January 27, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  14. yusef

    I agree with Al Fatah you will all be our servants Ala Akbar. Salam Al Fatah from Syria

    January 27, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  15. justacomment

    Wow,, those people are just like a bunch of rabbits.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  16. Sebastian

    The ditacdor Kadafy say after 6 Day's War : " We will get the world control whitout to use a shot or gun" That is.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  17. areno

    G*d forbid!

    January 27, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  18. DaveinLA

    we should nuke them before it is too late

    January 27, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  19. Luq

    I hope there are more Believing and Allah fearing Muslims...then even if they're not double in number, they'll yet be times stronger than what they are today!!!
    Repsected and not Hated!!!

    January 27, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  20. PJ

    It's important to note that the doubling of the population has nothing to do with any "beauty" or "truth" ascribed to Islam, it's just most of the followers are all poor third world illiterates who multiply like rabbits. Reason will win out in the end (if the human race is to survive) and all religions will one day be abandoned. Islam hopefully would be the first to go though, it inspires the worst of the bunch.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:13 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.