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. Kevin

    Why don't you take on a worthy opponent CHINA?
    Afraid of loosing?
    Always going for the weak?
    Educated, hard working people, with more civilization than the whole combined.
    Let's look at our weaknesses and face them instead of blaming in on the weak.
    It might give you a quick relief but I will not give the cure to the real problems.
    Greed, ignorance and poor journalism.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  2. naturemau

    I think it’s funny how many people are scared of Islam taking over the world, I remember learning in high school when there was a time where our great and Christian based nation took over, raided, pillaged and forced entire nations into Nazi like camps, stole their children and forced them to learn Christianity. I wonder what the Indians had to say about Christians during that era of American history. We are a nation of hypocrites if we're bashing a religion for expanding when we have a bloody brainwashing history of our own and when we guarantee freedom to choose our religion. They aren't in other countries stealing children to learn Islam. Think about that whenever you stuff hateful religions down your children’s throats like Christianity.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  3. asyria

    Allah Akbar we are very happy to hear about this. This means that in a short period of time we will be the most dominant race we can celebrate and be thankful to our Prophet that always said this was going to happen America will be our bathroom and we will crush all infidels

    January 27, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  4. jordans

    Lets be logical. My limited knowedge is that the Qur'an forbids leaving the religion by threat of death. It also demands the death of anyone who does not join in. Even if no one new joins the religion, the children of Muslims will surely remain in the religion ( or they will be dead so a moot point.) Since no other religion demands death for leaving or not joining, those who do not wish to die would probably choose staying alive, IE becoming a Muslim. Eventually all ofthe other religions members would die off or be killed as the Qur'an requires. By attrition it really does seem logical. This may be why so many people become dogmatic about their views of Muslim it becomes a feeling of kill or be killed. By Osama Bin Ladens own words Muslims love Death and others love life. I do wish they would practice their love on themselves and not others.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • naturemau

      you obviously don't know a whole lot about islams lol, where did you get this garbage your all know preachor, get a real resourse

      January 27, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • nickolas

      The guy above me needs a dictionary.

      January 27, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  5. Carole Clarke

    Muslims do not pracice birth control and each adult male is allowed up to 4 wives at a time as opposed to 1 wife at a time in the other two Abrahamic faiths. Each wife has as many children as their womb can bear, sometimes 8 or more EACH. In the west we are lucky to just reproduce ourselves. Do the math. Unfortunately, Islam is not front and center in how to feed all those people, they have tiny fishing fleets and are waaay behind in modern farm practices. In the end it won't matter whose faith wins, all that will matter is who will survive starvation.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  6. Steve

    A really scary statistic. A world with twice as many Muslims is defiinitely not a good thing. Muslims want to enjoy freedom of teligion wherever they live, but they will deny it to everyone else because we are lnfidels. This is a huge threat to the America, Israel, Europe and the rest of the non-Muslim world. It means nothing but war, violence, and the collapse of our free way of life.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  7. EJ


    You may be confusing Islam with Christianity and the Hadith with the Bible. I would be very surprised if you knew anything at all about Islam as a result of independent study instead of what the Islamophobic sites feed you. Looking at this page though, you might not be the only one.

    @The comments in general:

    Nice to see that hating an entire group of people has become acceptable in this day and age. I wonder, if this was a page on an Arabic blog, would these comments be used by the Islamophobes as to how much the Muslims want to kill us? After all, Christians here are commenting about how we should kill all Muslims, bomb them etc.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  8. all you idiots are retarded

    just sensationalistic faux journalism to scare everyone into believing we're being overrun.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  9. Mike

    There is no need to panic, Islam will come out of metamorphism like other religions, It will find a way to have peaceful relation with others. All we have to do is encourage the reformer not push them to fundamentalist camp because we do not want to deal with them. This will take us nowhere. All religions been through this phase, watch movie "Agora" if you don't have knowledge of History. Just clam and intelligent solution to complex problem, otherwise get ready for crusade, God Need some excuse to curb the population

    January 27, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Jane

      "There is no need to panic, Islam will come out of metamorphism like other religions"

      1400 years and counting. I'm afraid I don't see a reason to share your optimism.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  10. Jonas

    If this means that there will be twice as many people on Earth who follow a peaceful religion that advocates tolerance and love, and helping one's neighbor.. excellent. If this just means double the amount of people who only think that they are right and are only willing to aid other Muslims.. screw em.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  11. Love Islam

    Islam is the best religion. All you non muslims are going to hell, especially Stupid Hindus...In couple of years we will rule the world.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  12. John

    1 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
    2 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.
    3 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
    4 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
    5 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
    6 “You shall not murder.
    7 “You shall not commit adultery.
    8 “You shall not steal.
    9 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
    10 “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.”

    January 27, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  13. Cowboy

    The reason we have so many muslims is cuz we havent played Cowboys & Muslims yet.........

    January 27, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  14. Ricardo

    I wonder if CNN will make reports about the out of proportion Christian growth in Sub-Saharian Africa where people have 10 kids each.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  15. What?


    There is a detailed explanation of what is the end game in these mindsets that use this book to hold down their populations.

    Before you tell me how great this process is please tell me 1 good thing that has come out of a Muslim country in the last 600 years? One technical innovation? Prior to this religion moving in or very early on before some leaders twisted it to prop up their kingdoms it had algerbra, but this was 1200 years ago not 600.

    The problem with "Passive/Moderate" Muslims is they are being used just as Germany's Hitler used that population. When the most violent take over, the passive majority say its not my problem. They wake up one day trapped but then they give support to survive in their own country. Sadly they give their children to the cause either through education systems that brainwash them into thinking its ok, or by force. All resources are then dedicated to the cause.

    The Moderate Muslim is fast becoming irrelevant. Once they loose control, their Government or their religious leaders will tell everyone the children are not religious enough and send them to madrasses like in Pakistan for religious training. Where the School will ask them to Will all their worldly possessions to the school.. Aka the head masters... and send them off to die somewhere in the name of their religions. While they marry all the females that attend they find worthy. Once these children if they survive get old enough they have to take the next step to be even more religious then their fellows and prove they have more religious worth and deserving of heaven. "there is a news report after the afgan war a Mulah saying this btw, search the net"

    Most germans didn't start off wanting to kill anyone that wasn't the ideal person, they were trained to do it thinking it would keep them alive or through propaganda. Once your each this point you start thinking you have the right given by god or your leader because your better then others.

    Most of these leaders stay in the back collecting the wealth and power while the young idealistic ones are sent off to die and support the system. Most of these systems must take over resources though or stop getting the free wealth and power, then fail. You must have an enemy to force the people to unify under your way of thinking for protection.

    Early religion.
    If you wanted to be King in a country already with a King you became a religious leader. If you tried to declare yourself king you were killed. Most religions were then twisted by kings to uphold their oppressive leadership and government. Sometimes the religion would take over but this always crashed and burned, because religion has no methods for ruling large groups of people and giving them happiness. And people do want to be happy. Praying to your god doesn't feed your kids or protect your family.

    Religion is a method of mind control for a lawless time and it was very useful stopping some really terrible practices like human sacrifice and other things along that line. It had its place but it needs to remember its place or the systems will crash down around them. Leaving them in a worst spot.

    Simple TEST:

    This test for successful psychopath is best applied to many religious leaders. But you need to add, instead of lieing does he call you a non believer if you question the lies. If you find a good leader does he bow down to a psychopath above him? Does he take direction from others?

    This also works with governments, do they call you a non-patriot if you question the lies? Perhaps a socialist, liberal, or some other label to make you less human?

    Sadly all of this will mean nothing if war comes. If you make the press fear your religion, those camera's that have kept many atrocities from happening will be shut off or turned away. At which point you will understand what modern war can bring.

    As the undereducated populations of these uncontrolled birthing countries find they have no alternatives(food/jobs) they will either go to war or overthrow their governments. Chances are it will happen at the same time in some areas. But sadly history has shown that until the moderate/thinking people stand up and make education and hardwork the norm, they will just get another psychopath as leader because he was trained to be one.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  16. Gonzodon

    Realize that "native" Europeans are having less than two children per couple; in other words, they are not replacing themselves. In twenty to thirty years, France, England and other European countries will be predominantly Muslim. In effect, Europe will be a Muslim continent. We can expect no allies there in the future. And as this article hints at, it is politically incorrect to "do" anything about this.

    Keep in mind that in heavily Muslinm nations, and in totalitarian states like North Korea and China, Christians are harrassed, assaulted and murdered on a regular, daily basis. The mainstream media doesn't report this, but it is happening. Where Muslims are a dominant culture, they will not tolerate Christians.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  17. atrayu

    no surprise they don't believe in abortion or intermarriage

    January 27, 2011 at 10:24 am |

    Great......................... just what we need now that increase population is found to be the underlying cause of global warming... all religions should stop breeding like roaches..... it's sad to think their belief systems will be the cause of their extinction..

    January 27, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  19. John Steel

    This article makes a lot of assumptions. The key one is that the West is going to be dumb enough to continue to subsidize the breeding programs of Third World nations. Most Islamic countries are already awash in poverty and the poor. Let them starve.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  20. Pete

    One of the more interesting relationships is that between wealth and birthrate. As wealth INCREASES birthrate DECREASES. So the fact that most Muslims are stuck in poverty means that their population will continue to GROW. It turns out that women who fear for their children's safety unconsciously (and probably sometimes consciously) have more kids. It's kinda sick but its how it works. So doing things like stopping aid and such will not help. What we should be doing is modernizing those Muslim countries. Sure it might be "helping our enemy' but with things like access to the internet they will eventually come around to our way of thinking..

    January 27, 2011 at 10:21 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.