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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. islam

    muslim peaple is very nice peaple

    January 27, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  2. MyLogic

    Again, CNN really needs to check the statistics of the articles they publish, before they publish them. Quite frankly, the opening paragraph is laughable. In 1990 (twenty years ago) the Muslim world population is stated as being 1.1 billion (25% out of 5.2 billion people in the world). Currently, the world population of Muslims is estimated at 1.3 billion people (19% out of 6.8 billion people in the world). Did anyone actually do the numbers? Does anyone really think that the percentage of Muslims in the world has dropped? By six percent? Muslims have the highest birth rate of any group in the world!

    Come on.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  3. Gabriel

    Who is selling them punctured condoms?

    January 27, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  4. fleiter

    Wonderful. More cavemen that we have to kill.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  5. apache198155

    All religions born outside of India, have no tradition of inner exploration. They are religions of disaster, strife, hatred, ruthlessness.

    religions born out of india have had a history of inner conscious search, which no other nation can claim.

    India is the only country which can revive its spiritual heritage and work towards waking people of the world and making the world free of religions.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  6. LookAndSEE

    Truth is not in numbers. The majority religion has never been accurate.
    Muslims can never turn back else they get killed.
    No wonder there is high numbers.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  7. nickolas

    I can really believe in a religion that tells it's followers their will be 72 virgins waiting for them in heaven when they blow themselves to pieces. I can really believe in a religion that allows pedophiles to live out their wildest fantasies without consequence. This is proof the Muslim God is made up BULL@#$$, thought of by people who lived way back in the day. Fan fiction..just like Christianity.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  8. Oh God

    So with so many 'religious' people in the world why is there so much violence? Without getting religious, as I am of a religion, could it be that most are not real and people use them to exploit others and try to uplift themselves before others?

    Such a sad state this world has become!!!!

    January 27, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Mark Yelka

      The reason is simple: belief in any god is delusional. God is imaginary. And when people are delusional, they frequently do bad things.

      January 27, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  9. Alexandra Hardie

    Muslims are increasing their numbers enormously, but the question is – what made this possible? The answer to that is clear enough, it was the science and technology developed by white men. The practice of taxing populations in Britain, the rest of Europe, the USA and so on, so as to provide foreign aid, also contributed to the growth. However, as white people diminish in number,largely because of the burden of taxes and debt, what will happen? The Chinese will certainly not provide hand-outs to Muslims, why should they? I tend to think that there will be a peak in the Muslims population, and then a sudden collapse.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  10. Ben

    Unlike christianity where there is soooo many different teachings. Islam is one, and has only one teaching, wich makes Islam the fastest growing religion.I can say this is a true religion

    January 27, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  11. Jacob

    Weak minds*

    You're*

    January 27, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  12. nickolas

    Why should I care if more people are jumping onto the Muslim bandwagon?. Christianity is already a joke since most Americans use it for SOCIAL STATUS and nothing else, that's probably why half these other countries have such an increase in belief. Those are the true sinners the ones who use "Gods" name to get further in life and benefit themselves more than others. If the Muslim God actually exist then he is a chauvinistic,pedophile murderer. Now who wants to worship someone like that?

    January 27, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  13. AJS

    Here we come, so watch out!!

    January 27, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  14. Rob

    listen to megadeth 'holy wars'

    January 27, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  15. Paul

    Sorry to say, once they dominate the world, there will be no mercy on non-Islams.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  16. Pat

    Nothing new here . . That is just how it is. therefor Christians and Jew must learn to accept Muslims as equals

    January 27, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  17. saqr

    we all have to be honest. let's ask ourselves "Why is Islam spreading so quickly?!" that's frankly because it's the right religion worldwide. Holy quran is giving wonders in every part of sciences and every could check to make sure whether it's right or not.
    Moreover, there are many scientists who converted Islam because of what I've just said above...

    January 27, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  18. WIll III

    Atheist also are getting as worst as the religious, as they now insult you if you dont believe what they believe. I love science but it is incapable of explaining all the diversity in the universe we see today, and if you believe otherwise you yourself do not follow science.

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

      I disagree. Most Atheist don't feel the need to convey their beliefs on anyone. I for one keep it to myself unless someone ask. And science may not be able to explain every little thing on Earth but it makes alot more sense than Creationism.

      January 27, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • nickolas

      I disagree. Most Atheist don't feel the need to convey their beliefs on anyone. I for one keep it to myself unless someone ask. And science may not be able to explain every little thing on Earth but it makes a lot more sense than Creationism.

      January 27, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  19. Cowboy

    Lets play Cowboys & Muslims and see how many are left.....

    January 27, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  20. 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 of the 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 Muslims, 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 10:43 am |
    • nickolas

      I'm glad you pointed that out. Because it's obvious from what Osama Bin Laden said the Muslim religion at least over in Afghanistan is all about death and take over. What kind of Almighty God would want his followers to kill. And that's the reason Allah does not exist because it sounds like crazed people made up the rules of their religion and if you do not agree with those rules and beliefs then you die.

      January 27, 2011 at 11:10 am |
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About this blog

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.