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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. Brian

    Puragru...you've been reading your Ravi. =)

    January 27, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  2. Zicktor

    Hey, great idea, face reality and stop believing in fantasy and admit that we are all just crawling creeping sophisticated roaches in this coincidental earth. In fact, advertise it and all that fanatical BS might at east slow down!!

    January 27, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  3. Sharon

    Everyone wants to be afraid and blame or hate all Muslims for the actions of a few. Here's my question to those who fear Muslims and want to punish them....."should Black America be afraid of whites and punish all of you because of the years of suppression and LYNCHINGS that took place right here in America.....and it was LEGAL!

    January 27, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  4. Puragu

    Answer to No Homework Needed ...
    "because I grew up with a lot of christians, jews and muslims. I am from Europe and there are a lot more of them there then here. I can tell you one thing for sure. Keep your religion; I have no problem with the fact that you believe in god, that you kneel or bow to pray or whatever. The reason why I will NEVER belong to any organized religion is that their rules are so restrictive, especially against women (and yes, I am a woman). "
    Dear Madam,
    The rules are not restrictive towards women. In Christianity Christ chose male apostles. Since Christ is God, He cannot make mistakes. Since Christianity is not a man-made mystic religion which we can add to or remove from, this cannot be changed – so the Catholic Church cannot ordain women as priests. However, you can still be a career woman, many Catholics are – in my family we have scientists, doctors, pharmacists, journalists – all women and happy to be Christian. Sadly we cannot change God's word because it is God's. If we made up a faith, I would agree that the religion is restrictive, as you say however, God is restrictive. We don't make the rules, He does. If you prefer to be atheist and reject God because you cannot be a priest or the Church is against abortion (of female fetuses too) I cannot help you. However, try to keep things logically consistent. God makes the rules, Christians have to follow them or leave the faith. God Bless You!

    January 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  5. Muneef

    Further more is that allowing or legitimatizing marriages of the same X's as to Male to Male and Female to Female would with time have you vanished from earth as race renewing it's own generations is declining,decreasing generation after another!? That's why God told that only good deeded in submission,that those who will inherit earth !?      

    January 27, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  6. American-Muslim -PHD

    However, this worldwide domination of Islam which has been promised by Allah (swt) does not necessarily mean that every single person on earth will become Muslim. When we say that Islam will dominate the world, we mean as a political system, as the messenger Muhammad (saw) prophesised that the authority on earth will belong to the Muslims, i.e. the believers will be in power and the Sharee’ah of Islam will be implemented in every corner of the earth.

    January 27, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Pakistani Christian!

      "YOU WISH"

      Stop Dreaming!

      all you muslims are so illiterate.

      January 27, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • cowboy bob

      this feller "american-muslim-phd" is a perfect example of the reason the game of "cowboys and muslims" needs to start real soon.

      January 27, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  7. Puragu

    "The scary thing about religion is that zealotry serves to harm everyone. I for one have never seen an atheist start a genocidal war" – You obviously don't know about Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Hitler (yes he was not a believer nor one who practices) etc. Timothy McVeigh and Loughner are (one is dead) both atheists. The two guys who shot up Columbine were not much of Christian believers either. In the French Reign of Terror thousands of religious people were killed by atheists and the Soviets murdered millions of religious (atheism was their state religion), not to mention the Communists elsewhere (Vietnam, Cambodia, etc). In Christianity the teaching is anti-murder, atheism has no such, it is an ideology which can only lead the intellectually mature atheist to nihilism. Nietzsche said it. There really is nothing in atheism to prevent killing and so any reason will do, be it the pretense of religion (there are many atheists who pretend to be religious), science (ask Hitler), politics, nationalism, race, ethnicity etc. To be a follower of Christ you have to accept Christ's anti-violent teaching, if you don't you're not following Christ but are a self-labeled Christian. The problem with Christianity is that it is hard to practice but many people do get some of it right much of the time. The key is improvement, repentance and humility. A Christian is called to improve morally while the atheist does not even believe morality is real. In atheism there is no morality so the atheist cannot even judge anyone and has no intellectual reason not to do evil. He knows to do good because of the effect of Christianity on modern thought and culture. Atheism is pretty sad, and full of logical fallacies, such as the lack of a good defence against the Thomist proof of God from First Cause. Most atheists can't even understand this argument and choose a strawman argument to fight – ie. who made God? Anyway, give God another chance.

    January 27, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  8. ruremorgue

    They breed like rabbits. It wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't for a fundamental (yes, apologists, fundamental) intolerance of anything not like them. Oops, that statement is intolerant! Too bad.

    January 27, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  9. Reality

    With the rate that Sunnis are killing Shiites and vice-versa, Muslims are self-regulating their population growth at zero or even to a negative value.

    From: http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/02/03/iraq.cleric.ap/index.html

    "Al-Sistani was apparently referring to Abdullah bin Jabrain, a key member of Saudi Arabia's clerical establishment, who last month joined a chorus of other senior figures from the hardline Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam that regards Shiites as infidels.

    Bin Jabrain described Shiites as "the most vicious enemy of Muslims."

    Looks we should build a wall around the entire Middle East until these backward, immature, and irrationale clerics can have at it with each other.

    And it is very, very disturbing that the Saudi government by their silence continues to support the vitriol for expanding the butchery between Sunnis and Shiites. Considering the trillions of dollars in cash and investments, the Saudi political leadership could end poverty in all of the Mideast but they apparently fear the Wahhabi clerics. I say jail the terrorist clerics and send them to the Hague for crimes against humanity. Or maybe a UN/US/NATO take over of Saudi Arabia and Iran would be a faster resolution?

    January 27, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Buzz

      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 12:55 pm |
    • Reality

      Unfortunately unlike other religions, there is no "head" person/group controlling Islam or variations thereof. Has anyone ever listed all the various Islamic sects? So far, I have found references for the following: Sunnis, Shiites, Talibaners, Sufis, Wahhabis, "Bin Ladiners", Kahrijites, Ismailis, Zaidis, Fatimids, Assassins aka Nizaris, Alawis, Druze, and Ahmadiyya.

      A short description of each, gives strong evidence that one is crazier than the other i.e. no central leadership is possible.

      January 27, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Reality

      Hmmm, Iraq Sunni minority, Shiite majority, 24/7 blood letting, 4000 American soldiers dead, 100,000 Iraqi civilians, dead.

      Then there are also these "crazies":

      Iran, Shiite theocracy, 24/7 support of global terror.

      OBL, Sunni/"Wannabee" madman, 24/7 support of global terror.

      Fill in the answers below if you know the answers:

      Hamas, Sunni or Shiite??

      Fatah, Sunni or Shiite??

      Pakistan, Sunni or Shiite? Which group assassinated Bhutto??

      Malaysia, nearing a Sunni theocracy?

      Bahrain, Sunni or Shiite???

      Phillipines, Sunni or Shiite???

      Taliban, Sunni or Shiite???

      Somalia, Sunni or Shiite???

      And it could all be solved by simply "deflawing" the koran!!!!!!

      January 27, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  10. freepalestine

    I have a problem with radicalized judaism hijacking the jewish religion. That's zionism. zionism is antichrist by it's very nature.

    January 27, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  11. Sarah

    "The Palestinian territories have one of the highest growth rates in the world."

    So much for the myth of the Israeli genocide of the Palestinians. Muslims and their leftist allies will continue to trumpet this lie though, despite all evidence to the contrary.

    January 27, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • freepalestine

      Palestinians have the highest birthrate, true. They also have the highest death rate thanks to israeli bullets made in america.

      January 27, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  12. Denizen Kate

    So many comments, and virtually all of them missing the real point: overpopulation of the planet. The Catholics are just as guilty, as are the Hindus. What do they all have in common? Male dominance. Perhaps the solution to overpopulation is feminism. The report does state that the Muslim population will not have much growth in Iran. I think that is because, theocracy though it is, Iranian women are less oppressed and have demanded, and received, better access to birth control and less restrictive laws and customs against using birth control.

    January 27, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  13. Saddam

    To all of you american infidels "beware our time has come and revenge will be granted" your people has always denigrated muslims now you will receive the same treatment we hope you go to hell dont try to ask for forgiveness we will never forget what you did to our people and still continue to do you arrogant pieces of crap

    January 27, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  14. Mesa Mick

    All you gawd fearin' christians don't have to worry about Muslims takin over the US...When we eventually become a Chinese-speaking country we will come to realize the wisdom of how China deals with it's religous problems...They are atheists.

    January 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  15. Amazing

    There is no god or gods? Perhaps not. But there are stranger things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  16. Joker

    "In fact, both Christianity and Islam could be growing"

    Well that sucks

    January 27, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  17. tarikm96

    why do you guys always when the word muslim goes into your mind u automatically think terrorists every religion has bad and good people

    January 27, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  18. Aamro

    Is there anyone who believes Poverty breeds war , starvation breeds Al Qaeda , Illiteracy breeds Bin Ladins ??

    If there is anyone who you can blame for the mess we are in is America.
    pure and Simple.
    They have been supporting dictators for oh so many years
    From Hosni Mubarak to Pehalvi to Saudi Kings to Tunisian President to Parvez Musharraf.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  19. Maria

    With many Christians, especially Catholics abandoning their faiths, what did you think was going to happen? You all are becoming so secular, abandoning your Christian faith and what? You are surprised that another faith, a very intense one is growing? Well...you don't like it then do something about it. Return to your Christian faith or one day it will be us against them. You want an example, look at the Middle East where Christians are murdered, Africa where Christian communities are torched. Christian persecution is intensifying.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  20. Andorf Studman

    Twice the explosions, twice the fun!

    January 27, 2011 at 11:26 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.