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. Heann

    Muhammad gave me oral last night while I was trying to attain a higher level of consciousness

    January 28, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  2. zaniac

    Great, just what the world needed most.....more Muslims.

    January 28, 2011 at 8:35 am |
  3. cowboy bob

    From the postings of all the muslims on this page, I'ld say the game of "cowboys and muslims" need to start real soon. It would solve most of the worlds problems, in the terrorist aspect, if we get rid of all muslims.

    January 28, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  4. Muneef


    January 28, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  5. james kays

    Its merely a demographic fact and maybe a political device to target hate and fear in unstable minds.

    January 28, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  6. Muneef

    Precise And not Precise.

    So did your mother as well but as it seems at your side men open their legs more than women....peace.

    January 28, 2011 at 7:35 am |
  7. sparkey

    Now I know why the republicans want to abolish abortion. They will need the bodies to fight the increased number of Muslims in the future religious wars. The wars that their children will NOT be fighting in.

    January 28, 2011 at 4:33 am |
  8. sl

    so go to armenia

    January 28, 2011 at 4:20 am |
  9. Abram

    No one cares about these zealots! I believe they are truly catholic wannabes in little house on the prairie dresses!

    January 28, 2011 at 3:20 am |
  10. sparkysgirl

    Take a moment to think about this. If today was your last day would you be proud of the person you have become? Would you be able to go without regret? If not then you had better start getting square. Life isnt about religion its about love, family, and enjoying each precious second. Love your neighbor folks

    January 28, 2011 at 3:13 am |
  11. Jeff

    Funny how Bible Prophecy mentions this exact phenomenon right?

    January 28, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  12. Sherri

    THIS is what I"ve been trying to tell people for months now. They are growing, they are having many more children than any other group. THIS is one of their stated goals: to outnumber the rest of the population by increasing their birth rate. U.S. will be a Muslim nation by 2050. And that is another of their stated goals. Google "takeover of America" + Muslim and read their plans for us. Watch the movie The Third Jihad. Wake up people.
    The Quaran says to kill all infidels. How much plainer can it get for you?

    January 28, 2011 at 1:50 am |
  13. debG

    Just because Muslims are overpopulating does not mean that Western countries are obligated to allow them in. If they want to choke in their own countries, so be it. A lot of Muslims are being told that having a lot of children is their religious obligation, because they will dominate due to sheer numbers. The are not assimilating in any of the countries they are immigrating to, so Western countries should pick other ethnic groups. Muslims and the West are just incompatible, and to heck with political correctness!

    January 28, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  14. Sai Akkanapragada

    God is nothing but the goodness in man and exists in all forms of matter. Religion is meant to make a person realize the reason for their existence, to make life more meaningful, to be more disciplined, wise, philosophical and philanthropic. Some achieve this without associating themselves with any organized religion but by studying them different religions. Any religion should preach love and kindness, if not, sensible people have to reform religious practises.Most religions went through this process over time. Religious books are meant to guide us to enlightenment. But when religion is used to brain wash people, becomes a political agenda or is used to justify violence, the problem is not with religion but with those who misinterpret religion to rationalize their misdeeds.

    January 28, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  15. Inamur

    Say this is my way I call to Allah with sure knowledge, I and whosoever follows me The Glory of God and I am not of the idolaters ) Yusuf: 108
    No need to worry, Islam will spread fast insha'Allah, and those whom Allah guides.

    January 28, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  16. teepee

    Ladies and gents meet the next majority population of the world religious scene...

    January 28, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  17. Cletus

    And the radical element will increase right along with it.

    January 28, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  18. Al N

    All religions are simply an opiate for the masses. A means for controlling the masses and an opportunity for economic gain for those who run the religions. How can anyone say that their religion is the only religion when most of us adopt the religion of the family which raised us !

    January 27, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  19. paul delavarre

    Dont' even think of involving Israel. They never stole any land from anyone. THey are a liberal, tolerant nation that lives in the 21st century, unlike Muslims and mid-east nations who live in the dark ages. Islam is a backwards, gutter religion, intolerant of anyone that isn't Muslim. The Koran reads like it did thousands of years ago - fascist and intolerant. Islam is incompatible with western ideology. Thank you

    January 27, 2011 at 11:09 pm |

    Not only are the moslims reproducing at such a fast rate, they are inter-marrying and taking OUR woman from us, it seems every damn girl I meet has had a moslem boyfriend or even has kids with them. Six times this year, what the hell is going on here!? And these are not grenades or landmines I am talking about, these are extremely attractive francophone girls. It seems to be rebellion amongst woman here that they just have to sleep with the enemy. – Montreal, Quebec

    When I have kids, the first rule will be no moslems allowed, period.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
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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.