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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. 21minlas

    Is it because the number of virgins in this world are decreasing???

    January 27, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  2. Raymond

    To each community among you has been prescribed a Law and a way of life. If God had so willed He would have made you a single people, but His plan is to test you in what He has given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which you differ.

    (5:48) The Quran

    January 27, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  3. Elaine

    I was using an example to justify anti-racism. Let me expand on this, and just say that I respect all cultures and what they have to offer to everyone. Some of the nicest people I have met and worked for are Muslim, they are not terrorists, they love America, and they invited me over for a Middle Eastern dinner and it was great!

    January 27, 2011 at 2:25 am |
  4. Josh

    Hey Raymond, where in the Quran does it talk about 72 virgins if you kill infidels, and what sort of brainwashing methods do they use to get men to believe that crap?????

    January 27, 2011 at 2:24 am |
    • jo

      I'm sure you'll find the same crap in your .... with different options ...

      January 27, 2011 at 4:30 am |
    • joy

      I have been searching for it myself still can't find it. What i know is that national inseurity and paranoia led countries on colonization and domination and sadly the inability of individual man to engage his brain has led to the global chaos we are seeing. Poverty plus ignorance breed confusion; if one human i.e. Osama bin Laden, Sarah Palin, Oprah Winfrey can have enough power and influence to practically control people on what to do with their lives then the race (i mean human) is the most despecable and does not deserve to be the head of all animals...shame!
      Seriously though it still amases me how Bin Laden can get people to sacrifice their children and he is on the run and his familly living large...really sad!

      January 29, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  5. a muslim in NY

    i am a muslim and an american without a muslim name. Go ahead with all you can. I'll c wat u can do..

    January 27, 2011 at 2:23 am |
  6. George

    It's a black future for earth if there is any truth to this theory. My guess is there will be a nuclear war between India and Pakistan which will be won by India with the incineration of 200 million Muslims. If Muslims mount another larger attack on the U.S. then nuclear retaliation will be in order, and Americans will demand it, which will destroy another 100 million or so. So you see, there is hope.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • Kim

      and this would be end of this planet.

      January 27, 2011 at 5:17 am |
    • civiloutside

      George, nobody wins a nuclear war in which both sides use nukes.

      January 28, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  7. Alvin

    I think this is a terrible article as the headline gives you the impression that the population has doubled or will soon, instead it makes a projection TWO DECADES away. Based on past projections, we should have already run out of oil and the polar ice caps should have been melted.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:18 am |
  8. CHRISTIAN

    I love Armenia!!!!! -99.22%, check the interactive map.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:16 am |
  9. Captain_Colossal

    AMERICA. USA! USA! USA!

    January 27, 2011 at 2:16 am |
  10. Raymond

    "He was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was Pope without Pope's pretensions,
    Caesar without the legions of Caesar: without a standing army, without a bodyguard, without a palace, without a fixed revenue; if ever any man had the right to say that he ruled by the right divine, it was Mohammed, for he had all the power without its instruments and without its supports."

    –Bosworth Smith, MOHAMMAD AND MOHAMMADANISM, London, 1874, p. 92..

    January 27, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  11. Oyster

    Are Muslim women hot? If so, then I'm all for the takeover.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:14 am |
    • CHRISTIAN

      They will take over the world!!! No other religion will survive, smart a@#!!!

      January 27, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • asrael

      Time for Christian to take his/her humor pill...

      January 27, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  12. lmao

    being an atheist... the best thing to do is watch all the bigots fight. Kepp it up guys... I'm sure my children will actually see much less of these islamists, christians and all other religious tards if hopefully u keep fighting like that

    January 27, 2011 at 2:14 am |
    • CHRISTIAN

      Your children will accept islam forcefully!!!

      January 27, 2011 at 2:21 am |
  13. Believer

    Wow so much Muslim hate! I am a Muslim and I have good will towards Christians, Jews and etc. Why the heck do people think Muslims are so backwards?

    January 27, 2011 at 2:13 am |
    • George

      Why? You can't be serious.

      January 27, 2011 at 2:36 am |
    • Kyle Jahner

      But again, as George alluded with his question, if you can't recognize, accept, and address Muslim problems (terrorism from extremists, frequent abuse of women in a number of countries, intolerance among many Muslims from Algeria to Afghanistan), you aren't going to help any more than the ignorant white person who has never met a Muslim but hates them because of what they read on the news. Both sides have to realize their issues.

      Fellow white people: Not understanding things like authoritarian governments across the Arab world supported by the US yet excessively repressive to their own people causing poverty and desperation and a base for religious fanaticism is just as idiotic. Again, we support fascist leaders. If you don't think these people have ANY legitimate claim that our policy hasn't been fair, then you need to do some soul-searching too.

      January 27, 2011 at 2:49 am |
    • Mikie 1

      Both my Grandmothers were "converted" , "perverted" (literally) by the Catholic Church,blackfoot, cherokee, cant you all just LEAVE.We really were here FIRST.Hey lets talk gonocide?Subjugated by the WHITES? MUCH.

      January 27, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • asrael

      Kyle: excellent post, and thanks...

      January 27, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • Ted Ward

      It's not muslims people dislike it's what muslims under the infuence of Islamic ideas do that is the problem.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  14. jneuy

    airports are shaking in their boots.. great more suicide bombers and stonings

    January 27, 2011 at 2:13 am |
    • Ted Ward

      Oh, darn ! There goes the airline business. I guess by 2030 we'll all be bording planes naked after being inspected by a proctologist. Boeing and Airbus can just rename themselves "Booming" and "Airblast" respectively. Praise be to a lla h.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  15. Guest

    If this observation is correct then sometime in the future being born as a woman will be big curse. It is very dangerous to have a majority Muslim population. I don't think that Muslim religion is bad but the higher ups who are responsible have twisted the Muslim law to their convenience.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  16. Mohammed

    .In our world today every body knows that
    Muslims and Islamic terrorists are among
    the pressing problem of the world.Causing
    problems every were. useless,wicked,satanic,
    ignorant, Islamic terrorists.sheding blood of
    innocent women and children in the name of
    useless Jihad A religion of terror,and blood shed.
    They can never have peace untill they reject
    terror.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:12 am |
    • jo

      I'm sure your name is not Mohamed? unless you will understand what is going in the world if you are smart enough

      January 27, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  17. 555for555

    Christians are more peaceful and I would prefer them to muslims.

    I hope , ppl would wake up and smell the air.

    Be a Christian,Hindu,Buddist, Sikh,Taoist,scientology, etc but a muslim.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:12 am |
    • CHRISTIAN

      Right on!

      January 27, 2011 at 2:22 am |
    • asimj

      Anyone who comes into the world unbiased would have this view. Stay away from islam...if you know what's good for the country. Every muslim country is narrow minded, selfish...always like to receive but not to give..

      January 27, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Muneef

      Islamic countries been stripped to the nickel and guess by who?

      January 30, 2011 at 5:42 am |
  18. Mom of Three

    Uh oh.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:11 am |
  19. nwolife

    I guess the America's war on terrorism is not working.... hahaha

    January 27, 2011 at 2:10 am |
  20. saywhat10024

    white people are scared because we all know what happens when you mix chocolate and vanilla together.... those darn recessive genes

    January 27, 2011 at 2:09 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.