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. Twix

    Why are so many people worried about how many people follow which religion. Wake up people.

    January 28, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  2. uglyTruth

    Over a 40 year time frame increasing from
    20% to 25%.
    Better Muslims than jews.
    Better Muslims than RCC.

    January 28, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  3. Richard Gozinya

    Not to worry Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. Muslims are very accepting of other religions as long as the other religions accept the Sharia.

    January 28, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  4. Nitsche

    Using fossil fuel, make the moslem countries richer and economically stronger. Solution: focussing on green energy and stop buying oil.

    January 28, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Anglican

      Lets start tomorrow. Green, Green, Green. Peace

      January 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  5. Boooo


    Scared yet !!!! 🙂

    January 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  6. Leila

    Okay that's great and all, but what I find this article lacks – is the point that Muslims are not only ethnic groups that come from middle eastern or indonesian backgrounds. Muslims all any type of person – and reverts have been on the rise (quite quickly) for a while. 20,000 a year in the US alone. They don't include the real number of ACTUAL Muslims in the world or number of converts. Just like Christianity – Muslims are not only brown people or Indonesians. These statistics are BS. Excuse my french. 🙂

    January 28, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  7. slupdawg

    Freakin great news. At least it's the Religion Of Peace..........

    January 28, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  8. human

    @mark according to the 1oth commandment most of the people will go as u say its not that only muslims will go to heaven or only christians will go to hell god said that whoever done good deeds will be rewarded and whoever have done bad will be punished so now u can think of urself and people around u its not just religion its the way u live and behave.

    January 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  9. Mark

    This is scary, it seems the most violent extremists are Muslim extremists, so we're going to have twice as many if not more extremists running around.... yikes.

    Get rid of religion, and you get rid of the problem, it's manmade anyway, there is no god, there's no proof of "god" in any religion, and there never will be, why? because 'god', however you say it in your language or religion, does not exist.

    Religion was created by people who didn't know any better, who thought the earth was flat, thousands of years ago, it's primitive and unnecessary.

    I hope intelligent aliens exist and I hope they introduce themselves sooner than later, so we can get rid of "religion" once and for all!

    January 28, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  10. JR Jake

    @ Mark

    " No man may come to the Father (see heaven) except through Him. If you don't repent and trust in Jesus, you will be found guilty on judgement day since you have broken God's laws (10 commandments)."

    The problem I have with your assertion that no one can be saved except through submission to Jesus Christ is one of the main reasons why Christ was crucified (there were others as well). When this was 'supposedly stated' He essentially doomed every man and women borne prior to his birth, including the mainstays of Christianity as we know it. This would include moses, Abraham, David, Elijah, Moses, Ruth, Naomi and etc. As a Christian we need to be careful how we address people, being more instructive than assaultive. Have a good weekend and try to see the Spirit in which all things should be considered and delivered in our walk and talk. Have a good weekend.

    January 28, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  11. Gotta love it

    Everyone needs to stop commenting, because the atheists are always right! How dumb of everyone, and how dare you for not believing what they believe. They knew the answer all along, we all just appeared out of thin air by total coincidence. See chapter 22 in Advanced Quantum Physics.

    January 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  12. Abdul Wahid

    Thanks For Sharing.

    Faith Of Muslims!

    I Like Your Post

    January 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  13. peacecj

    Yes, muslim population is increasing. However no one knows what is in store. There is a good chance that this muslim population will convert to another religion. There is a chance that this increasing population will be uneducated and poor with little means, like in pakistan and afghanistan. There is a chance that muslims will kill muslims, like sunnis killing shias and vice versa.

    January 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  14. Barry77

    This is a lot like global warming. If we change our behavior now, we can prevent this gruesome future.

    January 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  15. smitty

    wanna get really scared? go to youtube and type in "muslim demographics".

    January 28, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  16. AMP

    Christianity and Islam are two sides of the coin. Leaders from both religions are busy in converting non islamics and non christinas by bribing, misguiding & brain washiing.

    January 28, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  17. Juveria

    All the talk here is nonsense mostly based on bias, prejudice, racism, discriminations! Increasing hatred, cornering ppl. and blaming them for everything will this remove terrorism. Making women wear bikinis make them free? How do you then cure depression in women who can't wear bikinis because of obesity? Women are cheated, divorced, forced to work and support their children, is this being free?? If you think this is freedom...then know that everybody has their own definition of freedom. Live and let live!

    January 28, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  18. Hina

    I live in America where govt. supports women, I can dress whatever way I want, but I like to dress the way God commanded. America gave me freedom to wear anything...so if I dress according to my Lord, why do ppl. start saying go back to your country?? If this is correct, is America really practices freedom? America has given many rights to women, why don't then muslim women who come here, leave Islam? If women get oppressed in anywhere it's bcoz of evil minded ppl. and people can be muslims, christians, jews anybody! And yes, Islam is a peaceful religion. If you want to know about Islam read Quran and Sunnah(actions, speech, biography) of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, don't follow muslims. Muslims are ppl. like you and me...they don't follow religion the way it is! Also, show me a biography of any prophet or person from history or religions that has detailed biography like the Prophet of Islam. Quran was preserved, Prophet's actions and sayings were recorded and preserved to this day! If prophet married many women, those women would have been the first to complain if they were not happy. Prophet married Aishah(9yrs old). She never complained about him marrying her so young. People back then never complained about it. Don't take things out of context, you will only fool yourself. Aishah was infact deeply in love with prophet and Prophet also dearly loved her and granted equal rights to all wives. Men of today cannot give proper rights to even one wife! This is true not only in muslim world but also all over the world.

    January 28, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  19. Hina

    Anyways, I'm an educated muslim woman and was never oppressed by my religion. I'm happy that my religion has given me so many rights! I'm happy to cover myself as commanded by God. I do it willingly and happily. If I don't have a problem with it, others shouldn't. And women who have problem with it, Islam doesn't force it on them, as they are responsible for their deeds. And they will be answerable to God about their deeds.

    January 28, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  20. Meh

    So after the muslugs take over the world are they going to practice any religious intolerance measures or policies against those who are smarter than to follow any of this nonsense? Historically speaking it seems like they would behead anyone who would not follow their ways. Im sure it will be a better world when muslims take over the planet. For one thing, there will surely be some population-control methods in place, what, with all their killing everyone they get their hands on and all.

    January 28, 2011 at 10:13 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.