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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. Simpleton

    You know, I work hard, love my family friends and neighbors, and I am dumb. I go sometimes for days or months not giving any predjuduce any consideration. Maybe its just the way I was raised or something. Seems the only time predjuduce come to mind is when it is thrust at me from some adjenda (the old race card, gender card etc). My point is in religion – how come I am happy and don't care what way anyone worships, I do not understand why a religion (usualy a guide to love and peace) can condemn anyone who is not of their faith as not worthy or even wanted dead? Really? beleive or die? Wow. Too bad – Humans were so close to being a groovy race.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:56 am |
  2. kkkkk

    wow you guys cry a lot muslim will continue growing war on teror is not working now what
    find the truth instead cring

    January 27, 2011 at 2:55 am |
  3. huxley

    Why are racists and bigots always so worried about population growth? If they spent half as much time worrying, and instead actually getting to know a Muslim, maybe the world would be a more peaceful place.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:52 am |
  4. Joe Mahma

    .

    Too

    Many

    Humans

    .

    January 27, 2011 at 2:50 am |
  5. joe

    time to bump off about a billion of them.. as human waste...

    January 27, 2011 at 2:48 am |
  6. See-the-light

    The heavy "breeding" always takes place most in the countries of the uneducated and ignorant. Islam is a weak religeon mostly because it is practiced by populations with extremely high rates of illiteracy. These people can't even read their own kiran so they are instructed by the very zealots that think it is ok to hijack airplanes and kill 3000 innocent people. Islam is the death of the world and freedom.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:48 am |
    • XOXOX99XOXOX

      Agreed. Islam in essence is beautiful, but in practice and translation it is warring insanity! These regions have staggeringly high illiteracy rates and like you so perfectly said, the cretinous zealots arm the minions with false doctrine through fear and xenophobia to do their dirty deeds, i.e. mass murdering people. Islam, in its current form IS the death of civility and freedom!

      January 27, 2011 at 2:55 am |
  7. Cohen

    Did'nt knew that those timid women behind burquas are actually $ex dynamites :).

    January 27, 2011 at 2:47 am |
    • Pablo

      Well they can't use condoms and muslim men are not allowed to do hit the monkey

      January 27, 2011 at 7:02 am |
  8. Cohen

    The only plus side I see in this fruit-fly style proliferation is abundance of kabab & tikka shops. Bring it on.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:46 am |
  9. Matt

    Did Mohammed really Mary a 9 year old?
    If so that's obviously not a "prophet" I'd follow

    January 27, 2011 at 2:43 am |
    • Pakistani Christian!

      Thats True when muhamaad was young he married a mature women(because older women know what they're doing), and when he became old he married a 9 yers old girl, (because older islamic men always like minors).

      January 27, 2011 at 3:05 am |
    • murphy

      No he did not.

      January 27, 2011 at 3:12 am |
  10. 66Biker

    So they're busy... Who cares? So are the Catholics. There are 1.1 billion of them and nobody seems to be alarmed about that. Maybe they should be too, because they don't use birth control!

    January 27, 2011 at 2:40 am |
  11. orchard

    Didn't realise there were so many ignorant ppl in the world. Or ppl who r realy scared of sumthing they no nothing about.islam is nothing like the media makes it out to be. U can't comment or run down a religion u no nothing about. Do some research and u will find a peaceful loving caring religion with equalty for all.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:38 am |
    • See-the-light

      Yeah, peaceful, loving, caring religeon. We see examples of that daily around the world. Carving up young girls, beheading people that they disagree with, stoning their women, making their women live under sheets, Muslim police walking the street to ID people in violation of religeous code. Yeah, whatever you say – I just see peace, love, caring written all over that stuff...........

      January 27, 2011 at 2:54 am |
    • theplaintoad

      @seethelight,

      Sounds like you're describing Arizona.

      January 27, 2011 at 5:43 am |
    • BeanStalk

      @see-the-light ... neither side is better than the other. Remember the Crusades? How about the Inquisition? Bombings by Christians in Ireland? Bosnia? Iraq? The list goes on and on ... it's not just major religions either. It's a flaw deeply rooted in the human spirit - this whole us vs. them culturally coded flaw. Reality is that even haters gave in them the ability to use their minds to REALIZE that they can take part in creating a saner home for their children IF they are willing to treat EVERYONE in their life they way they wish they were themselves treated. 🙂 That's right baby: The Golden Rule. Treat your loved ones, strangers and even those you despise with respect and kindness. The question is: are you strong enough to carry through with admitting that all those billions you ridicule are just like you: humans who deserve to be treated with Love, kindness and respect for one reason: they are humans. Just like you.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Denizen Kate

      @Orchard: I was seven blocks from the WTC on 9/11 and saw the whole thing. The media didn't make that up, those were Islamic fanantics who murdered all those people in the name of their religion. Perhaps the terror of what I saw up close that day still colors my judgement, but I do feel some bias against Islam. Can you really blame me?

      January 27, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Tyler*

      @Denizen Kate-you actually saw the whole thing on 9/11? You saw the people who were on those aeroplanes? You saw the hijackers? Were they wearing "I am Muslim" badges? There wasn't even a proper court case conducted anywhere to prove them guilty. So just because u were 7 blocks away doesn't mean you know who caused it.

      January 28, 2011 at 1:21 am |
    • sl

      @denizen kate it was not against religion it was against America (please see wikileaks)

      January 28, 2011 at 4:32 am |
  12. illsavant

    Religion, especially Islam, is a neurosis of the mind

    January 27, 2011 at 2:37 am |
  13. amy

    EVERYBODY needs to stop over-breeding. The eco-resources of the planet will not sustain so many of us. I did my part- no kids. Whatever race/religion/culture wins the population race will ultimately doom themselves and every other person on the earth. Breeders should be very frightened no matter what their culture/agenda.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • BeanStalk

      You go girl. what these monkeys don't seem to realize is that we're floating on a miniscule spec in the Universe. None of these people have spoken face-to-face with their God. Not one. So by default everything they say hearsay. The sooner we leave behind defending IDEAS to the death the sooner we can move on with making life better for ourselves & our kids (those of us who had some already). From where I sit, religion must be replaced with Spirituality. Religion totally underscores our differences. Spirituality highlights what we all have in common. .... The answer to the problem isn't dogma. It's a simple idea, so simple even a child gets it: treat everyone how you would like to be treated. The Golden Rule. Treat everyone with dignity - not because they see eye to eye with you - but rather, because they are like you: a human being. ...... I don't think any person can disagree with the notion that if you understand, and put into practice, treating everyone you meet with dignity and respect, the world will slowly heal.

      January 27, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • Denizen Kate

      Thank you, Amy! Finally, after browsing hundreds of posts mostly saying "my religion is better than yours" someone has reached the heart of the matter, that the real problem with Muslim population growth is just that: population growth. The planet is already overburdened.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • sl

      if u want to care so badly about the palnet u could do it a favour bu taking yourself out so as not to exhaust is resources, in fact Beanstalk can join you.

      January 28, 2011 at 4:28 am |
    • sl

      if u want to care so badly about the planet u could do it a favour by taking yourself out so as not to exhaust is resources, in fact Beanstalk can join you.

      January 28, 2011 at 4:29 am |
  14. ProudGeek

    When most of the population is already Muslim, will there be any point in Jihads?

    January 27, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • joy

      Oh yeah because the jihadist are the real anti islam; check your numbers on how many muslims are being killed daily in the middle east. Until we all agree that we are fighting common enemies the finger pointing will continue with no solution. It is the truth when i state that the so called "Muslim" are the enemiess oF islam in that they are the ones being refered to in all the verses because they have sold their faith for pennies. There is nothing wrong with organized religion but a lot with the individuals; just like you have different versions of the Bible i.e. King James and all the Qur'an has its commentators who with a biased mind knowing they could not change the scripture itself gave the interpretation its spin injecting Jews or Christains in places where hypocriets were being refered to...and knowing the tone of the book i am sure it was refering to the muslims themselves.

      January 29, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  15. Jarrod

    Islam is on the rise but so is world population. Hmmmmm no surprises in this article.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:33 am |
  16. Donger

    Wear a condom.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:31 am |
  17. Oyster the Clown

    that's a lot of exploding people.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:31 am |
  18. CHRISTIAN

    Where are the Crusaders?

    January 27, 2011 at 2:29 am |
    • sl

      crusaders converting to islam

      January 28, 2011 at 4:25 am |
  19. 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. "

    The Quran – 5:48

    January 27, 2011 at 2:28 am |
  20. shabbaz

    Great...........whats up haters........wohoooohahahah

    January 27, 2011 at 2:27 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.