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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. AFGHANISTAN

    OHH,afg's ninth in the world lol, and iranian will be...

    January 27, 2011 at 3:18 am |
  2. Kern Huerta

    Beware of the eastern hordes and all the working class masses in the world. The flame has erupted in Tunisia and is spreading to Egypt next it could be China and Russia. Maybe even the united states. Americans need to catch up before we are overwhelmed by the Eastern Regimes.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:17 am |
  3. Marklar

    "All men shall bow to the womb of thy woman's side, Ye shall reap the benefits of her womb and praise her for she is divine in carrying your offspring"

    Book Of Marklar, chapter 2 verse 3 "rules of Marklar"

    "Ye boasters of Gods and Prophets shall be cast into the void of space until they breath ceases and thy flesh becomes dust"

    Book of Marklar Chapter 7, verse 34 " Marklar's Vengence"

    "If thy spread thy thought from mother to child, or father to offspring you offend the might Marklar, for thy child is not yours, not your property and belongs to the Universe. All children have the divine right to think and question all that is told to their spirits. Anyone who denies this to their gifts of life shall be cast into wolly rooms with shaking noise for eternity"

    Book of Marklar, Chapter 7 verse 89, "Marklar's Vengence"

    "Any man who lifts his plow to break the brow of another man shall have the plow inserted into his nethers and placed upon the highest hill so all can see his foolishness. For all people are equal, and harming another through hate, war, malice or any reason, without direct consent from thy victim, does humanity harm. So shall be his humiliation to all eyes"

    Book of Marklar, Chapter 8, verse 2 "Marklar's Vengence"

    January 27, 2011 at 3:17 am |
  4. BB

    Uh-Oh, Here comes Sharia Law. Hey Christ-Fundies, Separation of Church(Mosque) and State doesn't look like such a bad law now does it?

    January 27, 2011 at 3:15 am |
  5. JuliusGulius

    No, seriously, how did this piece of crap manage to pass through the presses?

    January 27, 2011 at 3:15 am |
  6. Abram

    Funny how easy it is for the blind to be led! ALL Muslims take refuge in growing their world of hatred with no foundation to support it! You don't read about Christians bowing to the sun, bowing to the east, killing their own in the name of God, keeping their women hidden behind burkas and limiting their freedoms! Live and let others live without your vile existence!

    January 27, 2011 at 3:14 am |
  7. Greenspam

    Hello fellow Chicago-ans. How do you like Rahm Emanuel being the next mayor?

    January 27, 2011 at 3:12 am |
  8. Greenspam

    Cons must be running scared. 2.2B Muslim terrorists they scream!

    January 27, 2011 at 3:12 am |
  9. JuliusGulius

    Lmao! CNN is twisting this into some sort of zombie apocalypse! I'd be more concerned about the Christian faction that's also projected to double within 20 years. Ooga Booga!

    January 27, 2011 at 3:10 am |
  10. montana

    There is only One GOD and One true Religion...Catholicism In the Name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit AMEN

    January 27, 2011 at 3:09 am |
    • asrael

      Just spotted God, and She was yawning...

      January 27, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Newyorker

      Reminds me of a non-ironic rant based on Queen's One Vision.

      One man one goal one mission,
      One heart one soul just one solution,
      One flash of light yeah one god one vision

      One flesh one bone,
      One true religion,
      One voice one hope,
      One real decision,
      Wowowowo gimme one vision

      No wrong no right,
      I'm gonna tell you there's no black and no white,
      No blood no stain,
      All we need is one world wide vision

      One flesh one bone,
      One true religion,
      One voice one hope,
      One real decision,
      Wowowowowowo

      I had a dream,
      When I was young,
      A dream of sweet illusion,
      A glimpse of hope and unity,
      And visions of one sweet union,
      But a cold wind blows,
      And a dark rain falls,
      And in my heart it shows,
      Look what they've done to my dream

      Vision,
      Give me your hands,
      Give me your hearts,
      I'm ready,
      There's only one direction,
      One world and one nation,
      Yeah one vision

      No hate no fight,
      Just excitation,
      All through the night,
      It's a celebration wowowowo yeah

      One one one

      One flesh one bone,
      One true religion,
      One voice one hope,
      One real decision

      Gimme one night,
      Gimme one hope,
      Just gimme,
      One man one man,
      One bar one night,
      One day hey hey,
      Just gimme gimme gimme
      Fried chicken!

      January 27, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  11. XOXOX99XOXOX

    First off, Reuters, which is kind of the editorial genius behind the reporting genius of the AP, was first to publish this article and CLEARLY stated the absolute opposite to what this post is suggesting – which only lends one to think that this is clearly agenda and politically driven. Two, and this is CRUCIAL – IF the trends posted above were true, they would SHATTER the laws of statistics and probability – which is IMPOSSIBLE – Mathematics are proven truths, so are their related theories. This article assumes that a) all these children will survive b) all these children born to one or two Muslim parents will REMAIN Muslim and actually practice c) that wars, famine, disease and the like will not balance out the populations d) that somehow the freedom of information known as the internet will die and kids overseas will remain ignorant and unaware of the ill truth behind religions. Thirdly, and a VERY important point to absorb is: in order for these population predictions to hold true, the level of ills throughout these countries, be they illiteracy, governmental abuse, corruption, drug trafficking, the black market weapons trade, terrorism, etc. would have to DISAPPEAR. They would have to become more secularized, more "Western" for just this amount of people to survive. But they won't. Like in the case of China (a place which people make the same erroneous and oddly ominous accusations of conquest about), tradition will keep them back. These places cannot grow like this and actually SUSTAIN the populations AND be Muslim at the same time. It just cannot happen. Again...and lastly, this post is hilariously bogus!

    January 27, 2011 at 3:09 am |
  12. A.Magri

    That explains why bombings have doubled too.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:07 am |
  13. qed52

    CNN, shame on you for posting such a blatant "yellow-journalistism" story. 20 years from now our entire population will be close to doubling, why would you expect the Muslim population to be the exception? And going from 19.9 percent to 26.4% might be significant if true... but as you quietly point out later, that population increase has leveled out. So does CNN, the voice of moderation, enjoy stirring racial, ethnic and religious tensions. With reporting like this, I might as well turn to Fox News, at least they're not trying to act like they don't have an agenda.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:07 am |
  14. Pio Valenzuela

    This is an inaccurate study and survey conducted by people of backward civilization and by those who kill people in the name of GOD.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:06 am |
  15. Kamruzzaman

    absolutely right

    January 27, 2011 at 3:06 am |
  16. SapphireWolf

    Islam is taking over the world . MOHAHAHAHA (Evil Laugh) !!!

    In my recent memory I havn't seen a single article from CNN that shows muslims or Islam in positive light . Come on CNN muslims and islam can't be that bad . Try exposing the good muslims and see them in positive light . Try bridging the gap that divides , people from different religion , cast , color and creed . I wish all humanity can come together to solve the larger issues facing mankind and save us from an imminent self-destruction

    January 27, 2011 at 3:04 am |
    • BeanStalk

      Exactly. Well said. There's a gap between what is - disrespect, xenophobic fear - and what should be - a world where everyone treats everyone they meet with the same respect they wish for themselves. This isn't very complex. What amazes me is how simple long-lasting solutions are. Just apply the Golden Rule. 🙂

      January 27, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • Jangocat

      If only that were true. CNN regularly goes out of their way to excuse atrocities made in the name of this bronze age cult.

      January 27, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  17. steve

    This prediction is based on the assumption that religion is like eye colour, inherited at birth. It is possible to change religions, or to give up religion.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:03 am |
    • FrankLW

      That is true, particularly in the age of the internet where information is readily available in many places that can counter the absurdities of Islam and its myths of a 7th century war lord being some sort of prophet...

      January 27, 2011 at 3:10 am |
  18. hopeful

    then the world will be a much more horrible place to live than today

    January 27, 2011 at 3:02 am |
  19. Boater

    How could that be, with all the women being virgins?

    January 27, 2011 at 2:59 am |
  20. FrankLW

    If Muslims choose to believe in and study the rants of a 7th century war lord and his followers, however inane that is, so be it. It is when they participate, aid and abet terror and mass murder, as they do on a global basis everywhere from London and Bali to Tel Aviv, Uganda, Madrid, Luxor and NYC, that horrific problems arise for the rest of us.

    Even if only 1 or 2% of Muslims are radical fundamentalists, that would mean there are TENS OF MILLIONS of wannabe violent and delusional suicidal mass murdering crazies at large, pursuing their 72 virgins and 80,000 slaves in “paradise”…

    Basic notions of the one God and the importance of establishing binding laws can be highly commendable, as in, say the Seven Noahide Laws, but when this is combined with a violence mythology horror is at hand...

    January 27, 2011 at 2:58 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.