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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. Zaq, American muslim

    Its good to see and hear actual fact, numbers, and statistics. What I find crazy is the comments people make attempting to discredit or downplay what this article Is stating. I also find it confusing that some even take this information as if it threatens them or they are threatened by the growth of Islam. Do you think if this religion was so terrible, bad and made so little sense that there would be so many of us. Don't be threatened by what you don't know. We must all unite, Muslims, Christians, and Jews and combat wrong, evil, and injustice wherever we may find it.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:45 am |
  2. Frank

    Two things:

    1. This growth is almost purely demographic. There are two types of convert to Islam. The first (and by far most numerous) are those downtrodden and subjugated non-Moslems in Moslem societies who have submitted to the pact of Dhimmah and pay the excessive Jizya tax and be treated as second class citizens. The harsh life of a Dhimmi inevitably convices those under such conditions to convert to Islam, as every day they see how much better Moslems are treated under the Sharia and by other Moslems. The second type of convert (the most numerous in western societies) consists of those who are downtrodden and disenfranchised. For example, prison inmates, dejected loners, and beaten down (often homely) women.

    2. The amount of suffering, oppression, slavery, and violent military aggression on this earth is directly proportional to the amount of Moslems and the strength of their faith. No society has ever accepted a large amount of Moslems and retained it's own unique character. Every society in which that happened, eventually became Moslems. Once Islam takes hold over a given region only violent conquest and constant authoritarian oppression will keep the place free of Islam (see Sicily and Spain for places in which de-Islamization succeeded in the long term; see Iran and Turkey for places were it has failed and is failing, respectively).

    Moslems are already 20% of the earth's population and they are involved as belligerents on one or both sides (almost always as aggressors) in over 90% of current ongoing violent conflicts. The more Moslems there are, the more war there will be between the Muminoon and the Kuffar. And it will not be the Kuffar provoking it.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:40 am |
  3. LiveInTheCurrentNotPast

    @Raymond
    why do you keep posting the translated references from books? is it because those 'thoughts' and 'stories' are imbibed in you. Or is it that you just want to impress the readers by posting it!
    I would rather stick to my faith and let others to theirs. And irrespective of the faith someone follows, what occupies his/her brain most is the thought of making for a living.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:39 am |
  4. abigian

    islam is doing its best for humanity beleive me islam is not terrorism or jihad terrorists are not muslims they say they are but they are not i like every religion particulary islam islam is not the way that you are thinking about west like to reflect a bad picture of islam that is jihad but if you think about the good part of islam u will fell in love you would like it
    greetings to real islam aand prophet muhammad

    January 27, 2011 at 3:39 am |
  5. Islam....

    there is nothing to do against it, freedom of religion......sadly there are a lot of weird ppl in this world who can't find their way, pretty easy to "bring them" to Islam.

    secular and atheists will be in trouble one day, as a secular Israeli Jew, i can say that luntaic religious ppl exist in 3 monotheist religions, however when it comes to the fanaticism of ppl, fanatic Christians and Jews are like little kids comparing to the fanatic Muslims.

    last time i checked i havent seen any Jewish or Christian suicide bombers or ppl who shout and implore other ppl to make a "holy war for the sake of god".

    oh well i hope it will change some day.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:37 am |
    • colonial

      What about colonialism with their 3G (Gold, Glory, Gospel) all the way to the far corner of earth? LOL.....

      January 27, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  6. samantha

    I think that they should put a cap on the number of Muslim immigrants in the US and Europe ( ideally a cap on the muslim population as such but that would be wishful thinking).Its quite clear that Islam is all about oppression of women and violence and hatred...they have a very "closed" religion ..unlike Christianity, Buddhism or Hinduism....I've traveled around the world I've been to churches and temples and all kinds of religious places... except of course mosques...where women are not allowed...even worse is their insistence on religious education...they need special schools, special books, special news papers...i don't have anything against Muslim people as such...i just think that no good is going to come out of Islam and the increasing number of its followers....islam is not relevant anymore....it might be good for cavemen.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:37 am |
  7. HolgerDanske

    No more multiculturalism in Europe, no more massive immigration, please save Europe and its culture.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:36 am |
  8. Paul http://www.youtube.com/ny007ny

    I think that by 2030 the field of science will have grown so much religion will slowly decline as people put their faith in things they can actually see and touch.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:35 am |
  9. DirkDiggler

    Hey, no one said it was 72 *female* virgins...

    just sayin...

    January 27, 2011 at 3:35 am |
    • Surefire179

      From the way the fundamentalists treat their women, I wouldn't be surprised if they are hoping for some virgin man action.

      January 27, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  10. abigian

    oh come on lets say good things you know islam is divine religion i am a muslim and im so proud for this i think christianity and jewery and.......... are divine religions but not as comperehensive as islam islam is not jihad islam and prophet muhammad offered good things and humanism do you know these ultraist are not muslim jihad is not for islam islam still is expanding and its a very popular religion i respect every religion and i suggest them to observe and judge better islam is doing its best for humanity and so it is spreading around the globe greetings to every religions specially islam

    January 27, 2011 at 3:34 am |
  11. Lee Oates

    Two factors to consider:

    1. The more education spreads, the less dominant religion becomes. Atheism will most likely spread the most over time, or at the most a very weak representation of major religions, moderate and benign, will emerge. Although there will always be the crazy fringe groups.

    2. Given the manner in which we are treating the planet, the loss of resources, declining food production and oil depletion, social unrest due to inequality in wealth and services, an out-of-control population growth, and the very nature of the human species for war and avoiding problems, it is highly unlikely that there will be a significant human population in another 20 years.

    Study the rise and fall of civilization and study the patterns and the end results. We are now basically a planet wide civilization, and when it falls, all will fall.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:27 am |
  12. Smokey

    We pay a lot more attention to the threat of terrorism and extremist muslims these days, but there's actually less of either today than there was during the 1980s and 90s, to say nothing of earlier years. It's just because the Soviets are no longer a danger that we pay more attention to things that would have almost been discounted in the face of nuclear annihilation being an ever-present danger. Time was, hijackings and bombings were regular occurrences. The worldwide muslim population is more moderate than it was even a couple decades ago. Maybe it doesn't seem like it because of how quickly the TV cycles through news items but we are living in the safest, most secure global environment there's been for a long, long time.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:26 am |
  13. Truth

    To each his own.
    Why the hatred?
    Love will conquer.
    Islam literally means peace.

    I just request ALL to PRAY to the almighty to guide them to the truth

    January 27, 2011 at 3:25 am |
    • Surefire179

      No...Islam literally means "submission". Look it up.

      January 27, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  14. doc

    NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHITE/BLACK/RED IN ISLAM....
    Non practicing muslims, like non practicing christians, are not the
    true picture of islam.
    following the forefathers without thinking is the worst thing an
    educated can opt..
    terrorism in the world is not due to islam, but political issues..but we cannot
    think in this era of media dominance...God helps us all..

    January 27, 2011 at 3:25 am |
  15. WSPenwell

    No account for the number of ignorant people in the world and I point the finger at all religions.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:23 am |
  16. mubai

    its fact that muslim is taking rule in world and you see that time that the world is real safe place on this earth and i hope my words is true thanks

    January 27, 2011 at 3:23 am |
  17. World citizen

    I am kinda sad to read some of these comments....they seem to be taken right out of Hitler's camp! This isn't about white or black, Muslim or Christian, what i read here is pure bigotry.. I am glad most American's aren't like the ones who wrote these sick posts.. go away haters...

    January 27, 2011 at 3:23 am |
    • Bigger World citizen

      You are so naive

      January 27, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  18. Nomi

    OK so here's a Q for the Christians:
    If Christianity is the real religion, what religion were Ibrahim, Ishmel, Isaac, Moses?
    What exactly did they teach poeple?

    Hint: They taught people to believe in God alone (Just Like Muhammad)!!

    January 27, 2011 at 3:21 am |
    • Oumbaa

      Did you ever stop to think that the Jews got religion correct the first time? The only laws I know that were written by God were the ten given to Moses.

      January 27, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • believeyoume

      Oumbaa, did you ever stop to think that there were people and religions WAAYYYY before Judaism?

      January 27, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  19. deepwater805

    I think that the doubling of the worlds muslim population is wildly optimistic. In fact if the world of islam doesn't start reigning in it's more radical element then there might not be too many muslims left in the world at all.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:21 am |
  20. jo

    I'm wondering: what is the goal of these predictions? is this important? isn't a waste of time and money? any predictions about the growth of christians and .... ? the main problem is the presence of americans and allies in the islamic contries? any predictions about this evolution?

    January 27, 2011 at 3:20 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.