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. Roger Kaputnick

    so, i guess this means the amount of suicide bombings will double. OH JOY.

    January 27, 2011 at 5:55 am |
  2. Katie

    Well, we all know the human race is doomed. The muslim's will just make things happen that much sooner.

    January 27, 2011 at 5:55 am |
  3. Adam

    Why is this news? If the Jewish or Christian or Hindu populations were growing I don't think it would make headlines... is it something scary that the Muslim population is growing? Grow up people...

    January 27, 2011 at 5:54 am |
    • Oliver

      Very well said Adam. Why would anyone with at least an average intellect and open mind care? The media (and republicans) are deamonizing Muslims and it's idiotic! There are extreme Muslim and Christian groups but most Muslims and Christians are good people.

      January 27, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  4. Ok

    Religion of peace, KILL THE NON BELIEVERS

    January 27, 2011 at 5:51 am |
  5. Adam

    It's really astonishing to see the reaction of SOME europeans and american who claim to be so civilized and advanced, but yet know nothing about islam (or anything else as a matter of fact), the lack of objectivity & the lack of knowledge when they come together in one person they produce a person with such insolent comments.... perhaps some commenters should obtain more resources and read objectively before judging anything.. Muslim as a religion is a very noble religion that makes the world a better place and well educated people (if) they wanna be neutral and objective they should read before they Judge

    January 27, 2011 at 5:46 am |
  6. Peter E

    With more people in a world of limited resources there will just be more poverty and more wars. Luckily, most wars happen between neigboring countries. Much of the Western world will have little to fear, since their population is increasing much slower. (or, in the case of Europe, declining) The worry is really Pakistan versus India, two enormously populous countries with a history of hostility towards each-other, growing populations, growing poverty, and some charming nuclear weapons to top it off.

    January 27, 2011 at 5:45 am |
  7. Tony

    Thank the GOOD LORD ALLAH (or Jesus, or Jehova, or whoever you call God) that 99% of them ARE **NOT** VIOLENT. I'm Catholic, and most of us aren't either. The point is this: the ONE THING you can count on with the DOUBLING of the population of Muslims will be an INCREASE in the NUMBER OF SECTS of their religion. THATS the only potentially DANGEROUS part–finding out WHICH new sects are KOOKS.

    January 27, 2011 at 5:44 am |
  8. elf


    January 27, 2011 at 5:37 am |
  9. Marcus

    Sorry but what is the purpose of this article? To increase islamophobia?

    Surprising? NO,anyone with some sort of consciousness would understand that poor countries produce a high amount of children per family,and now those countries are islamic..so what do you expect?

    January 27, 2011 at 5:35 am |
  10. PAC-MAN

    IM HUNGRY FOR YOU!!!!!!!!

    January 27, 2011 at 5:35 am |
  11. dennis

    This means there will be twice as many terrorists!

    January 27, 2011 at 5:34 am |
  12. Abdullah

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahaa...stoopid westerners will know the wrath of Allah!

    January 27, 2011 at 5:33 am |
  13. nate

    Stand up Stand Up for JESUS, all soldiers of the cross!!!

    January 27, 2011 at 5:32 am |
  14. Nasdaq

    Great piece to be in the front page of CNN...Wow..In 2020 CNN will be posting the same message again...Bet on it

    January 27, 2011 at 5:31 am |
  15. j25

    should christains worry about muslim nubers increasing? yes the should
    because there is eqution they have to maintain to insure their dominance , and because they are not populating enough they want to stop the muslims
    if u want to beat the muslims change your life style

    January 27, 2011 at 5:28 am |
  16. Name*Dave

    Religion is such a waste of time. Instead of countless hours worshipping how about finding a cure for cancer? How about not blowing yourselves up? How about not hating on gays or maybe let women gave equal chance at education?

    January 27, 2011 at 5:17 am |
  17. response to QuinClark


    January 27, 2011 at 5:14 am |
  18. Skeletor

    Nits turn into lice... therefore we should exterminate all the nits.

    January 27, 2011 at 5:11 am |
  19. Thinkman

    moderate this...>>> . <<<

    January 27, 2011 at 5:11 am |
  20. Inamur

    ISLAM is the submission in worship to Allah Alone and it is the essence of all the Messages sent to all nations before us. Allah is All-Just and All-Wise. He does not intend confusion for His Creation. The religion accepted to Him is the one chosen by Him. Its essence must be One, because He is One. It is free from geographical, racist, and status oriented concepts. It is Perfect and it is the complete way of life. All these qualities are chosen by Allah in His Only Religion: Islam. Its details are in in the Qur’an, read it and come with an open heart because none can expose better than the World of Allah. The Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. He did not author it. He was unlettered. Its translation is available in many languages in bookstores or in an Islamic Center close to you. Take the time to read it and come/call the Islamic Center, or speak to someone who re-verted and submitted to Allah Alone.

    The Decision is yours!

    January 27, 2011 at 5:10 am |
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About this blog

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.