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Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Growth of the Muslim Population

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a project of the Pew Research Center in Washington, DC, has just released a new, detailed report on the Future of the Global Muslim Population. Let me say immediately that their data confirmed my own estimates that Muslims are expected to remain as a very small fraction of Europe's population. Here are some of the highlights from the report's executive summary.
The world’s Muslim population is expected to increase by about 35% in the next 20 years, rising from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030, according to new population projections by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.
Globally, the Muslim population is forecast to grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population over the next two decades – an average annual growth rate of 1.5% for Muslims, compared with 0.7% for non-Muslims. If current trends continue, Muslims will make up 26.4% of the world’s total projected population of 8.3 billion in 2030, up from 23.4% of the estimated 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.
While the global Muslim population is expected to grow at a faster rate than the non-Muslim population, the Muslim population nevertheless is expected to grow at a slower pace in the next two decades than it did in the previous two decades. From 1990 to 2010, the global Muslim population increased at an average annual rate of 2.2%, compared with the projected rate of 1.5% for the period from 2010 to 2030.


  1. I'm a bit perplexed by these population forecast by religion. It involves the unpleasant underlying assumption that Islam is a prison where from you cannot escape. You're a Muslim by birth, and you're expected to cling to your forefather's faith until death? Is it unreasonable to expect some secularization in the Muslim countries also? Just consider the present decline in religion in the Western countries. We can hope that people of Muslim cultural background will move away from religion, particularly if they live in Free Western countries.

    Jean-Marc from France

  2. Hi Marco, as someone who studies conversion from Islam to Christianity, allow me to make a remark or two. Islam is indeed, according to its own understanding of itself, a community that cannot be left, though Muslims would not call it a prison. The Prophet said, in a verified hadith, 'Whosoever changes his religion, slay him,' and there is a consensus among the major schools of shari'a that apostasy is indeed a capital offense and must be punished by death. (Some scholars allow for permanent imprisonment for women apostates, because of the weakness of their minds.) This consensus is well over a thousand years old and I do not know of any mechanisms in Islamic jurisprudence whereby it can be altered. It is after all a law from God, and not from man, and thus immutable. For more on this topic one of my articles can be found here:

    That having been said increasing numbers of Muslims are indeed leaving Islam for either no religion, or Christianity (I have a lot of material at my blog on the latter topic). But the numbers are still small, especially compared to the numbers of new Muslims being born every day. For more on Muslims converting to Christianity I recommend this analysis by Miller:

    Excuse the lengthy response, but this is a topic of great interest to me.

    Abu Daoud