Islam today is a global religion. It is no longer
confined to Muslim majority countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Indonesia.
Small but significant communities exist across Europe, the Americas and
Australasia. For some time Muslims have been an invisible presence in the
western world but one decade into the 21st century Muslims are no
longer curiosities. They are as much at home in London Paris or Chicago as
they are in Istanbul, Damascus and Jakarta.
In 2011 Muslims in the West also no longer exist in
immigrant communities but are second, third and fourth generation citizens
participating in professional and civic life. Islam is said to be the fastest
growing religion in the United States. It is estimated that more than 1
million Americans have converted to Islam. In recent years due to an Islamic
revival, believing and practicing Muslims have established a visible presence
not only in Islamic societies but also in the West.
What do the latest data and statistics tell us about the
number of Muslims in the world. Where do they live? How many are born into the
Muslim faith and how many choose to convert to Islam? The majority of the
following statistics and data come from the Pew Research Centre.
According to the Pew Islam
is growing about 2.9% per year. This is faster than the total world population
which increases about 2.3% annually. The world’s Muslim population is expected
to increase by about 35% in the next 20 years. In mid 2010 the Pew forum
estimated that there were 1.57 billion Muslims in the world. This represents
22% of the world’s population. Islam is the second largest religion in the
world, beaten only by Christianity which represents 33% of the world’s
population with a little over 2 billion adherents.
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life stated that
Islam is the fastest-growing religion in Europe. Driven by immigration and
high birth rates, the number of Muslims on the continent has tripled in the
last 30 years. Most demographers forecast a similar or even higher rate of
growth in the coming decades.
If current trends continue 79 countries will have a
million or more Muslim inhabitants in 2030, up from 72 countries in 2011. The
seven new countries are expected to be Belgium, Canada, Congo, Djibouti, Guinea
Bissau, Netherlands and Togo. About 60% of the world’s Muslims will continue
to live in the Asia-Pacific region, while about 20% will live in the Middle
East and North Africa, as is the case in 2010. One of the biggest changes
expected is that Pakistan will almost certainly surpass Indonesia as the
country with the single largest Muslim population.
In 2011 statistics tell us that 74.1% of the world’s
Muslims live in the 49 countries in which Muslims make up a majority of the
population. More than a fifth of all Muslims (23.3%) live in
non-Muslim-majority countries in the developing world. These minority Muslim
populations are often quite large. India, for example, has the third-largest
population of Muslims worldwide. China has more Muslims than Syria, while
Russia is home to more Muslims than Jordan and Libya combined.
About 3% of the world’s Muslims live in more-developed regions, such as Europe,
North America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
In the United States, the population projections show
the number of Muslims more than doubling over the next two decades, rising from
2.6 million in 2010 to 6.2 million in 2030. The number of Muslims in Canada is
expected to nearly triple in the next 20 years, from about 940,000 in 2010 to
nearly 2.7 million in 2030. Muslims are expected to make up 6.6% of Canada’s
total population in 2030, up from 2.8% today. Argentina is expected to have
the third-largest Muslim population in the Americas, after the U.S. and Canada.
Argentina, with about 1 million Muslims in 2010, is now in second place, behind
In Europe as a whole, the Muslim share of the
population is expected to grow by nearly one-third over the next 20 years,
rising from 6% of the region’s inhabitants in 2010 to 8% in 2030. In absolute
numbers, Europe’s Muslim population is projected to grow from 44.1 million in
2010 to 58.2 million in 2030. Nearly three-in-ten people living in the Asia-Pacific
region in 2030 (27.3%) will be Muslim, up from about a quarter in 2010 (24.8%)
and roughly a fifth in 1990 (21.6%). Muslims make up only about 2% of the
population in China, but because the country is so populous, its Muslim
population is expected to be the 19th largest in the world in 2030.
The growth rates of religions are usually due to conversions, higher birth and fertility rates and in many
countries religions grow because of immigration. 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.
Finding statistics and data about the number of people
converting to Islam from other religions or atheism can be difficult. This is
usually not a question asked by government authorities or research centers. In
the next article we will discuss Muslim growth rates across the globe due to
conversion and immigration.