Muslim growth outpaces non-Muslims'

2011-01-27 13:55
Muslim pilgrims gather in their hundreds of thousands in Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage. (AP)

Muslim pilgrims gather in their hundreds of thousands in Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage. (AP)

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Washington - The world's Muslim population will grow twice as fast as the non-Muslim population in the next 20 years, when Muslims are expected to make up more than a quarter of the global population, a study published on Thursday predicts.

Using fertility, mortality and migration rates, researchers at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life project a 1.5% annual population growth rate for the world's Muslims over the next two decades, and just 0.7% growth each year for non-Muslims.

The study, called "The Future of the Global Muslim Population", projects that in 2030 Muslims will make up 26.4% of the world's population, which is expected to total around 8.3 billion people by then.

That marks a three-percentage-point rise from the 23.4% share held by Muslims of the globe's estimated 6.9 billion people today, the study says.

More than six in 10 followers of Islam will live in the Asia-Pacific region in 2030, and Pakistan, which has seen a rise in radical Islam in recent months, will overtake Indonesia as the world's most populous Muslim nation.

In Africa, the Muslim population of the sub-Saharan country of Nigeria will be greater than that of Egypt in 20 years, the study projects.

And in Europe, Pew predicts the Muslim population will grow by nearly a third in 20 years, from 44.1 million people, or 6% of the region's inhabitants in 2010, to 58.2 million or 8% of the projected total population by 2030.

US rise expected


Some European Union (EU) countries will see double-digit percentages of Muslims in their population by 2030: Belgium's Muslim population is projected to rise from 6% to 10.2% over the next 20 years, while France's is expected to hit 10.3% in 2030, up from 7.5% today.

In Sweden, Pew predicts Muslims will comprise nearly 10% of the population compared to less than 5% today.

Britain's Muslim population is predicted to rise from 4.6% to 8.2% by 2030, and 9.3% of the population of Austria is forecast to be Muslim by then, compared to less than 6% of residents of the alpine country now.

Russia, which is not a member of the EU, will continue to have the largest Muslim population in absolute terms in Europe in 2030, with 18.6 million Muslims or 14.4% of the total population of the vast country.

The United States, meanwhile, is projected to have a larger absolute number of Muslims by 2030 than any European countries other than Russia and France, but proportionally, Muslims will make up a much smaller percentage of the population of the United States than they do in Europe.

The Muslim share of the US population is projected to grow from its current level of less than 1% to 1.7% by 2030, making Muslims "roughly as numerous as Jews or Episcopalians are in the United States", the study says.

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