Two new studies provide some worrying statistics on the spread of Islam around the world. One focuses on the global reach of Islam while the other highlights the situation in Britain. Both make it clear that the Muslim population continues to grow, whether by demographics or by conversion.
The first study looks at the global situation, and was released by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. It not only examines the number of Muslims around the world as of 2010, but it also offers projections to the year 2030.
The general findings are this: In 2010 the world’s Muslim population was 1.6 billion. It is expected to increase by about 35% to 2.2 billion by 2030. It is forecast to grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population over the next 20 years, with an average annual growth rate of 1.5% for Muslims, compared with 0.7% for non-Muslims.
Here are some details from the report: “If current trends continue, however, 79 countries will have a million or more Muslim inhabitants in 2030, up from 72 countries today.1 A majority of the world’s Muslims (about 60%) 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 today. But Pakistan is expected to surpass Indonesia as the country with the single largest Muslim population.
“The portion of the world’s Muslims living in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to rise; in 20 years, for example, more Muslims are likely to live in Nigeria than in Egypt. Muslims will remain relatively small minorities in Europe and the Americas, but they are expected to constitute a growing share of the total population in these regions.”
Consider Europe: “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.”
Similar growth will occur in America: “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, in large part because of immigration and higher-than-average fertility among Muslims. The Muslim share of the U.S. population (adults and children) is projected to grow from 0.8% in 2010 to 1.7% in 2030, making Muslims roughly as numerous as Jews or Episcopalians are in the United States today.”
Today Muslims are globally distributed as follows: “As of 2010, about three-quarters of the world’s Muslims (74.1%) 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. About 3% of the world’s Muslims live in more-developed regions, such as Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.”
The second report looks at just the situation in Britain, but what the figures are showing is a cause of concern. The study, put out by the Centre for Migration Policy Research at Swansea University, shows how many Britons are converting to Islam, while the Christian churches there continue to stagnate.
The interfaith think-tank Faith Matters commissioned the study, and this is what it found: “The number of converts to Islam may have risen from around 60,000 in 2001 to up to 100,000, according to estimates in a report for the Faith Matters organisation.
“A study by Kevin Brice, of Swansea University, on behalf of Faith Matters, found 5,200 people converted to Islam in the UK last year. A survey of 122 converts last year showed 56% were white British, with women making up 62% of respondents. The average age at conversion was just over 27.”
Another report contrasts this with declining church figures in the UK: “Presently, according to the London Times, the Islamic population of Great Britain exceeds 2.4 million. The Daily Mail contends that more than 25% of the British Muslims visit a mosque at least once a week.
“By contrast, Paul Richardson, Assistant Bishop of Newcastle, maintains that less than 1% of the 18 million Christians who belong to the Church of England attend Sunday services. ‘At this rate,’ the Bishop speculates, ‘it is hard to see the church surviving for more than 30 years though few of its leaders are prepared to face that possibility.’
“‘If decline continues,’ the Bishop adds, ‘Christian Research has estimated that in ?ve years’ time church closures will accelerate from their present rate of 30 a year to 200 a year as dwindling congregations ?nd the cost of keeping them open too great.’ While 30 Anglican parishes close every year, seventy new mosques sprout up throughout the United Kingdom. A score of organizations have been set up to serve the needs of Christian Brits who now embrace Islam.”
Islam, then, is on the rise. But of course in one sense this is only half the story. What is also occurring is the global growth of Christianity. While its growth due to demographics (family size) is not as great of that of Islam, its conversion numbers continue to rise, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
So Islam is not the only world religion experiencing growth. Christianity has been going strong for two millennia now, and shows no signs of bottoming out. While it may be in some strife in the West, it is growing by leaps and bounds in the non-Western world.
How both religions fare in the decades ahead will depend on many factors. But much of it will be determined by Christians themselves, especially in the West. Will they hang on to their faith and revitalise it, or abandon it altogether? However things pan out, Christians are still under the marching orders of Jesus to “go into all the world and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).