Fastest Growing Religion
This article analyzes the claim that Islam is the "fastest growing religion" in the world.
Many have claimed that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. As proof, they usually present unverifiable claims and baseless media quotes. Apparently ABC News had claimed "Already more than a billion-people strong, Islam is the world's fastest-growing religion", a quote which cannot be traced to its source. Also CNN World News stated "Fast-growing Islam winning converts in Western world", a statement which they fail to back up with any evidence. Here we examine the actual data available for Islam to see if any of these claims are based on fact.
Growth of Islam
According to "The Future of the Global Muslim Population," published in January 2011 by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, the growth and anticipated future growth of Islam is primarily due to "their relatively high birth rate, the large number of Muslims of childbearing age, and an increase in life expectancy in Muslim-majority countries" and conversions play little part in the increase due to available data suggesting "Islam loses as many adherents via conversion as it gains."
In 2006, countries with a Muslim majority had an average population growth rate of 1.8% per year (when weighted by percentage Muslim and population size). This compares with a world population growth rate of 1.12% per year, and according to the World Christian Encyclopaedia, between 1990 and 2000, Islam received around 865,558 converts each year. This compares with an approximate 2,883,011 converts each year for Christianity during the same period.
Muslims previously outnumbered Christians in sub-Saharan Africa. However, a study published in April 2010 by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has found that Christians now outnumber Muslims by 2 to 1 making Islam a minority belief.
The number of adherents to Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa grew from fewer than 9 million in 1910 to 516 million today, a 60-fold increase eclipsing the growth of Islam.
Contrary to what is often claimed, Islam is not the fastest growing religion in the United States. Here are the available facts:
- The ARIS polls 1990 and 2000 show that the percent of change for Islam was +109%. The percent of change for Nonreligious/Secular (+110%), Native American Religion (+119%), Buddhism (+170%), Baha'i (+200%), Hinduism (+237%), New Age (+240%), Sikhism (+338%) and Deism (+717%) were all higher.
- The American Religious Identification Survey gave Non-Religious groups the largest gain in terms of absolute numbers - 14,300,000 (8.4% of the population) to 29,400,000 (14.1% of the population) for the period 1990 to 2001 in the USA. Also, Americans with no religion were the fastest growing segment from 2001 to 2008.
- According to the Cultural Orientation Resource Center, 60% of all refugees admitted into the United States are from Muslim-majority countries. Likewise, a Pew report published in January 2011 found that "About two-thirds of the Muslims in the U.S. today (64.5%) are first-generation immigrants (foreign-born)".
- Contrary to the often-quoted figures provided by CAIR and in spite of the massive influx of Muslim refugees, a Pew survey carried-out in October 2009 found the estimate for the total Muslim population of the U.S to be at only 2.454 million. Percentage-wise, Islam represents only 0.8 percent of the United States' religious make-up. About a third of what had previously been claimed and widely accepted by many apologists and media outlets.
- According to research carried out by the respected Pakistani-born American Muslim Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus (1932 - 2007), 75% of new Muslim converts in the US leave Islam within a few years.
- According to Ahmed Nassef, the co-founder and editor in chief of MuslimWakeUp.com, less than 7 percent of American Muslims attend mosque regularly, compared with 38 percent of American Christians who attend church weekly.
Islam and Christianity both entered China during the 7th century, and unreferenced claims have been made of around 100 million Muslims in China. However, most reliable estimates put the figures at 20 to 30 million Muslims (1.5% to 2% of the population).
Similarly, some Christian organizations have claimed up to 130 million Christians in China. However, most reliable estimates range from 40 million (3% of the total population) to 54 million (4%), meaning the growth of Christianity in China is almost double that of Islam.
A United Nations' survey showed that between 1989 and 1998, Europe's Muslim population grew by more than 100 percent, due mainly to the effects of immigration from Muslim countries. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance have an unsourced claim of 2.9 percent per year. And according to a Pew report published in January 2011, the future growth of Islam in Europe will be "driven primarily by continued migration."
According to data from the extensive 2010 European Social Survey (ESS), Muslims immigrants who have lived less than a year in Europe regularly go to the mosque. But after they have lived more than a year in their new homeland, the figure drops to 48.8%. More than half rarely or never go to the mosque to pray.
In the Netherlands, mosque attendance is actually dropping faster than church attendance. In 1998, 47 percent of Muslims would attend mosque at least once a month. This figure fell by 12 percent in 2008 to only 35 percent. Whilst church attendance for Catholics fell by only 8 percent, and church attendance amongst Protestants showed no change, remaining at 63 percent.
It has been estimated that during 2001 - 2011, about 100,000 people converted to Islam in the United Kingdom, but 75 percent of these converts quickly left Islam, during this period. On the whole, there are about 200,000 apostates from Islam living in the UK, doubling the number that have converted.
Similarly to the rest of Europe, the growth of Islam in the UK is primarily due to higher birthrates among Muslims (27 percent of Muslim families have three or more dependent children, compared with 14 percent of Sikh, 8 percent of Hindu, and 7 percent of Christian families) and immigration (54 percent of all UK Muslims are foreign born).
A NOP poll of British Muslims commissioned by Channel 4 also found that 48% of Muslims never attend a mosque, with another 6% only attending for special occasions.
There is a wide spread belief that there are around 20 million Russian Muslims and that vast amounts of Russians are converting to Islam. However, there are only about 7 to 9 million Muslims in Russia and less than 3,000 ethnic Russians have converted to Islam within the last fifteen years.
For the same period almost 2 million ethnic Muslims have become Orthodox Christians. Over 400 Russian Orthodox clergy belong to traditionally Muslim ethnic groups, 20 percent of Tatars are Christian, and 70 percent of interfaith marriages result in the Muslim spouse conversion to Christianity.
Other Factors to Consider
Worth noting is the fact that apostates will rarely advertise leaving Islam due to the death sentence it imposes on its followers, and that most Islamic countries do not acknowledge conversions out of Islam.
For example, following the 2010 murder of a leading Muslim politician who called for modifications to Pakistan’s blasphemy law, it had been reported that at least 20 Pakistani Christians were converting to Islam each week out of fear. Also according to the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), there were as many as 2,000 women and girls who were forcibly converted in 2011 to Islam through rape, torture and kidnappings in Pakistan.
This is not limited to Muslim-majority countries. In the United Kingdom, it was reported in 2007 that police were working with universities to clamp down on "aggressive conversions" to Islam, during which vulnerable teenage girls are beaten up by Muslims and forced to abandon university courses.
All the actual data available reveals that Islam is neither the fastest growing religion by number of adherents or the fastest growing religion by percentage-increase.
The growing number of Muslims in the world is due primarily to the higher than average birth-rates, and consequent population growths of Muslim countries and communities. And their growing presence in non-Muslim societies such as Europe and the Americas is overwhelmingly due to immigration.
Furthermore, converts to Islam are vastly outnumbered by those who choose to leave the religion and embrace another faith or worldview. And the majority of converts that Islam does manage to attract, decide to leave within the first few years of practicing it.
Finally, even if Islam were to be the fastest growing religion in the world, it would be an Argumentum ad populum to claim that this makes it the correct religion.
- Converts - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Converts
- Richard Allen Greene - World Muslim population doubling, report projects - CNN News, January 27, 2011
- "... What little information is available suggests that there is no substantial net gain or loss in the number of Muslims through conversion globally; the number of people who become Muslims through conversion seems to be roughly equal to the number of Muslims who leave the faith. As a result, this report does not include any estimated future rate of conversions as a direct factor in the projections of Muslim population growth." - The Future of the Global Muslim Population, Related Factors: Conversion, Pew Research Center, January 27, 2011
- Averaging of individual country figures from CIA factbook
- CIA Factbook
- Global statistics for all religions: 2001 AD. www.bible.ca. Accessed 2006-12-26.
- Christians now outnumber Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa by 2 to 1 - Catholic Culture, April 19, 2010
- Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa - The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, April 15, 2010
- Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Christian Population - The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, December 19, 2011
- Largest Religious Groups in the United States of America - Adherents.com, accessed April 16, 2011
- American Religious Identification Survey, Key Findings - The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
- American Religious Identification Survey, Full PDF Document - The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
- Fastest Growing Religion = No Religion (New Religious Identification Survey) (original pdf report | website)
- US Refugee Program: Current Fiscal Year Admission Statistics - Cultural Orientation Resource Center, Updated October 2009
- The Future of the Global Muslim Population: Projections for 2010-2030 - Pew Research Center, January 27, 2011
- Patrick Goodenough - New Survey on Islam Calls Into Question Population Figure Used by Obama - CNS News, October 9, 2009
- Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, State University of New York at Cortland
- Faraz Rabbani, Former SunniPath Instructor - Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus – Pioneer MSA and ISNA Activist & Leader Passes Away - SunniPath, October 5, 2007
- Listen to the clip detailing this research (listen on Youtube)
- Ahmed Nassef - Listen to Muslim silent majority in US - CSM, April 21, 2004
- China - Wikipedia, accessed September 23, 2011
- Masood Rab - Chinese Muslim Scholars - Muslim Media Network, March 24, 2008
- NW China region eyes global Muslim market - China Daily, July 9, 2008
- China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) - US Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report 2006
- China/ Religions - CIA, The World Factbook, accessed September 23, 2011
- Mark Ellis - China Survey Reveals Fewer Christians than Some Evangelicals Want to Believe - Assist News, October 1, 2007
- Survey finds 300m China believers - BBC News, February 7, 2007
- Jonathan Watts - Chinese survey finds religion booming - The Guardian, February 7, 2007
- Europeiske muslimer dropper moskeen - Aftenposten (Norwegian), May 29, 2010 (English translation)
- Jeroen Langelaar - Steeds minder Nederlanders naar kerk of moskee - Elsevier, July 29, 2009
- Omar Shahid, "Confessions of an ex-Muslim", New Statesman, May 17, 2013 (archived), http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2013/05/confessions-ex-muslim.
- Anthony Browne - Muslim apostates cast out and at risk from faith and family Muslim apostates cast out and at risk from faith and family - The Sunday Times, February 5, 2005
- "Focus on Families: Muslim families most likely to have children", Office for National Statistics (statistics.gov.uk), p. 8, July 2005 (archived from the original), http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_compendia/fof2005/families.pdf&date=2011-04-16.
- Jodie Reed, "Young Muslims in the UK: Education and Integration", Institute for Public Policy Research, December 2005
- Anthony Wells - NOP Poll of British Muslims - UK Polling Report, August 8, 2006
- 20Mln Muslims in Russia and mass conversion of ethnic Russians are myths - expert - Interfax, April 10, 2007
- Rick Westhead - Some Christians in Pakistan convert fear into safety - Toronto Star, January 20, 2011
- 2,000 minorities girls converted to Islam forcibly: report - Daily Times, September 5, 2012
- Police protect girls forced to convert to Islam - London Evening Standard, February 22, 2007
- ‘Hindu girls targeted by extremists’ - Metro News, February 22, 2007