Muslim Population Growth Rates

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A map of the world, showing the major religions distributed in the world today (Pew, Dec 18, 2012).

Islam is often heralded in popular media as the fastest growing religion in the world. In certain distinct measures, this is correct. In most Muslim-majority countries, birthrates are exceptionally high. This is due to the economic underdevelopment of these regions and exceptionally low rates of female education and empowerment - both well-established factors predicting increased birthrates. In West, where Muslims frequently comprise significant minority populations, birthrates among Muslims are nearer to national averages of the countries in which they reside. Still, in these Western countries, Muslim minorities are often the fastest growing minority populations. This growth rate, however, is overwhelmingly due to immigration rates rather than birthrates.

While the variety of individual religious-change incomparably greatest in both magnitude and rate of increase is that of leaving religion altogether, both in most of the worlds countries and across the globe altogether, Islam does hold the superlative titles of highest birthrates in some regions and highest immigration-rate in others. Indeed, a number of investigations suggest that in countries where a tangible number of people convert to Islam, the majority of these converts ultimately apostatize (seven in ten, according to one estimate)[1] - however, these particular findings are not conclusive.

Growth rates by region


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."[2][3]

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).[4] This compares with a world population growth rate of 1.12% per year[5], 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.[6] By sharp contrast, the number of individuals who have left religion altogether in the same period is incomparably larger.

By country


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.[7][8]

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.[9]

United States

The ARIS polls[10] 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.[11][12] Also, Americans with no religion were the fastest growing segment from 2001 to 2008.[13]

According to the Cultural Orientation Resource Center,[14] 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)".[15]

Contrary to figures provided by CAIR and despite the 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.[16] Percentage-wise, Islam represents only 0.8 percent of the United States' religious make-up.

According to research carried out by the respected Pakistani-born American Muslim Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus (1932 - 2007),[17][18] 75% of new Muslim converts in the US leave Islam within a few years.[19]


Islam and Christianity both entered China during the 7th century.[20] Most reliable estimates put the figure at 20 to 30 million Muslims (1.5% to 2% of the population).[21][22][23][24] For Christians, most reliable estimates range from 40 million (3% of the total population) to 54 million (4%),[24][25][26][27].


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 listed a figure of 2.9 percent per year, however they do not provide a source. According to a Pew report published in January 2011, the future growth of Islam in Europe will be "driven primarily by continued migration."[15]

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.[28]

In the Netherlands, mosque attendance is 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. By contrast, church attendance for Catholics fell by only 8 percent, and church attendance amongst Protestants showed no change, remaining at 63 percent.[29]

United Kingdom

It has been estimated that during 2001 - 2011, about 100,000 people converted to Islam in the United Kingdom, but estimates also suggest that 75 percent of these converts also left Islam during this period.[30] At the same time, there were an estimated 200,000 apostates from Islam living in the UK, double the number that converted.[31]

Similarly to the rest of Europe,[15] 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)[32] and immigration (54 percent of all UK Muslims are foreign born).[33]

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.[34]


There are about 9 million Muslims in Russia and less than 3,000 ethnic Russians converted to Islam in fifteen years. During the same period, almost 2 million ethnic Muslims have became 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.[35]

Limiting factors

Systematic persecution of religious minorities in almost every Muslim-majority country likely inflates the number of Muslim converts in these nations in a manner surveys are unable to detect. Following the 2010 murder of a leading Muslim politician who called for modifications to Pakistan’s blasphemy law, for instance, it was reported that at least 20 Pakistani Christians were converting to Islam each week out of fear.[36] And 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.[37]

Comparable albeit less dramatic analogs have also been found in the Western world. 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 were beaten up by Muslim thugs and forced to abandon university courses.[38][39]


  1. Imam Luqman Ahmad, Seven out of every ten converts leave Islam, The Lotus Tree, January 13th, 2010 (archived,*/ 
  2. Richard Allen Greene - World Muslim population doubling, report projects - CNN News, January 27, 2011
  3. "... 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
  4. Averaging of individual country figures from CIA factbook
  5. CIA Factbook
  6. Global statistics for all religions: 2001 AD. Accessed 2006-12-26.
  7. Christians now outnumber Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa by 2 to 1 - Catholic Culture, April 19, 2010
  8. Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa - The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, April 15, 2010
  9. 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
  10. Largest Religious Groups in the United States of America -, accessed April 16, 2011
  11. American Religious Identification Survey, Key Findings - The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
  12. American Religious Identification Survey, Full PDF Document - The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
  13. Fastest Growing Religion = No Religion (New Religious Identification Survey) (original pdf report | website)
  14. US Refugee Program: Current Fiscal Year Admission Statistics - Cultural Orientation Resource Center, Updated October 2009
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 The Future of the Global Muslim Population: Projections for 2010-2030 - Pew Research Center, January 27, 2011
  16. Patrick Goodenough - New Survey on Islam Calls Into Question Population Figure Used by Obama - CNS News, October 9, 2009
  17. Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, State University of New York at Cortland
  18. Faraz Rabbani, Former SunniPath Instructor - Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus – Pioneer MSA and ISNA Activist & Leader Passes Away - SunniPath, October 5, 2007
  19. Listen to the clip detailing this research (listen on Youtube)
  20. China - Wikipedia, accessed September 23, 2011
  21. Masood Rab - Chinese Muslim Scholars - Muslim Media Network, March 24, 2008
  22. NW China region eyes global Muslim market - China Daily, July 9, 2008
  23. China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) - US Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report 2006
  24. 24.0 24.1 China/ Religions - CIA, The World Factbook, accessed September 23, 2011
  25. Mark Ellis - China Survey Reveals Fewer Christians than Some Evangelicals Want to Believe - Assist News, October 1, 2007
  26. Survey finds 300m China believers - BBC News, February 7, 2007
  27. Jonathan Watts - Chinese survey finds religion booming - The Guardian, February 7, 2007
  28. Europeiske muslimer dropper moskeen - Aftenposten (Norwegian), May 29, 2010 (English translation)
  29. Jeroen Langelaar - Steeds minder Nederlanders naar kerk of moskee - Elsevier, July 29, 2009
  30. Omar Shahid, "Confessions of an ex-Muslim", New Statesman, May 17, 2013 (archived), 
  31. 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
  32. "Focus on Families: Muslim families most likely to have children", Office for National Statistics (, p. 8, July 2005 (archived from the original), 
  33. Jodie Reed, "Young Muslims in the UK: Education and Integration", Institute for Public Policy Research, December 2005
  34. Anthony Wells - NOP Poll of British Muslims - UK Polling Report, August 8, 2006
  35. 20Mln Muslims in Russia and mass conversion of ethnic Russians are myths - expert - Interfax, April 10, 2007
  36. Rick Westhead - Some Christians in Pakistan convert fear into safety - Toronto Star, January 20, 2011
  37. 2,000 minorities girls converted to Islam forcibly: report - Daily Times, September 5, 2012
  38. Police protect girls forced to convert to Islam - London Evening Standard, February 22, 2007
  39. ‘Hindu girls targeted by extremists’ - Metro News, February 22, 2007