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Muslim demographic peak over next 20 years

The world's Muslim population will grow at double the rate of non-Muslims over the next 20 years, according to a broad new demographic analysis that is likely to spark controversy in the West.

world Updated: Jan 28, 2011 00:51 IST

The world's Muslim population will grow at double the rate of non-Muslims over the next 20 years, according to a broad new demographic analysis that is likely to spark controversy in the West.

The Future of the Global Muslim Population may be the first to attempt to map the Muslim population of most of the world's countries. The analysis was conducted by two giant nonprofit groups interested in religion: the Pew Research Center and the John Templeton Foundation. This is part of a larger project to map the population of all the world's religions.

Among its other projections:

-Muslim populations in some parts of Europe will reach the double digits, with France and Belgium at 10.3 percent by 2030.
-Pakistan will overtake Indonesia as the world's most populous Muslim nation.
-Muslim population growth and fertility rates will continue to decline.
-India will remain home to the world's third largest Muslim population.
-The number of US Muslims will more than double, from 2.6 million in 2010 to 6.2 million in 2030.

The analysis could fuel critics of Islam in Europe and the United States, who argue that the religion is at odds with Western values and worry that the number of Muslim extremists is on the rise. Or it could calm those fears by providing evidence that Muslim populations in the West will remain relatively tiny. The study - which uses a dizzying mix of public and private data sources - makes it clear that even rapid growth among Muslims will not produce dramatic demographic shifts in most parts of the world.

Eighty-two percent of the world's Muslims live in Asia, West Asia and North Africa, and that number is projected to be around 79 percent in 2030.

According to the study's projections, Muslims make up 23.4 percent of the world's population of 6.9 billion; in 2030, that percentage will be 26.4. Europe is home to 2.7 percent of the world's Muslims, a percentage that is predicted to remain stable.

"This will provide a garbage filter for hysterical claims people make about the size and growth of the Muslim population," said Philip Jenkins, a religious history scholar known for his books on Christianity and Islam. Yet the report's authors note that compiling even basic religious data from such a mix of divergent sourceshas its limitations.

He noted that there are places where the number of Muslims and non-Muslims has very specific political implications, including Israel, which the analysis predicts will shift from 14 percent Muslim in 1990 to 23 percent in 2030; and Nigeria, which has seen violence between its equally sized Muslim and Christian populations.

(In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post. For additional content from The Washington Post, visit www.washingtonpost.com)