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Muslim Population and Growth.
Is Islam the fastest growing religion in the world? Is it the fastest growing religion in America? The demographics tell us that the answer is yes to both questions.
Establishing population demographics for Muslims is not easy. Even without completely accurate statistics, we find numerous independent studies in fairly close agreement. Most major studies estimate a worldwide Muslim population for the year 2000 at roughly 1.25 billion people; that is, about one-fifth or 20 percent of the world’s population.13 In comparison, Christianity is the largest religion in the world with about 33 percent of the world’s population.14
According to most reports, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.15 For example, in Europe, according to United Nations statistics, between 1989 and 1998 the Islamic population grew by more than 100 percent (to about 14 million or 2 percent of the population).16 At the current rate of growth it is estimated that Islam’s population by the year 2025 will be 1.9 billion (about 24 percent of the total European population).17
One of the most common misconceptions or stereotypes Westerners have about Muslims is that most of them are Arabic. “The major sections of Muslim populations are concentrated in Asia and Africa. Muslims are, by and large, people of color.”18 Missiologist Roland Miller relates that more than 68 percent of all Muslims live in Asia and more than 27 percent live in Africa. Indonesia has roughly 15 percent of the world’s Muslim population. In South Asia almost one-third of the world’s Muslim population live in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India.19
Just how is the Muslim population growing? The growth rate of Islam in Western nations (including the US and Canada) primarily comes through: a high Muslim birth rate and immigration (e.g., Muslims moving to the United States), not from converts (non-Muslims becoming Muslims). As we shall soon note in regard to converts, however, two groups are vulnerable to Muslim evangelism.
In 1995 there were some 4 million Muslims in France, 1.9 million in Germany, and 1.5 million in the UK, accounting for 7 percent, 2.4 percent, and 2.7 percent of the overall populations respectively. In 1998 7 percent of babies born within the European Union were Muslim, in Brussels it was as much as 57 percent....This growth comes primarily through immigration and a high birth rate.20
It is difficult to estimate accurately the total number of Muslims in the United States and the rest of North America. Research scientist Carol Stone states that “it is still unclear how many Muslims currently reside in America...because of a lack of reliable information about Muslims in this country.”21
There are several main reasons why this is so. First, for the past 50 years the United States government (unlike some countries) has not included questions about religious affiliation in its census.22 Dr. James Dretke, executive director of the Zwemer Institute, states that a second factor “is the fact that Muslims do not join mosques as Christians join churches, so it is impossible to count them from membership rolls.”23 Roland Miller gives a third reason: “Religious statistics are notoriously difficult to compile because of affiliation questions and reporting problems. Muslim statisticians routinely give higher figures.”24
Nevertheless, both Christian and Muslim sources assert that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States.25 The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches 2000 gives the figure of 3,950,000 Muslims in America today.26 Islamic Horizons states that there are eight to ten million Muslims in North America.27 The most common figure cited (the statistic the United States government regularly uses) is about six million.28 The largest concentrations of Muslims are in California, New York, and Illinois — with an estimated 400,000 in the Chicago area.29
While specific figures may be debated, what cannot be debated is the phenomenal growth of Islam. According to United Nations statistics, the Muslim population in the United States grew by 25 percent between 1989 and 1998.30 In 1990 there were only about 50 Islamic schools in America. Today the number is over 200.31 Since about 1990 the number of “registered Islamic centers and mosques” has tripled to “more than 2,500.”32