The Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday that Islam is set to be the largest religion in the world by 2070. It is the only religion said to be growing faster than the population of the globe as a whole. The research was the result of work by the American research body the Pew Research Centre, which analysed data around demographic change within the world’s major religions. Numbers of Muslims on the whole are due to expand by 73% between 2010 and 2050, followed by Christianity, which is due to increase its number of followers by 35%.
The world’s population is predicted to grow by 37% between 2010 and 2050, and if they continue at this rate past 2050, then Muslims are predicted to outstrip numbers of Christians by 2070. Muslims are also due to make up 10% of the population of Europe. The projected changes are thought to be because Muslims have higher fertility rates, with an average of 3.1 children being produced per woman, compared to an average of 2.7 among Christians. 34% of Muslims on the whole are aged under 15, ensuring many have child-producing years ahead of them.
Conversely, atheists, agnostics and non-religious people are predicted to decline from 16.4% of the world’s population to 13.2% by 2020. This comes in spite of the fact that numbers of people who identify as non-believers are rising in North America in Europe.
Pew also drew upon findings from their 2016 report showing that hostility towards Muslims has become a growing concern within Europe. It showed how negative sentiments towards Muslims were on the rise in Europe due to high-profile terrorist attacks and levels of immigration. Some of the countries most likely to display these sentiments were Hungary, Poland and Greece.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) had reported similar findings in 2015, showing that European countries were showing increasing tendencies towards Islamophobia and online hate speech, in particular claiming that the belief that Islam was incompatible with the West was a growing phenomenon.
The fact that the Muslim population within Europe and across the world is set to grow at a considerable rate could have either positive or negative implications for the way it is viewed by non-Muslims. Higher rates of Muslims could lead to their becoming a more accepted part of the demographic make-up of many countries – but could similarly prompt more far-right rhetoric about Muslims ‘taking over.’ Hopefully, the demographic change will lead to greater tolerance and acceptance, particularly within Europe and America.