Demographically, the 21st century will be the Muslim Century, as the Pew Research Center on Religion in Public Life has shown. Muslims will go from 24% of the world’s population today to 31% by 2060 – i.e., they will equal the Christian population of the world by that date. And then they will outstrip the Christians by 2100.
Between 2015 and 2060, the world’s population is expected to increase by 32%, to 9.6 billion. Over that same period, the number of Muslims – the major religious group with the youngest population and the highest fertility – is projected to increase by 70%. The number of Christians is projected to rise by 34%, slightly faster than the global population overall yet far more slowly than Muslims.
Most of the increase will occur because of population growth where people live. Africans will be a larger proportion of the world’s population in 2060 they are now. In fact, over the next century, the African population could quadruple, and 40% of the human population could be African by 2100. Muslims in Africa will form a larger proportion of the world Muslim population, while the Middle East will remain stable with about a fifth of the world’s Muslims. Nigeria could go to 900 million over the century, coming to dwarf the European Union and equaling a shrinking China by 2100.
Some countries will be deeply affected by these changes. The Russian Federation will go from 11% Muslim in 2010 to at least 33% Muslim in 2060. The future of Muslims in Europe depends in part on immigration policy (most of Western Europe is not reproducing itself, and so Europe will get old and less dynamic if it decides against immigration). The European Union could remain steady at about 500 million, but I suspect that projection takes immigration into account.
The publisher of Time magazine, Henry Luce, called the twentieth century “The American Century.” It was an apt description. The U.S. had half the world’s GDP just after WW II and even in 1999 it had nearly a quarter. It was the main world center of technological innovation, and has an enormous military-industrial establishment probably costing $1 trillion a year, dwarfing that of all the other countries of the world.
It isn’t clear whether the Muslim world will have that kind of economic clout. China and Hindu-majority India will be the two largest countries and may well have the two largest economies. But China’s population may fall and age, which could be an economic challenge.
Prejudice against Muslims has grown by leaps and bounds in the United States, and hatred of Muslims played a role in Trump’s campaign and in the policies he tried to enact once elected. Not all Americans are bigoted toward Muslims, and most understand that you can’t blame 1.8 billion Muslims for the violence and extremism of a tiny fringe. The Neo-Nazis and their slightly less illiterate fellow travelers over at Breitbart froth at the mouth on this issue. I am sorry to say that Evangelical Christians are according to opinion polls pretty hateful in this regard, much more so than the general population (they are also the most enthusiastic supporters of Trump, which makes me think a lot of them are dressing up white supremacy as Christianity). The Zionist right wing seems to think if only you can badmouth Muslims enough, no one will mind if you steal all the remaining land owned by Palestinians in the West Bank. And, a small sliver of the U.S. left, exemplified by Bill Maher, hates Muslims almost as much as they hate Evangelicals and Republicans.
— Aron Strandberg (@aronstrandberg) August 2, 2016
Despite White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s impractical dreams, there is no prospect that government policy or other measures can kickstart population growth among the “white” population, whatever that is. Middle class people tend to have smaller families. They want to enjoy some leisure, and be sure to be able to send their children to college.
The only proven antidote to shrinking populations is immigration. Countries like Japan that are allergic to letting a lot of immigrants in will simply shrink, that is all, and will have a very large number of old people. Countries that welcome immigrants, as France traditionally has, will grow and be economically vibrant.
So to sum up, Muslims will go from a fourth of humankind to a third just in the next 43 years. They will then likely go on up to 38% or 40% during the rest of the century. That is, a plurality of human beings in 2100 could well be Muslim. Since growing populations will be increasingly rare, countries will prize young, dynamic Muslim immigrants and will compete for them. Those countries that lose out and just can’t get Muslims to move there will get small and old and stagnant. Islamophobia may have a future. Islamophobes do not.