Muslims to remain small U.S. minority

Meredith Heagney
The global Muslim population will grow at about twice the rate for non-Muslims in the next 20 years, but the Muslim population in the United States will remain very small, according to a report released yesterday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The research could ease fears of some anti-Islam activists who think Muslims are taking over the West. In 2030, Muslims are projected to make up just 1.7 percent of the U.S. population and 8percent of the European population.

The study also raises questions about what kind of America Muslims will cohabit in 2030, when their numbers could match or exceed those of other religious minorities, such as Jews or Mormons.

The year used as a starting point in the research - 2010 - was a difficult one for American Muslims, as the country debated the opening of mosques in Manhattan and elsewhere and a Florida minister grabbed headlines worldwide by threatening to burn Qurans.

Scholars and Muslims say they expect that tensions will ease in the next 20 years.

The growing population will help more Americans meet ordinary, law-abiding Muslims who defy terrorist stereotypes, said Amir Hussain, a professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Hussain is Muslim.

He acknowledged that another terrorist attack by Muslim extremists could change that.

"I definitely think it's going to get better," said Maria Ahmad, a 21-year-old studying speech and hearing sciences at Ohio State University. "I am the first generation born here, and I speak without an accent. My kids will be even more integrated into the society."

Last year, 2.6million Muslims lived in the United States, making up 0.8 percent of the population. Those numbers will be 6.2million, or 1.7 percent of the projected population, in 2030, according to Pew, which is based in Washington, D.C.

Globally, the Muslim population is expected to increase by about 35 percent in the next 20 years, from 1.6billion last year (23.4percent of the world's population) to 2.2 billion in 2030 (26.4 percent).

About 60 percent of the Muslim population will be, as it is today, located in the Asia-Pacific region, with another fifth in the Middle East and North Africa. Nearly 18 percent will live in sub-Saharan Africa, with only 2.7 percent and 0.5 percent in Europe and the Americas, respectively.

Carl Haub, senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau in Washington, said he hopes the numbers will provide some perspective on the relatively modest growth of Islam in the West.

"It tends to dispel a lot of the more alarmist-type reports or columns that people have written, especially about Europe, which people are calling 'Eurabia,'" he said.

Muslims might have a higher birthrate, with more women of childbearing age, than some populations, said Brian Grim, senior researcher on the Pew project.

But the rate of growth is slowing because the Muslim birthrate is declining, Grim said. In some Muslim-majority countries, women are gaining access to secondary education and are less likely to give birth to several children.

The researchers plan to do the same projections for other major religious groups and will release figures for Christianity next.

January 28, 2011, the columbus dispatch

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