Muslims will double their share of the population in the United States by 2050 and surpass Christianity as the world’s dominant religion by the end of the century, according to a Pew Research Center report released last week.
The Pew study comes the same week that saw two acts of mass murder perpetrated by Muslim extremists — a suicide bombing outside a concert in Manchester, England, and a gun attack on a bus filled with Coptic Christians in Egypt.
Based on demographic trends, Pew projects that the Muslim population will grow by 70 percent worldwide between 2015 and 2060, compared with an overall population growth of 32 percent. That far exceeds the projected growth of the second- and third-fastest growing religions, Christianity and Hinduism, respectively.
The reason for the disparity comes down to simple demographics. Muslims are younger and have more babies than Christians and members of other religions. The projected birth rate of Muslim women from 2015 to 2020 is 2.9 babies per woman, compared to a non-Muslim fertility rate of 2.2.
“Muslims are also the youngest (median age of 24 years old in 2015) of all major religious groups, seven years younger than the median age of non-Muslims,” the study states. “As a result, a larger share of Muslims already are, or will soon be, at the point in their lives when they begin having children. This, combined with high fertility rates, will fuel Muslim population growth.”
The U.S. Muslim population is small, about 3.3 million in 2015, according to Pew estimates. That represents about 1 percent of the population, about two-thirds of whom are immigrants. Pew projects that to grow to 2.1 percent of the population by 2050, moving past Judaism as the No. 2 religion in the country.
A 2015 study by Pew indicated that the European Muslim population is much larger and growing nearly as fast. The think tank projects Muslims will make up 10 percent of the continent in 2050.
Some hard-liners on Islamic terrorism said such percentages of Muslims in Western nations will exacerbate the cultural rift that has led to more frequent attacks and created enclaves that incubate Islamism. Some experts contend that after reaching about 5 percent of the population, Muslims then begin demanding that nations codify Sharia law in civil codes, with support for jihad growing.
“Even at those lower numbers, you reach a sort of tipping point,” said Clare Lopez, vice president for research and analysis at the Center for Security Policy.
Lopez said terrorist watch-lists then grow beyond a manageable number.
“The security services just can’t keep up,” she said.
Lopez pointed to an interview that Rowan Williamson, the archbishop of Canterbury, gave in 2008 in which he appeared to support the idea of Sharia law. He said that “as a matter of fact, certain provisions of Sharia are already recognized in our society and under our law.”
Lopez also rejected the notion that the United States can avoid Europe’s fate because of its long history of assimilation. Notwithstanding a number of terrorist attacks and foiled terror plots on U.S. soil in recent years, she argued, the only reason why those incidents have not kept pace with Europe is the smaller Muslim population.
“We’re no different than Europe,” he said. “There’s no such thing as assimilation … The only difference between us and Europe is time and numbers.”
The growing Muslim population and terrorism are causing consternation in a number of Western nations. Half or more in Spain, Greece, Poland, Italy and Hungary told pollsters last year that they have negative views of Islam. Even in more tolerant Western and Northern Europe, negative views of Islam ranged from 28 percent to 35 percent.
The feeling is mutual. In a 2011 survey, majorities in Muslim countries associated Westerners with selfishness, violence, greed, immorality and arrogance.
In the United States, views of Muslims have diverged along partisan lines since 2002. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning voters, the share of voters believing just a few or no Muslims in the U.S. have anti-American views declined from 40 percent that year to 29 percent in a poll taken last year.
Democrats and Democratic-leaners had similar views of U.S. Muslims as their Republican counterparts in 2002. But by 2016, 54 percent believed just a few or no Muslims in America held anti-American views.
Lopez said she believes that is the result of a marked change in views by Democratic politicians, who have responded to Islamic lobbying groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Voters, she said, largely take their cues from their leaders.