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Pew: Muslims Will Be Largest World Religion by End of Century

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and will surpass Christianity as the largest religion by the end of the century, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

Islam’s global growth results from two simple demographic factors: age and birthrate. Muslims are the youngest of all major religions in the world, with a median age of only 23, compared to the combined median age of 30 for all other world religions. This means that more Muslims are currently, or soon will be, at the age of childbearing compared with significantly more non-Muslims who have passed this period of their lives.

Second, the birthrate among Muslims is notably higher than that among non-Muslims. Whereas non-Muslim women have a combined average of 2.3 children, Muslim women have 35% more children on average, or 3.1 children each.

The study also pointed out that migration is currently shifting the make-up of the populations of many nations. Both North America and Europe are experiencing significant growth of Islam both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the population because of the combined effect of birthrate and Muslim immigration. The Pew Center estimates that Europe’s population will be 10% Muslim by 2050.

The survey found that a substantial majority of Muslims in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia favor the adoption of Sharia law as the official law of the land.

Significant minorities of Muslims in Turkey, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian territories believe that suicide bombings in defense of Islam are “often or sometimes justified.” In the case of Afghan and Palestinian Muslims, more than one in three supports suicide bombing, with respective percentages of 39% and 40% in favor.

Among citizens of European nations, those who view Islam most favorably are the British, of whom 72% hold a positive view of Muslims. On the other end of the spectrum are the Italians, with 61% holding an unfavorable view of Muslims.

Among all European nations, the Italians have been exceptionally efficient in thwarting Islamist terrorist attacks, without a single death to Muslim terrorists occurring on Italian soil. This has led one notable military analyst to put Italy forward as a model of counterterrorism for the world.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome

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