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World Muslim Population

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pew: World Muslim Population at 1.6 Billion, With Minority in Middle East
October 09, 2009 11:36 AM ET | Dan Gilgoff | Permanent Link | Print

By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

A major new demographic study from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life pegs the world's Muslim population at 1.57 billion. Previous estimates had put the number at anywhere from 1 billion to 1.8 billion.

Americans tend to associate Islam with the Arab Street and Middle East politics, but the study finds that just 20 percent of the global Muslim population resides in the Middle East and North Africa. Sixty percent of Muslims live in Asia.

The Middle East-North Africa region, meanwhile, is home to the highest proportion of Muslim majority nations. "More than half of the 20 countries and territories in that region have populations that are approximately 95 percent Muslim or greater," according to the new report.

Other interesting tidbits:

—Two thirds of the global population lives in these 10 countries: Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, Iran, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco.

—More than 300 million Muslims, or one-fifth of the world's Muslim population, live in countries where Islam is not the majority religion. These minority Muslim populations are often quite large. India, for example, has the third-largest population of Muslims worldwide. China has more Muslims than Syria, while Russia is home to more Muslims than Jordan and Libya combined.

—Of the total Muslim population, 10-13 percent are Shia Muslims and 87-90 percent are Sunni Muslims. Most Shias (between 68 percent and 80 percent) live in just four countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq.

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