Muslims account for one in four of the world’s population – 1.57 billion people – a new study estimates. The figure is higher than researchers expected.
After spending three years researching data from 232 countries and territories, the authors of Mapping the Global Muslim Population say it is the most comprehensive study of its kind.
They compiled their estimated figure after analysing approximately 1,500 sources, including census reports, demographic studies and general population surveys.
The data revealed that Europe is home to 38 million Muslims, around 5 per cent of its population.
European Muslims account for 2.4 per cent of the worldwide Muslim population. Some 60 per cent of the world’s Muslims live in Asia and 20 per cent in North Africa and the Middle East.
Britain’s 1.65 million Muslims make up 2.7 per cent of the UK population and 0.1 per cent of the global Muslim population, the report said.
More than 300 million Muslims live in countries where Islam is not the majority religion.
The study estimates that 87-90 per cent of the world total are Sunni Muslims, with the remainder Shia Muslims.
Senior researcher Brian Grim told CNN News: “Overall, the number is higher than I expected.”
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a US think-tank, intend to build on their findings by conducting a study of how worldwide Muslim populations have grown and what they may look like in the future.
Maha Azzam, an associate fellow of Chatham House and an expert on Islam, said: “The sheer scale of the world’s Muslim population and its spread should encourage people to ask more questions about why so many people are Muslims and what they really believe.”
Earlier this year figures from the Pew Forum showed that European Union countries including Britain can expect to see a large increase in the Muslim population by the middle of the 21st century.
It was estimated that increasing levels of immigration from Muslim countries and low birth rates among Europeans could bring the EU’s Muslim population up to 20 per cent by 2050.
One newspaper commentator called the situation a “demographic time bomb”.
In February a survey found that 97 per cent of imams in British mosques were from overseas, with 92 per cent educated abroad, largely in Pakistan or Bangladesh.
The survey was carried out by the Quilliam Foundation, a Muslim group which seeks to combat Islamic extremism.