A new study has found out that the number of babies born to Muslim women worldwide will surpass the number of Christian births within the next two decades. Pew Research Center predicts that Islam could become the largest faith by the end of the century. Notably, Islam is already the world’s fastest-growing religion. Between 2015 and 2060, the global Muslim population is expected to grow by 70 per cent, while Christianity is projected to grow by 34 per cent — at which point, the two religions will have similar numbers. The Muslim Total Fertility Rate is, as expected, higher than that for Hindus and Christian. However, when we segment the population socio-economically, we see that Muslims manage to be better off than people without any education or the poorest fifth of India’s population by wealth. Albeit, Christians accounted for 33 per cent of global births in recent years — slightly more than Muslim births — they also accounted for 37 per cent of worldwide deaths, nearly twice the share of deaths from other religions.
Between 2015 and 2060, the global Muslim population is expected to grow by 70 per cent, while Christianity is projected to grow by 34 per cent — at which point, the two religions will have similar numbers. Researchers say migration is among factors helping to increase the Muslim population in some regions, including North America and Europe. While Christianity remained the largest religious group globally in 2015 – comprising almost a third (31 per cent) of the world’s 7.3 billion people – its number is in decline in Europe. Clearly then, economic and educational factors seem to the major driver at play here.
If we look at our country, then the Indian Muslims never bother about rising or falling growth of their population as they live their lives peacefully here, maintaining an amicable bond with the people of all sections and religions. We are brothers living in the country, which has unity in the diversity. Our flag doesn’t highlight a certain religion. People might have exaggerated the Muslim growth but it cannot be denied that most Muslims have larger families than others and many Bangladeshis too migrate to east India.
Rather the recent study revealed that the India’s Muslim population is growing slower than it had in the previous decades, and its growth rate has slowed more sharply than that of the Hindu population, new Census data show. The decadal Muslim rate of growth is the lowest it has ever been in India’s history, as it is for all religions. India now has 966.3 million Hindus, who make up 79.8 per cent of its population, and 172.2 million Muslims, who make up 14.23 per cent. Among the other minorities, Christians make up 2.3 per cent of the population and Sikhs 1.72 per cent. The Registrar-General and Census Commissioner released the data on Population by Religious Communities of Census 2011. The distribution of data is of the total population by six major religious communities — Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain.
However, Muslim fertility rates in India are falling faster than among Hindus, Pew Research’s Future of World Religions report showed recently, and the Muslim community is expected to reach replacement levels of fertility by 2050. The population of both communities grew faster during the previous decade, at 19.92 per cent and 29.52 per cent, respectively.
The sex ratio among Muslims now stands at 951 females for every 1,000 males, substantially better than 936 in 2001, while among Hindus, it is 939 females for every 1,000 males, a slight improvement over the 2001 value of 931. J&K remains the State with the largest Muslim population as a proportion (68.31 per cent) and saw the largest increase in the Muslim proportion between 2001 and 2011, followed by Uttarakhand and Kerala.
Fears of a rising Muslim population numerically overwhelming India’s Hindu majority seem alarmist. Indeed, if the growth rates trends seen from the latest census data sustain, Muslims may actually account for a lower proportion of India’s population than at their peak in 2011.
The 2011 census puts the Muslim population at 17.22 crore or 14.22% of India’s total population. Some see the Hindu majority falling below the 80% mark as a cause for concern. However, this ignores the fact that growth in Muslim population is actually falling faster than the Hindu population growth rate. Assuming that the growth rate pattern from 2001-2011, which has been used to suggest that Hindus are somehow falling behind, will persist. Population growth is calculated using an exponential growth rate. The Hindu growth rate is 1.55% annually, while Muslims’ is 2.2%. The figures for the previous decade (1991-2001) are an annual 1.8% and 2.6%, respectively. If this decline in growth rates persists (both continue to grow at slower rates), both Hindu and Muslim populations will hit a peak in 2061.
Then, Muslims will number 29.24 crore and Hindus 140.25 crore. India’s overall population at the time would be 173.03 crore with the Muslim proportion at 16.89%. Hindus will actually account for 81.06% at that time. The Hindu population will stabilize in 2071 at 139.43 crore. However, Muslims will account for 91.68 crore of the population or 39.21%. It will be by 2091 that Muslims will outnumber Hindus in India if the growth rate increases. However, for that pattern to persist, Muslim population will have to grow to 182.91 crore and the Muslim exponential growth rate at that point comes to be over 3.54%.
A 2007 Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report argued that some Muslim population projections are overestimated, as they assume that all descendants of Muslims will become Muslims even in cases of mixed parenthood.
Indeed, Muslim population growth rates are higher than the corresponding figure for the Hindu community. If one were to accept that the leaked figures from the 2011 Census are accurate, Hindus grew at an average annual rate of 1.4% between 2001 and 2011. For Muslims, the corresponding figure was 2.2%. If we assume both communities continue to grow at this rate, Muslims will catch up with Hindus by 2220 ‒ in around 200 years. Accepting these growth rates, at the time Muslims outnumber Hindus, India’s population will be 3,264 crore.
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