In January 2012, Gatestone Institute, an international policy council and think tank, reported that more than one hundred thousand converts to Islam reside in the UK alone. France is rapidly catching up with its neighbor, listing some 70,000 new adherents of the religion; with Spain and Germany also witnessing a wave of conversions as 50,000 and 20,000 people (respectively) adopted Islam in the past several years.
Hailed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's fastest growing religion, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life backs this fact with impressive statistics.
Currently counting some 1.6 billion people worldwide, the population of Muslims is expected to increase by about 35% in the next 20 years, totaling 2.2 billion by 2030. In twenty years’ time, experts estimated, the US will be home to some 6.2 million Muslims (compared to 2.6 million in 2010), whereas Europe will have 58.2 million, up from 44.1 million.
Yet the report concluded that the expected growth is explained primarily by high fertility rates among Muslims, immigration to the Americas and Europe, as well as an increase in life expectancy rather than conversion.
Nevertheless, despite the noteworthy statistics, Islam’s spread pales in significance when compared to the numbers leaving the religion for Christianity.
The issue was first raised in 2003 by Qatar’s news channel Al-Jazeera, which aired an interview with Sheikh Ahmad Al Katani, the president of The Companions Lighthouse for the Science of Islamic Law, a Muslim preacher-training center in Libya. “Every year, 6 million Muslims become Christians [in Africa alone],” said the man, believed to be an expert on evangelization and Christianization. “What used to be a majority religion is now turning into minority,” complained the cleric, pointing a blaming finger at the western missionaries, who take advantage of people’s poverty and ignorance to lure them into a new religion.
Though his number may be exaggerated, it is consistent with the general trend. A study published in 2010 by the Pew Forum established that Christians outnumber Muslims by 2 to 1, with the number of adherents to Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa growing from seven million in 1900 to 470 million today.
In a bid to explain the phenomenon, the World Christian Encyclopedia claimed Christianity received about 2,883,011 converts between 1990 and 2000. But Pew’s study arrived at a different conclusion. The survey, conducted in 19 nations in sub-Saharan Africa in 2009, showed that “neither Christianity, nor Islam was growing significantly at the expense of the other through religious conversions.” The study emphasized that “there was no substantial net gain or loss in the number of adherents to Islam globally.”
At the same time, as more Muslims choose Christianity as their adopted belief system, some experts wonder about the causes underlying this phenomenon.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part II of this story