New Study Estimates Global Muslim Population at 1.57 Billion

Contact: Loralei Coyle, 202.419.4556 or Robbie Mills, 202.419.4564


Washington, DC - 10/08/2009 - A new, comprehensive study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 1.57 billion Muslims of all ages living in the world today, representing 23% of an estimated 2009 world population of 6.8 billion. Released today by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, Mapping the Global Muslim Population offers the most up-to-date and fully sourced estimates of the size and distribution of the worldwide Muslim population, including sectarian identity.

Key findings include:

  • While Muslims are found on all five inhabited continents, more than 60% of the global Muslim population is in Asia and about 20% is in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • The Middle East-North Africa region has the highest percentage of Muslim-majority countries. More than half of the 20 countries and territories in that region have populations that are approximately 95% Muslim or greater.
  • 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% are Shia Muslims and 87-90% are Sunni Muslims. Most Shias (between 68% and 80%) live in just four countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq.
Previously published estimates of the size of the global Muslim population have ranged widely, from 1 billion to 1.8 billion. The new study is based on the best available data for 232 countries and territories. Pew Forum researchers, in consultation with nearly 50 demographers and social scientists at universities and research centers around the world, analyzed about 1,500 sources, including census reports, demographic studies and general population surveys, to arrive at these figures - the largest project of its kind to date.

The report includes an executive summary, maps and charts illustrating Muslims' geographic distribution, explanations of the study's methodologies and a list of data sources by country. The report is available on the Pew Forum's Web site.

These findings on the world Muslim population lay the foundation for a forthcoming study by the Pew Forum, scheduled to be released in 2010, that will estimate growth rates among Muslim populations worldwide and project Muslim populations into the future. The Pew Forum plans to undertake similar demographic studies of the major global religions in the future.

The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life delivers timely, impartial information on issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs. The Pew Forum is a nonpartisan, nonadvocacy organization and does not take positions on policy debates. Based in Washington, D.C., the Pew Forum is a project of the Pew Research Center, which is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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