Europe's Muslim Population May Double by 2050 Even Without Refugees, Study Says

A Muslim woman wearing a Hijab stands in the waters in the Mediterranean Sea. Reuters

Europe’s Muslim population will likely double by 2050 even if European countries stop accepting refugees, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

There were an estimated 28.8 million Muslims in Europe as of mid-2016, around 4.9 percent of the overall population. If all refugee flows to Europe stopped immediately but regular migration continued, the number of Muslims in Europe would reach 11.2 percent over the next 32 years, the study found.

“This is because Muslims are younger (by 13 years) on average, and have higher fertility (one child more per woman) on average, than other Europeans,” the study concluded

Over the last several years, Europe has experienced a record influx of refugees and asylum seekers from Muslim-majority countries, as people have fled violence and poverty in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

This influx of newcomers has affected national politics, sparked debate about European culture and identity, and led to a wave of racist and xenophobic backlash from within Europe. Anti-refugee backlash has led to the emergence of far-right political movements like Pegida in Germany and the Netherlands, and to the formation of extremist groups like Generation Identity, which became famous for attempting (and failing) to prevent refugees from landing on European soil. 

These groups believe that Europe's white, Christian culture is under threat from a Muslim invasion. These fears have also spread across the Atlantic into the United States, where Muslims make up 1 percent of the population. Just this week, President Donald Trump re-tweeted falsified videos from the far-right group Britain First that claimed to depict Muslims abusing Europeans.  

When asked why the president shared a fake video, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Muslim threat is real even if the videos are not. In this context, the Pew study provides much-needed data to demonstrate that the fear of a Muslim takeover is based on little more than myth.

The Pew Study outlined three predictions for what could happen to Europe’s Muslim population over the coming years.

If, for example, the record flow of refugees into Europe continued with the same religious composition, and if regular migration also continued, Muslims would make up around 14 percent of Europe’s population by 2050, around three times the current number.

Halting migration completely wouldn’t stop the Muslim population from growing, the study determined. 

“If all migration into Europe were to immediately and permanently stop – a 'zero migration' scenario – the Muslim population of Europe still would be expected to rise from the current level of 4.9% to 7.4% by the year 2050,” the study concluded.

But even if the number of Muslims triples over the next 32 years, Muslims will still be a small minority compared to Europe’s Christians. Almost half of all recent migrants to Europe were non-Muslim, with Christians making up the second largest group. 

The study’s authors were also quick to point out that these numbers are only estimates.

“Predicting future migration levels is impossible, because migration rates are connected not only to political and economic conditions outside of Europe, but also to the changing economic situation and government policies within Europe,” according to the study. 

France has the highest percentage of Muslim residents in Europe, with Muslims making up around 8.8 percent of the population. 

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