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Wind of (Demographic) Change: Europe's Muslim Population Set to Triple by 2050

© Photo : PixabayGermany, Turkey
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A new report by US nonpartisan think tank Pew Research Center projects a dramatic rise in the Muslim population in many Western European countries over the next several decades, from about 5% of the continent now to up to 14% by 2050.

Amid growing concerns over the dramatic demographic implications of the rise in the number of refugees and migrants from predominantly Muslim countries in recent years, Pew modeled three different possible scenarios to project the rise of the Muslim population. 

Defining Europe as the 28 countries of the EU plus Norway and Switzerland, and estimating its present Muslim population at about 25.8 million people (or 4.9% of the total population), the think tank concluded that even if all Muslim migration into Europe were immediately halted, the continent's Muslim population would still rise by nearly 33% (to 7.4%) in just over a generation.

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Given the trends observed in the last five years, this 'zero migration' scenario seems unlikely. The continent's Muslim population has grown by over 20%, or 6.3 million people, since 2010.

Pew's 'medium' migration model assumes the halt in refugee flows as of mid-2016, but a continuation of 'regular' migration. In this scenario, Muslims are expected to reach 11.2% of Europe's population by 2050.

Finally, the 'high' projection assumes the continuation of large flows of refugees from Muslim-majority countries to complement those coming in under ordinary migration procedures. In this scenario, Muslims will make up an estimated 14% of the continent's population in the space of 33 years, nearly tripling their current share of the population.

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Attempting to soothe readers, Pew stresses that the refugee flows of recent years are extraordinarily high compared with the historical average, and that these have begun to decline amid changes in the migration policy of many European countries. The think tank nevertheless admits that even the 'zero' migration scenario will still result in considerable growth, and that Europe's non-Muslim population is projected to decline, in every scenario.

'East West Divide'

Among the most astonishing aspects of Pew's research are its predictions regarding the geographical location of this migration. Under Pew's 'high' migration scenario, Muslims could make up 30.6% of the population of Sweden, 19.9% of that of Austria, 19.7% of that of Germany, 18% of that of France, 17.2% of that of the UK, 18.2% of that of Belgium, 17% of that of Norway, 16% of that of Denmark, 15.2% of that of the Netherlands, and 14.1% of that of Italy.

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Eastern Europe, meanwhile, is projected to have a low Muslim population of no more than 4.5% in any one country, with the exception of Bulgaria, where Muslims already comprise over 10% of the population, for historical reasons.

Even under its 'high' migration scenario, Pew projects a Muslim population of 4.5% of the total population for Hungary, 1.2% for the Czech Republic, 1% for Estonia, 0.9% for Romania, 0.7% for Slovakia, 0.4% for Latvia, and 0.2% for Lithuania and Poland. In Western Europe, only Ireland (4.4%) and Portugal (2.5%) come close to these projections.

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