Christians are the most numerous religious group in the world, according to the new Pew Report on global religions. Most Americans know that fact. But what is the world’s second largest religious group? It’s Islam. Again, many Americans know that ranking, as well.
Muslims are the second most numerous, accounting for 23.2% of the world’s population. The 1.6 billion Muslims in the world are divided into two major branches: Sunni and Shia. Most Muslims are Sunnis, about 87% to 90% of all Muslims; about 10% to 13% are Shia.
What surprises Americans is the unexpected shape of the Muslim world map. Like Christianity, the influence of Islam spread well beyond its origin in the Middle East. Today, the biggest concentration of Muslims resides in the Asia-Pacific region. Almost 1 billion Muslims live in this area. Muslims account for 24% of the population in that region. Indonesia has more Muslims than any other nation. But when was the last time you saw a news story about Islam in Indonesia? Americans are far more familiar with Islamic populations in northern Africa and the Middle East.
Unlike Christianity, Muslims are still concentrated in the region of the religion’s birth. After the Asia-Pacific region, the next highest concentration, over 300 million, is the Middle East and North Africa. This is followed by Sub-Saharan Africa, with 248 million Muslims.
Europe has about 43.5 million Muslims, followed by North America with about 3.5 million. Latin America and the Caribbean have the fewest Muslims of any region, an estimated 840,000.
If you’re just joining us this week, you might want to jump back and read yesterday’s story about the dramatic changes in the Christian world map throughout that religion’s history.
What do these maps of world religion tell us about geopolitics?
Do you think Islam will continue to migrate around the world?
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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an experiment in civil dialogue about American values.