This is a weekly post by Nidhal Guessoum (see his earlier posts here). Nidhal is an astrophysicist and Professor of Physics at American University of Sharjah and is the author of Islam's Quantum Question: Reconciling Muslim Tradition and Modern Science.
In January 2011, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (PFRPL) released a report on ‘The Future of the Global Muslim Population’. In it, PFRPL looks at demographic trends in 44 Muslim-majority countries and considers the importance of various factors, such as: levels of education (of women), economic well-being (GDP per capita), contraception and family planning, etc.
In July 2010, I had written a post here at Irtiqa on the ‘Population Explosion in the Muslim World’ using World Bank statistics, from which I stressed the doubling of populations over the past 30 years in large and important countries like Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, and Malaysia, and the tripling of Saudi Arabia’s population in the past 30 years.
In that piece I also cited some interesting statistics provided by the World Bank regarding the usage of contraceptives in various countries. And I discussed the question of birth control and Islam.
This PFRPL report first puts the global Muslim population’s growth in perspective, noting that in 1990 it totaled 1.1 billion, thus representing 19.9 % of the world’s population), in 2010 it was 1.6 billion (23.4 %), and in 2030 it will be 2.2 billion (26.4 %).
It also notes that while today Indonesia (with about 205 million people) is the largest Muslim-majority country, followed by Pakistan with some 180 million, in 20 years Pakistan will have largely overtaken Indonesia with 256 million compared with 239 million, and Afghanistan and Iraq will have climbed to the top 10 list (of Muslim-majority countries) with 50 and 48 million people, respectively (a rather scary prospect, if you ask me).
An interesting section of the report presented the state of contraception and abortion in Muslim countries.
First, a comparison of birth-control usage rates is given between Muslim-majority countries and non-Muslim countries, the latter group being divided into “less developed” and “more developed”. Here’s the data table presenting the percentages of married women (ages 15 to 49) using some form of birth control:
Interestingly, the two Muslim countries where birth control is used most are Iran (73 %) and Turkey (71 %), much higher than the world average of 61.3 % and about the same as in the USA (73 %).
Even more interesting is the section dealing with abortion. The report notes that:
Many Muslim-majority countries do not collect or do not publish data on the frequency of abortions. The partial data that are available do not allow for reliable comparisons of abortion rates in Muslim-majority countries with abortion rates in other countries. However, many Muslim-majority countries either forbid abortions or allow them only under tight restrictions.
The report then gives a neat table summarizing the abortion laws in Muslim-majority countries:
The spectrum of attitudes, policies, and laws in the Muslim world is fascinating on this (contraception and abortion) issue as on many others.