Islam may be most closely associated with the Middle East, where it emerged in Arabia in the seventh century, but today the region is home to only one in five of the world’s Muslims, according to a study of the religion’s global distribution conducted by the Pew Forum.
Europe is home to about 38 million Muslims, or about five per cent of its population. Germany appears to have more than 4 million Muslims – almost as many as North and South America combined. In France, where tensions have run high over an influx of Muslim immigrant labourers, the overall numbers were lower but a larger percentage of the population is Muslim. Of roughly 4.6 million Muslims in the Americas, more than half live in the United States although they only make up 0.8 percent of the population there. About 700,000 people in Canada are Muslim, or about two percent of the total population.
The top five Muslim countries in the world include only one in the Middle East Egypt behind Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, in that order. Russia, the survey shows, has more Muslims than the populations of Libya and Jordan combined. Germany has more Muslims than Lebanon. China has a bigger Muslim population than Syria.
Thousands of Spaniards, especially academics, intellectuals, and anti-globalization activists are finding solace in Islam. “Embracing Islam is on the rise despite ferocious Western media campaigns,” Abdul-Nour Brado, the head of the Islamic Society of Catalonia. It is estimated that three to four thousand Catalonians have accepted Islam recently, with some suggesting that the numbers are even higher. No specific reasons have been cited concerning the spike in Islamic practice, but leaders of various Spanish Islamic societies cite the trend as a global one, and not just limited to Spain. Nevertheless, there are differences that can be seen among these “new Muslims,” such as where they choose to attend prayers. Overall, the differences are welcomed as a positive sign for living in a democratic country.
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Dutch author Leon de Winter talks with SPIEGEL about his new novel, which is set in 2024, the threats mounting against Israel and the assimilation of Muslims in Europe.
SPIEGEL: Mr. de Winter, your new book — “The Right of Return” — is a novel, but it actually describes a political vision. In the book, it is the year 2024, and Israel has shrunk to just a few square kilometers around Tel Aviv, which is surrounded by enemies. Are you simply playing with some ideas here or is this a serious prediction?
Leon de Winter: Both. Israel is menaced by two threats. On the one hand, by the hatred of its enemies, which today is primarily stirred up by Iran, and on the other hand, by the erosion spreading throughout Israeli society. There are three groups that have little in common: the Orthodox Jews, the Israeli Arabs and the secular Jews, who currently make up the majority of the population. But this majority is dwindling. The conflict between these three lifestyles is every bit as much of a threat — if not even more dangerous — to the existence of Israel as its outside menaces […]