Around the World
Muslim individuals and communities are found virtually around the globe: in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, North America, South America, and Oceania. The largest concentrations of Muslims are found in Asia and Africa, with sizable minority communities all around the world.
A Growing Religion
There are an estimated 1.2 billion Muslims in the world today, approximately one-fifth of the world's population, making Islam the second-largest faith community after Christianity. Furthermore, due to birth and conversion rates, Islam is widely considered to be the fastest growing religion in the world today.
Today, there are several dozen nations that have majority Muslim populations or governments. The Organization of Islamic Conference, founded in 1969, includes fifty-seven member states that have pledged mutual cooperation and security. The organization has also forged partnerships with the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the International Committee of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. These predominantly Muslim countries are mostly found throughout Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East.
When Columbus made his historic voyage, he relied on the maps and geography studies done by a twelfth-century Arab scholar, Al-Idrisi. There are even reports that Columbus wrote in his diary about a mosque-like building on the top of a mountain near Gibara, Cuba.
While Islam is often associated with the Arab world, fewer than 15 percent of the world's Muslims are in fact Arab. The country with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia. Muslim nations vary widely in their government, social practices, and geographic location. There are Muslim tropical islands such as Brunei and the Comoros Islands, and arid desert nations such as Mauritania and Saudi Arabia. Muslim countries are most often organized as republics, but democracies and monarchies exist as well.
Beyond a shared faith, many Muslim populations have very little in common culturally, and it's impossible to generalize about a “typical” Muslim country or people. In addition to predominantly Muslim countries, there are sizable Muslim minority communities to be found throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. In fact, the Muslim minority community in China is far larger than the Muslim minority population of the Americas and Europe combined.