Grand Mosque of Paris. Photo: AFP
France's Muslim population has greatly increased in recent years.
This is partly down to a record number of people seeking asylum in Europe as they flee conflicts in Syria and other predominantly Muslim countries, but mainly due to normal migration from Muslim countries.
Between mid-2010 and mid-2016, France received more than half a million Muslim migrants. Most of these were regular migrants rather than asylum seekers, according to the report by respected American think-tank Pew Research Centre which calls itself “non-partisan”.
During this time, France also accepted a total of 80,000 refugees, most of whom were Muslim.
Pew's new study looking at how this is likely to change Europe's population predicts what it could mean for the future make up of France according to three possible scenarios.
The first considers how France's Muslim population would be impacted by 2050 if migration stops altogether.
If arrivals halted altogether, France — which was home to an estimated 5.7 million Muslims (8.8 percent of the population) in 2016 according to the report — would continue to have Europe's largest Muslim community.
Pew predicts the figure would rise to 8.6 million or 12.7 percent of the population.
“Those countries with Muslim populations that are especially young, or have a relatively large number of children, like France, as well as Italy and Belgium, would see the most significant change in the zero migration scenario,” reveals the report.
“Medium” and “high” migration scenarios
The second scenario looks at a “medium migration scenario”, that is to say if regular migration continues in the future but there are no more asylum seekers.
If this is the case, France would be surpassed by the United Kingdom as the country in Europe with the highest population of people who identify themselves as Muslims.
This would see France with a Muslim population of 12.6 million in 2050 or 17.4 percent of the population, compared to 8.5 million in Germany and 13 million Muslims in the UK (17.4 percent), says the report.
“This is because the UK was the top destination country for regular Muslim migrants as opposed to refugees,” the report said.
“Both France and the UK are expected to be roughly 17 percent Muslim by 2050 in the medium scenario, several percentage points higher than they would be if all future migration were to stop.”
Meanwhile in the third category, which “assumes that the current refugee flows will continue in the coming decades, not only at the same volume but also with the same religious composition”, France would have a Muslim population of 13.2 million, making up 18 percent of the population by 2050.
In this “high scenario”, Germany would be home to 17.5 million Muslims by 2050, by far the highest number of Muslims in Europe.
Overall, Muslims could make up over 11 percent of Europe's population in the coming decades, compared with just under 5 percent currently, if legal migration levels are maintained, the US-based think tank said.
In December 2016, The Local reported that the French are one of the worst nations in the world for overestimating the Muslim population in their country, according to a study by market research company Ipsos Mori.
French people reckoned that 31 percent of the population was Muslim, when the real figure according to Pew research in 2010 was 7.5 percent.