A new demographic study of the future of the world’s religions, which forecasts a continued growth of the Muslim community in this country and abroad, points to the importance of recent initiatives that build coalitions between Jews and Muslims in the U.S.
According to “The Changing Global Religious Landscape,” a 45-page report released this week by the Pew Research Center, the American Jewish community, is likely, within a few decades, to find itself outnumbered by Muslims, who largely take positions hostile to Israel and are blamed for an increase in anti-Semitism in many countries.
“Muslims are projected to be the world’s fastest-growing major religious group in the decades ahead,” the study states. “The relatively young population and high fertility rates of Muslims lead to a projection that between 2030 and 2035, there will be slightly more babies born to Muslims … than to Christians.”
The study comes out at a time when initiatives like the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, the New Jersey-based Syrian Supper Club and the American Jewish Committee’s Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council are building coalitions between the two faiths.
The emerging statistical reality is not “a primary reason” for engaging in such interfaith work, but “reinforces whatever reasons we may have for creating [stronger] relations,” said Steven M. Cohen, research professor of Jewish social policy at Hebrew Union College. The policies of the Trump administration have helped bring the groups closer together, members of each have suggested.
Cohen said the study’s statistical findings — which support previous reports and anecdotal beliefs in the Jewish community — hold little good news for most Jews in this country.
In about 40 years, the study projects, the world’s Jewish population will grow from about 14 million today to 16 million — roughly the pre-Holocaust figure — but remain at 0.2 percent of the world’s total religious population.
The study found that the fastest-growing parts of the community in the U.S. are the Orthodox and the unaffiliated “nones,” and that the size of American Jewry will be surpassed by Israel’s Jewish population in just a few decades.
According to several recent studies, Orthodox Jews are the only fast-growing part of U.S. Jewry’s religiously identified Jewish community, which increases their political and economic strength, Cohen said.
The growth, however, could be a mixed blessing in terms of relations with the soon-to-be-dominant Muslim community. While Orthodox Jews are largely supportive of government support for Israel, a position traditionally opposed by many members of the Islamic community, Orthodox Jews and Muslims “share many interests” involving such concerns as dress codes and kosher-hallal food.