Politician slammed over 'more Muslims than Christians in Europe' comments

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and Justice Minister Koen Geens (R) at a meeting with religious leaders in Brussels this month.Reuters

A leading anti-Islamophobia charity has criticised a senior politician's comments on the number of Muslims in Europe as "misleading and irresponsible".

Fiyaz Mughal, director of Tell Mama, told The Independent: "The comments by the Belgian Justice Minister, Koen Geens, are not only misleading, they are irresponsible, given his position and given the fact that he is the Justice Minister in charge of a core ministry.

"He needs to understand that statements like this merely add fuel to the far right and to tensions." 

Geens told the EU Parliament: "In Europe, we will very soon have more practising Muslims than practising Christians." The reason was not "because there are too many Muslims", he said, but because Christians practise their faith less.

Europe had not yet realised this, he added. "But this is the reality."

He said the EU needed to understand the population shift that is taking place, and warned against making all Muslims the enemy.

"That would really cause problems," he said.

Rather, people should look closely to identify terrorists and their supporters.

There are currently between 600,000 and 700,000 Muslims in Belgium.

"The vast majority of them share our values," said Geens.

A European Commission study in 2012 showed that in 2012, more than seven in ten of the EU population were Christians, and just two per cent Muslims. 

Christianity is still the world's largest religion.

However, according to a more recent Pew Research study, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and if present rates continue, the number of Muslims will equal the number of Christians soon after 2050.

The fast growth rate is due to differences in fertility rates, numbers of young people and numbers converting. By 2050, the number of Muslims around the world, 2.8 billion, or 30 per cent of the population, could equal the number of Christians, 2.9 billion, or 31 per cent.

All of the world's major religions are poised for growth in the coming decades with one exception - Buddhism. Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion will make up a declining share of the world's total population, the study showed.