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This claim is based on a 20-year-old anecdote that lacks evidence.
Experts said it’s hard to quantify the number of religious converts from Islam to Christianity. Some people may not announce their faith publicly because of safety concerns. Others just may not formally declare what their religion is, which could leave numbers underreported.
In a 2015 poll of 70 countries based on population data on births and deaths and, where available, estimated rates of religious conversion, the Pew Research Center found that 31% of the world’s population was Christian and 24.1% was Muslim. The Muslim faith was the fastest-growing at the time and was projected to equal the number of Christians by 2060.
Are millions of Muslims converting to Christianity?
That’s what a Facebook user claimed Feb. 20, by sharing a screenshot of a tweet from conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza.
"Muslims by the millions are converting to Christianity," D’Souza wrote in his original Nov. 29, 2021 tweet. "This has never happened before, and the astounding explanation given by many of the converts is that they are seeing dreams and visions of Jesus."
The post, which drew more than 5,800 social media reactions, was flagged on Facebook as part of the social media platform’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
PolitiFact reached out to D’Souza for evidence behind the claim and he pointed to a 2012 article posted on a website called New Age Islam. It said that a person named Sheikh Ahmad Al Katani (also spelled al Qataani in the article), described as president of The Companions Lighthouse for the Science of Islamic Law in Libya, told Al Jazeera in 2001 that 6 million Muslims in Africa were converting to Christianity per year.
The article didn’t say where the cleric got his numbers and said the original interview with Al Jazeera had been removed from the broadcaster’s website. Al Jazeera did not respond to our request for comment, but we found an archived report showing a transcript of a December 2000 Al Jazeera interview. In it, journalist Maher Abdullah interviewed a guest who fit the same description and whose last name was spelled Al-Qatani.
The transcript shows Al-Qatani said that, in Africa, "Every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity, every day 16,000, every year 6 million." He did not cite his sources.
So, this claim’s origins are anecdotal and more than two decades old, but religious experts also said it’s hard to track numbers of religious converts.
Data looking at world religions suggest that the number of people who identify as Muslim is growing faster than any other major religion while Christianity remains the most populous.
The Pew Research Center in 2017 released a report examining religion in 70 countries from 2010 to 2015. It drew its information from population data related to births and deaths and, where available, "estimated rates of religious switching (or conversion) into and out of major religious groups."
About 31% of the world’s 7.3 billion people identified as Christian in 2015, the report found. But the faith was declining in Europe, while the number of Muslims there grew. Muslims comprised about 24.1% of the world’s population at the time and were projected to equal the number of Christians by 2060. In sub-Saharan Africa, both Christian and Islamic populations were projected to grow.
In a separate 2018 report, Pew Research wrote that Christianity was largest in the sub-Saharan regions on the continent, "largely due to high fertility rates."
Conrad Hackett, Pew’s senior demographer and associate director, said the biggest change noted was that a large number of people raised Christian no longer identify with any religion. He said he knew of no data confirming the claim that millions of Muslims were converting to Christianity.
"It is possible that the number of Muslims who have switched to Christianity in some Muslim-majority countries could be underreported in surveys due to social pressures and legal consequences associated with leaving Islam," Hackett said.
Gina Zurlo, co-director at the Center for the Global Study of Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, told PolitiFact that identifying "conversions" in these numbers is difficult because in some parts of the world, people aren’t able to safely share their faith publicly.
"The reason these groups are so hard to quantify is because they’re secret," Zurlo said. "They’re purposefully underground or want to be out of the public discourse. Some of these communities are just downright illegal."
It’s also hard to pinpoint clear statistics on the number of people in a religious group because of the way they may have come into that group, Zurlo said. A person may either have been born into a religion, joined a religion following immigration, or decided to convert.
"We can track the growth and decline of religion in every country, but it’s also difficult to pinpoint which of these factors is the most prominent — is it birth, is it immigration, or is it conversion?" Zurlo said.
Hackett said there’s just no formal reporting process when people change their faith affiliation.
"All kinds of patterns of religious switching take place — people leave and join various groups, and sometimes this involves formal processes but often it’s primarily a change in how people think about who they are that doesn’t involve formal registration or renunciation," Hackett said.
Neither Hackett nor Zurlo said they had seen reports of large-scale conversions from Islam to Christianity.
A recent Facebook post garnered thousands of interactions when it reshared D’Souza’s 2021 claim that "Muslims by the millions are converting to Christianity."
As evidence, D’Souza pointed us to a 2012 article that documented a conversation said to have taken place in 2001 in which a Muslim cleric told an Al Jazeera journalist that 6 millions Muslims were converting to Christianity in Africa every year. We found a transcript of a 2000 Al Jazeera interview that fit the description, but the cleric cited no source for that number.
Pew data from 2015 showed Christianity remains the dominant world religion based on population and that Islam was the fastest-growing, projected to be on par with Christianity by 2060. Pew based its findings on population data related to births and deaths and "estimated rates of religious switching" where available.
In a separate report from 2018, Pew wrote that Christianity was largest in sub-Saharan Africa, "largely due to high fertility rates." It did not mention conversions.
Religious and demographics experts said a lack of reliable data makes it hard to know the true number of religious conversions.
Without clear data to support this claim and data showing that Islam is the fastest-growing major world religion, we rate the statement False.
PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report
Facebook post, Feb. 20, 2023
New Age Islam, Six Million Muslims Convert To Christianity in Africa Alone Each Year, Dec. 14, 2012
YouTube Interview, June 24, 2009
Brill, Chapter 1 The World by Religion, in the Yearbook of International Religious Demography 2017, accessed March 1, 2023
Pew Research Center, Christians remain world’s largest religious group, but they are declining in Europe, April 5, 2017
Pew Research Center, The Changing Global Religious Landscape, April 5, 2017
Pew Research Center, The world’s most committed Christians live in Africa, Latin America – and the U.S. Aug. 22, 2018
Interview with Dinesh D’Souza, Feb. 26-27, 2023
Interview with Gina Zurlo, co-director at the Center for the Global Study of Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Feb. 27, 2023
Interview with Conrad Hackett, Senior Demographer and Associate Director at Pew Research Center, Feb. 27, 2023
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