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Mosques in America growing at exponential rate

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 4th, 2012
Catholic Online (

Mosques, Islamic houses of worship, have become an increasingly common sight in post - 9/11 America. Congressional hearings on radicalization and campaigns against their construction projects have all failed to slow the tide. Nine hundred mosques have been built in the U.S. since the year 2000. According to recent surveys, fewer Muslims see America as "hostile" to Islam today.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The nation's largest Islamic groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America and the Islamic Circle of America responded to a survey that asked hundreds of mosque leaders about the demographics, along with their theological and political leanings of their congregation.

A survey has revealed 2,106 mosques in the United States, mostly located in or around big cities, with New York state and California alone having 503 mosques.

As more Americans have moved to the suburbs, so has the growth of new mosques. While most U.S. mosques have historically been established by South Asian immigrants, the study found that newer groups such as Somalis, Iraqis, West Africans and Bosnians have began to establish their own mosques since 2000.

"The continued growth of the community is amazing," Ihsan Bagby, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky says. Bagby was the primary researcher of the study. "It's remarkable the amount of mosques that have been built in the last 10 years. It's kind of counter-intuitive to factors working against them."

Bagby and his colleagues counted Sunni and Shiite mosques, which represent the two main Islamic denominations. Other Muslim groups, such as those on university campuses, do not have permanent spaces, so only those with a physical building or permanent room that they control were counted. Mosques also had to hold services on Fridays to be included in the survey, as Friday is the main Islamic congregational prayer day.

More than 98 percent of mosque leaders surveyed believed that Muslims should be involved in American society, while 91 percent said that Muslims should be involved in politics. The survey also found that 87 percent of mosque leaders disagree that radicalism is increasing among young Muslims.

The majority of Mosque leader, about 56 percent said they believe in a flexible interpretation of the Quran and the Sunnah, or the way the Islamic prophet Muhammad practiced the religion that isn't always literal and takes into account modern life.

In the previous survey, conducted a year before 9/11, a majority of mosque leaders, or 54 percent thought America was hostile toward Islam. Today, only a quarter of those surveyed said they feel that way.

Below are some findings of "The American Mosque 2011: Basic Characteristics of the American Mosque, Attitudes of Mosque Leaders."

* The average number membership of an American mosque was 1,248 in 2011, which counts Muslims who at least pray for Eid-al-Fitr, one of two major holidays, at the mosque. That's down from 1,625 in 2000 and is likely because of a growth in the number of mosques.

* The total number of mosque participants or "mosqued Muslims" has increased from 2 million in 2000 to over 2.6 million Muslims in 2011. In his study, Bagby writes that "if there are 2.6 million Muslims who pray the Eid prayer, then the total Muslim population should be closer to estimates of up to 7 million." That contrasts with other surveys, such as a 2010 one by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which said there were 2.6 million Muslims in the country. A Pew report from last year said there were 2.75 million Muslims.

* Seventy-six percent of mosques were established since 1980.

* Shiite mosques are growing. Around 44 percent of all Shiite mosques were established in the 1990s. Approximately 7 percent of mosques identified themselves as Shiite and 37 percent of those are in the West, especially California. Most Shiites at American mosques are South Asians, Arabs and Iranians.

* A minority of mosques (3 percent) have just one ethnic group that attends. South Asians, Arab-Americans and African-Americans are dominant ethnic groups among mosque members, but significant numbers of Somalis, West Africans and Iraqis now worship at mosques nationwide.

* The number of mosques in urban areas is decreasing, while the number of mosques in suburban areas is increasing. In 2011, 28 percent of mosques were located in suburbs, up from 16 percent in 2000.

* The conversion rate per mosque has remained steady over the past two decades. In 2011, the average number of converts per mosque was 15.3. In 2000 the average was 16.3 converts per mosque.

* The average Friday prayer attendance was 353 compared to 292 in 2000.


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