Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
July 31, 2001 | C, Delinda
MAJOR SURVEY OF AMERICAN MOSQUES RELEASED
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released a major study of Islam in America on April 26 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The report, called “The Mosque in America: A National Portrait,” is the result of in-depth interviews with randomly chosen representatives from 1,209 American mosques. The study of the U.S. Muslim community indicates that the number of mosques grew by 25 percent in the past seven years. CAIR executive director Nihad Awad told reporters that mosques are becoming dynamic centers for social and political mobilization.
“The Mosque in America” is part of a larger study of American congregations called “Faith Communities Today” coordinated by Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religious Research. Muslim organizations sponsoring the report included CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed, and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).
“The overall message is that Muslims are going to be a player on the American scene,” said Ihsan Bagby, an international studies professor at Shaw University in Raleigh, NC, and the study’s lead researcher. “Their presence is not going away. It is going to continue to become stronger and more vocal.”
Community leaders agree that Muslims should be more involved in the political process. According to the survey, 89 percent of mosque leaders believe that Muslims should be more involved in the political process.
The study also shows the Muslim faith is racially diverse: the average mosque is 33 percent South Asian, 30 percent African American and 25 percent Arab, according to the study. There is a significant population of Indian, Pakistani, Bengali and African-American Muslims, as well as Caucasian American converts.
Victor Begg, who founded the local Muslim Citizens Grass Roots Political Committee, said the group wasn’t fully united when it endorsed George W. Bush for president last year. Nationally, about 72 percent of Muslims voted for Bush. However, African-American Muslims generally voted for Al Gore, and some Muslims voted for Ralph Nader, who is of Lebanese descent. But Begg said the group is going to continue to organize and is already preparing for the next election. “I can only say that we are going to do better four years from now.”
Awad added that Muslims are having a positive impact on American society. “Muslims believe that by involvement with the larger society, they can do service to America,” he said, citing last year’s American Muslim voter registration drive and increased turnout by Muslim voters.
Look for new voices in schools, workplaces and voting booths, says David Roozen of the Hartford Seminary: “Increasingly, they are going to be claiming a place in the public square. They still see themselves as an `out’ group rather than a `core’ group in American life right now, but that is going to change as they move into positions where they can assert their heritage.”
It’s a red-white-and-blue pattern in American history as each immigrant group has developed a congregational, organizational life different from their home countries, Roozen remarked. Their houses of worship are “more than just houses of prayer, but they are centers for a whole range of fellowship and community programs, just as the German Lutherans, the Irish and Italian Catholic and the Dutch Reform congregations had centuries before.”
Some of the survey’s other interesting results:
On average, there are more than 1,625 Muslims associated in some way with the religious life of each mosque. The average attendance at Friday prayer is 292 worshippers. Some 2 million American Muslims are associated with a mosque.
Report findings support conservative estimates of a total American Muslim population of 7 million.
The number of participants at more than 75 percent of mosques has increased during the past five years. Growth is witnessed across the board, but suburban mosques have experienced the greatest increases.
Conversion rates are steady. On average nearly 30 percent of mosque participants are converts. The average mosque has 16 conversions per year.
Mosques are relatively young: 30 percent of all mosques were established in the 1990s and 32 percent were founded in the 1980s.
Four-fifths of mosques are located in a metropolitan area, most often a city neighborhood.
Almost 70 percent of mosques provide some type of assistance for the needy.
More than 20 percent of mosques have a full-time school.
–Delinda C. Hanley
Major Survey of American Mosques Released
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs