New study finds significant growth in number of mosques and mosque participants
By Rida Fozi
Washington D.C. (February 29, 2012) – The number of mosques continues to rise in the United States. A recent report conducted by a group of major American Muslim organizations and academic institutions reveals mosques counted across the country in 2011 totaled to 2,106, more than double the number of mosques in 1994, and mosque participants increased from 2 million in 2000 to 2.6 million in 2011.
The report, entitled “The American Mosque 2011: Basic Characteristics of the American Mosque, Attitudes of Mosque Leaders” is part of the larger U.S. Mosque Survey 2011. The survey was conducted by Dr. Ihsan Bagby, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky, and sponsored by numerous prominent organizations including the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).
The report presents the picture of a thriving institution, noting that the majority of mosque growth occurred in the past decade, with a 74% increase from 2000 to 2011. Dr. Zahid Bukhari, President of ICNA and member of the survey’s research committee pointed out that much of the increase in mosque numbers occurred in suburbs and particularly in the western and southern regions of the United States, with a 109% and 128% growth, respectively. New York had the largest number of mosques, followed by California and Texas.
“The number of mosques has increased despite Islamophobia spread by right wing groups and certain religious and political leaders,” says Bukhari. “This growth in spite of bigotry also reveals the persistence of the Muslim community and inherent fairness of the American system.”
Bukhari also points out that the data collected through this study indicates that the total number of American Muslims is much higher than reported by other research institutions, which estimate the total amount to be approximately 2.5 million. Bukhari says, “The U.S. Mosque Survey 2011 finds the total amount of mosque-going American Muslims alone is over 2.6 million. This figure does not account for the millions of Muslim women and children who do not regularly attend a mosque for prayers. There is a clear discrepancy between previously reported figures of the American Muslim population and the actual amount.”
The study also provides crucial insight into the views of mosque leaders. A simple majority of mosque leaders (54%) in 2000 found American society to be hostile towards Islam. Recent findings reveal, however, that an overwhelming majority (75%) now feel that America is more accepting of the Muslim faith. 91% of mosque leaders in 2011 also encourage political participation, and nearly all (98%) encourage involvement in American institutions.
Along with mosque leaders, the Muslim community feels political and social engagement is extremely important. Bukhari says that this should be a key indicator for public officials and local and national political leaders who wish to reach out to the Muslim community. “The overwhelming majority of adult Muslims want to actively participate in society, and the mosque is the best institution for both local and national representatives to connect with them at a more personal level,” he says.
Mosques are also extremely diverse institutions; a slim minority (3%) is attended by only one ethnicity, and the overwhelming majority houses more than one ethnic or racial group. “Mosques are actually accommodating the diversity of the Muslim population,” says Bukhari. “Our mosques absorb the various ethnic and racial groups of Muslims into one place of worship. Such an example of diversity and unity in a religious institution is rare in the United States, and serves as a model for other houses of worship.”
The report reveals more findings on topics including:
• Demographics of mosques and mosque participants
• Rate of conversion to Islam
• Approaches of American mosque leaders to interpretations of the Quran and Sunnah
• American mosque leaders’ views on American society/culture
The U.S. Mosque Survey 2011 is sponsored by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research (Hartford Seminary), the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North American (ISNA), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT). The report is a part of a larger study of American congregations called Faith Communities Today (FACT); FACT is a project of Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership, a multi-faith coalition of denominations and faith groups.