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www.amperspective.com Online Magazine

Executive Editor:  Abdus Sattar Ghazali

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The Mosques in America: A National Portrait by CAIR

The number of mosque attendants
 increasing rapidly in America

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

The number of mosques and mosque attendants are witnessing a tremendous increase in recent years in America. About two million Muslims are associated with the mosques as the number of attendants increases to more than 75% during the last five years. There were only 500,000 Muslims going to a mosque in 1994. This was revealed by a comprehensive study of the mosques throughout the country.The study points out that estimates of a total Muslim population of 6-7 million in America seems reasonable in view of the figure of two million Muslims associated with the mosques. An average of 1,629 Muslims associate in some way with the religious life of each mosque, such as attending mosque for Friday and Eid prayers.
                                                    
(The Islamic Society of East Bay Mosque in Fremont, CA)
Forty seven percent of mosque attendants are 35 year-old or younger while 36-59 age group is 42% and 60 plus is only 11%. These figures indicate that the number of young American Muslims is higher.

The mosques in America are not only places of worship but they also serve as centers for political and social activities. Mosques played an important role in mobilizing the Muslims to register as voters and cast vote during the last presidential election since 89 percent of mosques' leaders believe that Muslims should be more involved in the political process, according to the study. Seventy percent of the Muslim population is eligible for vote and about 65% (or 3.2 million) of Muslim voters turned out in the 2000 election, according to reliable estimates. Muslims voted en bloc for George W. Bush. According to the former Congressman, Paul Findley, bloc voting marks the arrival of Muslims as a new national political power.

The study, entitled  “The Mosques in America: A National Portrait,” was conducted by the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) a major Muslim organization. Four other major Muslim organizations - Islamic Circle of North America, Islamic Society of North America and Muslim American Society – were co-sponsors of the project. This is the first study of its kind that covered 1200 mosques.

Muslims have been in the United States for generations. Muslim immigrants from the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, etc. arrived in North America in 1893. They were mainly Turks, Kurds, Albanians, and Arabs. However, the Muslims have grown rapidly in the last two or three decades mainly because of immigration from South Asia and the Middle East and converts from the African-American community.

The first mosque in America was probably build by Albanian Muslims in 1915 in Maine. By 1919, they had established another mosque in Connecticut. Polish-speaking Tatars build a mosque in Brooklyn, NY in 1926, which is still in use. African American Muslims established the first Mosque in Pittsburgh, PA in 1930. The Lebanese Community of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, opened its first mosque in 1935. The State Street Mosque in New York City was established by Sheikh Dawood Ahmed Faisal in 1955. This mosque represents a special point in the development of the American Muslim community. The Dar-ul-Islam movement began from there. 

Although the first mosque was established in America in 1915 but only few mosques were built till 1960. Greater growth of mosques began in the 1970s and the tempo of growth continues unabated. The vast majority of mosques (87%) were found since 1970. Thirty percent of all mosques were established in the 1990s and 32% were started in 1980s. There are 1,209 mosques in America. The mosques participating in the study were founded between 1925-2000.

On the ethnic diversity of the mosque attendants, the study said: South Asians, African Americans and Arabs are the dominant ethnic groups in American mosques. At the average mosque, one third (33%) of members are South Asian, 30% are African American and 25% are Arabs. Ninety percent of mosques have at least some Arab members. Only 7% mosques are attended by only one ethnic group. Almost 90% of all mosques have some South Asians, African  Americans and Arabs. South Asians include Pakistani, Indian, Bangaldeshi and Afghani.

Ninety-seven percent of mosques use English as the main language, or one of the main languages, for the khutba (sermon) of Friday prayer. The few mosques that do not use English most frequently use Arabic or Urdu.

On the role of women in mosques the study pointed out that in about 70 percent of mosques with a governing board, women are allowed to serve. However, women have served during the last five years in only half of the mosques that permit it.  In nearly two-thirds of mosques (66%), women offer prayers behind a curtain or partition or another room. In 1994, in 52% mosques women were offering prayers in mosques.

Mosques have attracted Americans to embrace Islam as on average every mosque witnessed 16 conversions per year. This translates into nearly 20,000 converts nationally, the study said. Of these, about 13,000 were men, and 7,000 women. Nearly 14,000 were African American.

The study also concluded that slightly more than half (55%) mosques are affiliated with at least one Muslim organization while 45% of all mosques are not affiliated with any organization. Twenty-seven percent mosques are associated with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). The percentage has decreased from 1994 when 39% mosques were affiliated with ISNA. About one in five mosques is affiliated with the Muslim American Society (the Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed). About 10% mosques are affiliated with other organizations, including the American Muslim Turkish Association, the American Muslim Council, As-Sabiqun, and Council of American Islamic Relations. END

August 4, 2001