From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Muslim mosques springing up across United States

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Fri, 14 Dec 2001 15:55:47 -0800

Date: December 7, 2001

Faith Communities Today

For more information, contact:
David Barrett
Faith Communities Today
Hartford Seminary
Tel: 860.509.9519
Website: and

A FACToid is available for use with this story. Obtain it electronically
from the FACT website:


	HARTFORD, CT., Dec. 7, 2001 -- Muslim mosques are springing up in
cities and suburbs across America where the holy month of Ramadan currently
is being celebrated as it is around the world.

According to a study now being analyzed at Hartford Seminary, the rapid
growth in the number of mosques in the last decade parallels the development
of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) and Assemblies of God congregations in the

Professor David A. Roozen, director of the Seminary's Hartford Institute for
Religion Research, notes that although the first U.S. Muslims came to this
country in the 17th century as slaves, the present rapid development of
mosques and Islamic centers followed changes in U.S. immigration laws in

Dr. Jane I. Smith, co-director of the Duncan Black Macdonald Center for the
Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary, says
that while Muslims have immigrated to America since the late 19th century
for a variety of personal, economic and political reasons, it is only fairly
recently that, along with African American Muslims, they have reached a
"critical mass."

She points out that in the 1980s and 90s mosques and Islamic centers were
built with generous contributions from abroad.  Now, she says, most are
being constructed by American Muslims.

The newest research, completed earlier this year, was part of a massive
study of American congregations known as Faith Communities Today.  The study
was coordinated at Hartford Seminary and involved 41 Christian, Jewish and
Muslim faith groups.

According to the FACT survey, the number of mosques in the United States
increased 42 percent between 1990 and 2000, compared with a 12 percent
average increase for the study's evangelical Protestant denominations, and a
two percent average increase among old-line Protestant, Catholic and
Orthodox groups.  The Latter-day Saints and Assemblies of God congregations
exceeded the evangelical average, but fell short of the growth in the number
of mosques.

The Muslim congregations (also known by the Arabic term "masjids") generally
include several national and ethnic groups.  According to Professor Ihsan
Bagby, of Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., who directed the research
related to mosques, "most U.S. masjids are intercultural, and include
Muslims from Asia and Africa and Europe as well as from several Arab
countries."  Bagby points out that a racial or ethnic focus is contrary to
Qur'anic teaching.

He reports that 93 percent of all U.S. mosques are attended by more than one
ethnic group.

"As a matter of fact," Bagby says, "only about 27 percent of U.S. mosques
emphasize an ethnic focus and most of these are located in African American
neighborhoods."  By contrast, among Christians 64 percent of Latino
congregations in the United States and 50 percent of African American
congregations place a high priority on preserving their racial, ethnic or
national heritage.

The study also measured certain devotional and other emphases within
congregations.  Among mosques for example, 90 percent placed a high emphasis
on fasting during the sacred month of Ramadan which Muslims are currently
celebrating.  By comparison, less than 20 percent of all U.S. congregations
put such emphasis on fasting during seasons such as Lent.  That figure
includes Greek and other Orthodox bodies in the United States that consider
fasting a major spiritual discipline.  The Ramadan fast is one of the major
practices of the Muslim faith.

Abstinence from alcohol is another practice that mosques generally
emphasize.  Bagby's research indicates that 96 percent of all masjids give
significant attention to the Muslim prohibition of drinking alcoholic
beverages.  Among all religious groups in the U.S. 38 percent of
congregations emphasize this.

The Muslim research, co-sponsored by FACT and the Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), shows that 69 percent of all mosques in
the country provide for prayer services five times daily year round.
Seventy one percent of all mosques have weekend religious education classes,
Bagby reports.  (Muslim data can be reviewed at

In terms of membership growth within congregations, the so-called
Mega-churches far outdistanced all others.  The FACT study measured the
percentage of congregations in each faith group that reported at least a 10
percent increase in the number of regularly participating adults between
1995 and 2000.  A whopping 83 percent of the mega-churches reported that
significant membership growth.  Muslim communities were next, with 60
percent of American mosques reporting the rapid increase, followed by 48
percent of Latter-day Saints congregations.  Within the Roman Catholic and
Orthodox group, 29 percent of the parishes noted such growth.  Thirty nine
percent of evangelical Protestant congregations and 27 percent of old-line
Protestants registered that growth.  (See FACToid.)

Roozen noted that there has been considerable debate about the number of
Muslims in the United States.  "There are credible arguments for both the
high and the low ends of the projected Muslim population," he said.  "We
simply don't know how many Muslims there are, but the FACT data certainly
suggest that Islam is one of the fastest growing religious groups in the
United States."

Roozen credits several factors as contributing to the Muslim growth in the
last decade.  "Immigration of Muslims who are professional people is
significant," he says.  "There now are many affluent Muslims in
America-individuals with organizational skills and with sufficient financial
means to build the mosques and Islamic centers that are now common all
across our nation."

There is also a growing self-consciousness and self-confidence among
American Muslims, according to the Hartford professor.  The events since
September 11 of this year indicate that American Muslims are eager to be
full participants in the mainstream of U.S. cultural and political life, he

Bagby's research, conducted well before the attacks, indicated that 77
percent of Muslims in the U.S. "strongly agree" that they should be involved
in American institutions.  Another 17 percent "somewhat agree."  When asked
about participation in the U.S. political system, 72 percent "strongly
agreed" that they should be involved with another 17 percent "somewhat

The Faith Communities Today research was made possible through a grant from
the Lilly Endowment.   Roozen and Professor Carl S. Dudley are co-directors
of the FACT study.

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