Muslims in the United States are a thriving and growing community, increasingly active in American life, a new survey has concluded.

"This study shows that Muslims and mosques are strengthening the American fabric," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, whose organization cosponsored the study.

Awad said that mosques "are not only centers for spirituality, they are now bases for political and social mobilization."

The nationwide survey of 416 randomly selected mosque leaders found that 77 percent said mosque participation had grown within the past five years, and 61 percent placed that increase at 10 percent or more, according to lead researcher Ihsan Bagby, a professor at historically black Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The mosques surveyed were also fairly new, with 30 percent established in the last decade and 32 percent established in the 1980s. "The last three decades have been the decades of mosque-building," Bagby said. "A full 80 percent of all the mosques were started since 1970."

Most mosques are situated in the Northeast and in urban areas, Bagby said. "Mosques, for the most part, are an urban phenomenon," he said, estimating that 6 million to 7 million Muslims live in the United States.

Samuel Naaman, director of the evangelical South Asian Friendship Center in Chicago, told Christianity Today that most Muslim growth in America comes via immigration and the conversion of African-American men. Naaman, however, said there is not enough ministry geared to Muslims.

"When I hear those numbers [of Muslim immigrants], I praise God," said Naaman, a native of Pakistan. "We need to be grateful and thankful that God is bringing these people. This is the best country where they have an opportunity to hear the gospel."

The report found that most mosques participate in some sort of outreach activity, with at least 60 percent offering programs for the needy or incarcerated. More than one-fourth of those surveyed offered full-time schools with an average attendance of about 126.

The study also found that over two-thirds (68 percent) of Muslim converts are male, and just under two-thirds (63 percent) of last year's converts came from the African-American community. Over one-quarter (27-percent) of converts were white, a fairly recent development, Bagby said.

"I don't think this would have been true a few decades ago," Bagby said. "As the horns are taken off Islam and people begin to seriously consider it, Islam becomes more acceptable in the minds of all American people."

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Nearly half (47 percent) of those who attend mosque regularly are 35 or younger, while a slightly lower percentage (29 percent) are converts to Islam. Three-quarters (75 percent) of regular attendees are male, the study found.

Most of those surveyed supported Muslim involvement in American society, the study found, with 89 percent agreeing that Muslims should participate. Within the past year, a majority of the mosques surveyed had members of their community in touch with a political leader or a journalist.

The mosque serves as "a springboard for Muslim involvement in American society," Bagby said. The report was also sponsored by the Islamic Circle of North America, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Muslim American Society. The Ahmaddiya movement, the Nation of Islam, and other groups often considered outside orthodox Islam were not included in the survey.

The report was part of the Hartford Seminary's Faith Communities Today study, which surveyed more than 14,000 religious congregations in 41 faiths. The Muslim study's margin of error is five percentage points.

Related Elsewhere

Christianity Today earlier took note of the Faith Communities Today study (which is available at Hartford Seminary's Web site) in our article, "New Study Reveals Which Churches Grow | High standards are key, says new survey from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research" (Apr. 5, 2001)

Christianity Today's earlier coverage of Islam in America includes "How Islam Is Winning Black America" and Wendy Murray Zoba's "Islam, U.S.A."

Islam, U.S.A. | Are Christians prepared for Muslims in the mainstream?

Islamic Fundamentals | Christians have a responsibility to understand our Muslim neighbors and their beliefs

How Muslims See Christianity | Many Muslims don't understand Christianity—especially the idea of salvation by grace through faith.

Engaging Our Muslim Neighbors | The Church faces a challenge not just to understand Muslims, but to befriend them.

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, Reuters, BBC, and also took note of the survey.

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