Islam in the United States

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The history of Islam in the United States starts in the 18th century, with the first Muslim inhabitants.[1] Once very small, the Muslim population has increased greatly in the last one hundred years: How much it has increased is unclear; there is much controversy over recent estimates of the Muslim population in the U.S. Much of the growth has been driven by immigration of Muslims from Muslim-majority nations. Many Muslims are first or second-generation immigrants. However, up to one-third of American Muslims are African Americans who have converted to Islam during the last seventy years, first into the Nation of Islam and then into mainstream Sunni Islam.

Most U.S. mosques are local initiatives, started by groups of Muslims seeking a place to worship together.[2] They are usually explicitly Sunni or Shi'a. The mosque is often run by an elected board that hires or fires the imam and decides which national Islamic federation(s) to support.

In many areas, a mosque may be dominated by whatever group of immigrants is the largest. Sometimes the Friday sermons, or khutbahs, are given in languages like Urdu or Arabic rather than English. Areas with large Muslim populations may support a number of mosques serving different immigrant groups or varieties of belief within Sunni or Shi'a traditions.

At present, many mosques are served by imams imported from overseas, as only these imams have certificates from Muslim seminaries. This sometimes leads to conflict between the congregation and an imam who speaks little English and has little understanding of American culture. Some American Muslims have founded seminaries in the US in an attempt to prevent such problems.


[edit] History

Two of the earliest Muslims known for certain to have lived in the U.S. arrived as slaves from West Africa. They were Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, who spent a few years in the US in the mid 18th century before being returned to West Africa, and 'Umar Ibn Said in the mid 19th century.

In 1888, Alexander Russell Webb was one of the first Anglo-Americans to embrace Islam.

Small scale migration to the U.S. of Muslims began in 1893. The immigrants included Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian, and Palestinian Muslims.

  • 1907 Immigrants from Poland, Russia, and Lithuania found the first Muslim organization in New York City.
  • 1915 The first mosque, founded by Albanian Muslims, is established in an older building that was not built to be a mosque.
  • 1935 The first building built specifically to be a mosque is established in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Although the first mosque was established in the U.S. in 1915, relatively few mosques were founded before the 1960s. Eighty-seven percent of mosques in the U.S. were founded within the last three decades according to the Faith Communities Today (FACT) survey. California has more mosques than any other state.

See also: Muslims first journey to America

[edit] Demographics

There is no accurate count of the number of Muslims in the United States, as the U.S. Census Bureau does not collect data on religious identification. There is an on-going debate as to the true size of the Muslim population in the US. Various institutions and organizations have given widely varying estimates about how many Muslims live in the US. The following are a few recent studies:

  • 1.1 million (2001) City University of New York - American Religious Identification Survey [0.4% of national population] [3]
  • 1.6 million (2000) Glenmary Research Center [0.5% of national population][4]
  • 1.9 million (2001) American Jewish Committee [0.6% of national population][5]
  • 2.0 million (2000) Hartford Institute for Religious Research [0.7% of national population][6]
  • 4.7 million (2005) Encyclopædia Britannica Book of the Year [1.5% of national population][7]
  • 6.7 million (1997) J. Ilyas Ba-Yunus [2.2% of national population][8]
  • 2.98 million (2002) [1% of population] CIA World Factbook[9]

Population estimates have been controversial, with a number of academic researchers, including Tom Smith, responsible for the University of Chicago study, being explicitly critical of the survey methodologies that have led to high estimates.[10] Some journalists have alleged that numbers have been inflated for political purposes.[11] The Council on American-Islamic Relations states that, in their opinion, no scientific count of Muslims in the U.S. has been done, but that six to seven million is the figure that they provide. They do not provide the reasoning or analysis behind the figure[12] See the CAIR article for a more detailed account of one particular controversy, over the six million estimate by that organization. Another example of a controversial estimate is the one from William B. Milam, the former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, where he claims that "the Muslim community in the U.S. numbers some 7 million and is thriving". No scientific study backed up the claim and he estimated six million merely one year before.[13] Milam admits in the speech that "I am not a scholar, and I do not wish to engage in debate with scholars on the nature of Islam."[14]

Some Muslim groups, however, say that the recent independent studies and surveys have undercounted the Muslim population. Undercounts are due, they say, to Islamophobia, Muslim fear of revealing their faith in a survey, and the fact that many Muslims identify themselves as Muslims but do not attend mosques. [15]

According to a CAIR survey, regular mosque attendees come from the following backgrounds: South Asian (33%), African-American (30%), Arab (25%), African (3.4%), European (2.1%), White American (1.6%), Southeast Asian (1.3%), Caribbean (1.2%), Turkish (1.1%), Iranian (0.7%), and Hispanic/Latino (0.6%).[16]

A map prepared by the Harvard Pluralism Project, shows the distribution of mosques/masjids in the United States.[17]

Another map from Valparaiso University shows an estimation of the Muslim populations per county, noting heavy concentrations of Muslim Americans in the Washington-Boston corridor, Houston, and southern California.[18]

[edit] Variety of Islamic traditions

Islamic Society of Northern Wisconsin Mosque in Altoona, Wisconsin
Islamic Society of Northern Wisconsin Mosque in Altoona, Wisconsin

Within the Muslim community in the United States there exist a number of different traditions. As in the rest of the world, the Sunni Muslims are in the majority. The Shi'a Muslims, especially those in the Iranian immigrant community, are also active in community affairs. All four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence fiqh are found among the Sunni community. Some Muslims in the US are also adherents of certain global movements within Islam such as the Salafi, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Tablighi Jamaat, as well as movements which most Muslims would consider non-Muslim, such as Jama'at Ahmadiyya or the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement or Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam.

[edit] Assimilation

According to a 2004 telephone survey of a sample of 1846 Muslims conducted by the polling organization Zogby the respondents were more educated and affluent than the national average, with 59% of them holding at least an undergraduate college degree.[19] Citing the Zogby survey, a 2005 Wall Street Journal editorial, by Bret Stephens and Joseph Rago expressed the tendency of American Muslims to report employment in professional fields, with one in three having an income over $75,000 a year. [20] The editorial also characterized American Muslims as "role models both as Americans and as Muslims".

Unlike many Muslims in Europe, American Muslims do not tend to feel marginalized or isolated from political participation. Several organizations were formed by the American Muslim community to serve as 'critical consultants' on U.S. policy regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. Other groups have worked with law enforcement agencies to point out Muslims within the United States that they suspect of fostering 'intolerant attitudes'. Still others have worked to invite interfaith dialogue and improved relations between Muslim and non-Muslim Americans.[21]

Some progressive Muslims press for more accommodations to the surrounding society.[citation needed] For instance, they want mosques re-designed to make them more woman-friendly; they believe that women can be imams, that is, lead the congregation in prayer [1].

There are also those Muslims who feel that U.S. Muslims are lukewarm in their faith, and press for even more stringent observance of halal rules, male-female segregation, hijab, daily prayer, fasting, etc.[citation needed]

The Islamic Center of Washington
The Islamic Center of Washington

[edit] Organizations

There are many Islamic organizations in the U.S.

  • The largest of these groups is the American Society of Muslims (ASM), the successor organization to the Nation of Islam, once better-known as the Black Muslims. The American Society Of Muslims accepts the leadership of Warith Deen Muhammad. This group has evolved from the Black separatist Nation (or Temples) of Islam (1930-1975). This has been a twenty-three year process of religious reorientation and organizational decentralization, in the course of which the group was known by other names, such as the American Muslim Mission. It is not clear just how many Americans belong to the ASM. The vast majority of ASM adherents are African Americans. It should be noted that the original Nation of Islam beliefs differed sharply from traditional Islam in that they did not recognize Muhammad as God's final Prophet.
  • The second largest group is the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). ISNA is an association of Muslim organizations and individuals that provides a common platform for presenting Islam. It is mostly comprised of immigrants as well as some Caucasian, and small group of African American converts. Its membership may have recently exceeded ASM as many independent Mosques throughout the United States are choosing to affiliate with it. ISNA's annual convention is the largest gathering of Muslims within the United States.[22]
  • The third largest group is the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). ICNA describes itself as a non-ethnic, open to all, independent, North America-wide, grass-roots organization. It is mostly comprised of immigrants and some Caucasian, and African American converts. It also is growing as various independent Mosques throughout the United States join. It also may be larger than ASM at the present moment. [23]
  • The Islamic Supreme Council of America (ISCA) represents many Muslims. Its stated aims include providing practical solutions for American Muslims, based on the traditional Islamic legal rulings of an international advisory board, many of whom are recognized as the highest ranking Islamic scholars in the world. ISCA strives to integrate traditional scholarship in resolving contemporary issues affecting the maintenance of Islamic beliefs in a modern, secular society. [24]
  • The Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA) is a leading Muslim organization in the United States. According to its website, among the goals of IANA is to "unify and coordinate the efforts of the different dawah oriented organizations in North America and guide or direct the Muslims of this land to adhere to the proper Islamic methodology." In order to achieve its goals, IANA uses a number of means and methods including conventions, general meetings, dawah-oriented institutions and academies, etc. [25]
  • The Muslim Student Association (MSA) is a group dedicated, by its own description, to Islamic societies on college campuses in Canada and the United States for the good of Muslim students. The MSA is involved in providing Muslims on various campuses the opportunity to practice their religion and to ease and facilitate such activities. MSA is also involved in social activities, such as fund raisers for the homeless during Ramadan. The founders of MSA would later establish the Islamic Society of North America and Islamic Circle of North America.[26]
  • The Islamic Information Center (IIC) is a "grass-roots" organization that has been formed for the purpose of informing the public, mainly through the media, about the real image of Islam and Muslims. The IIC is run by chairman, (Hojatul-Islam) Imam Syed Rafiq Naqvi, various committees, and supported by volunteers. [27]

[edit] Political

Muslim political organizations lobby on behalf of various Muslim political interests. Organizations such as the American Muslim Council are actively engaged in upholding human and civil rights for all Americans.

  • The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is the United States largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, originally established to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America. CAIR portrays itself as the voice of mainstream, moderate Islam on Capitol Hill and in political arenas throughout the United States. It has aggressively condemned all acts of terrorism, and has been working in collaboration with the White House in "issues of safety and foreign policy". The Council has, however, been plagued by connections and convictions among its employees and leadership to known terrorist organizations.[21]
  • The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is an American Muslim public service & policy organization headquartered in Los Angeles and with offices in Washington D.C. MPAC was founded in 1988. The mission of MPAC "encompasses promoting an American Muslim identity, fostering an effective grassroots organization, and training a future generation of men and women to share our vision. MPAC also works to promote an accurate portrayal of Islam and Muslims in mass media and popular culture, educating the American public (both Muslim and non-Muslim) about Islam, building alliances with diverse communities and cultivating relationships with opinion- and decision-makers." [28]
  • The American Islamic Congress is a small but growing moderate Muslim organization that promotes religious pluralism. Their official Statement of Principles states that "Muslims have been profoundly influenced by their encounter with America. American Muslims are a minority group, largely comprising African-Americans, immigrants, and children of immigrants, who have prospered in America's climate of religious tolerance and civil rights. The lessons of our unprecedented experience of acceptance and success must be carefully considered by our community." Their Statement of Principles describes their full agenda.[29]
  • The Free Muslims Coalition was created to eliminate broad base support for Islamic extremism and terrorism and to strengthen secular democratic institutions in the Middle East and the Muslim World by supporting Islamic reformation efforts.

[edit] Charity

In addition to the organizations just listed, other Muslim organizations in the United States serve more specific needs. For example, some organizations focus almost exclusively on charity work. As a response to a crackdown on Muslim charity organizations working overseas such as the Holy Land Foundation, more Muslims have begun to focus their charity efforts within the United States.

  • Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) is one of the leading Muslim charity organizations in the United States. According to the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, IMAN seeks "to utilize the tremendous possibilities and opportunities that are present in the community to build a dynamic and vibrant alternative to the difficult conditions of inner city life." IMAN sees understanding Islam as part of a larger process to empower individuals and communities to work for the betterment of humanity. [30]

[edit] Other

With the growth of Islam within the United States, Muslims with similar interests and ideas have organized for various purposes. Among the types of Muslim organizations that exist are those for entertainment purposes as well as for professionals, such as doctors and engineers. The most well-known organization for Muslims within the medical profession is the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA). The largest Muslim organizations for women is the Muslim Women's League.

American Muslims can be found in all professions in the United States. Muslim doctors, lawyers, teachers, and businessmen serve large and small communities. Muslims have made contributions to the cultural, scientific, political, and economic life of the United States. For more information on American Muslims and their contribution within the United States, see List of American Muslims.

[edit] Tension between Muslims and non-Muslims in the US

Even before the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City, some Americans distrusted the growing Muslim minority in the United States.[citation needed] Since the attacks, distrust of Muslims and even Islamophobia have grown. [2], [3]

Public debate on American Islam focuses on the likelihood that American Muslims might engage in anti-US or terrorist actions.[citation needed] A small group of critics of Islam claim that the threat is large and see Islam itself as the culprit.[citation needed] The majority of critics claim that only a tiny minority of American Muslims hold Islamist sentiments and that the vast majority of American Muslims want only to follow their religion, make a good life for themselves, and live at peace with their neighbors.[citation needed]

[edit] Opinion surveys

A nationwide survey conducted in 2003 by the Pew Research Center and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported that the percentage of Americans with an unfavorable view of Islam increased by one percentage point between 2002 and 2003 to 34%, and then by another two percentage points in 2005 to 36%. At the same time the percentage responding that Islam was more likely than other religion to encourage violence fell from 44% in July 2003 to 36% in July 2005.[31]

The July 2005 Pew survey, also showed that 59% of American adults view Islam as "very different from their religion", down one percentage point from 2003. In the same survey 55% had a favorable opinion of Muslim Americans up four percentage points from 51% in July 2003. [32] A December 2004 Cornell University survey shows that 47% of Americans believe that the Islamic religion is more likely than others to encourage violence amongst its believers. [33]

A CBS April 2006 shows that, in terms of faiths[34]

The Pew survey shows that, in terms of adherents[35]

  • 77 % of Americans have favorable opinions of Jews
  • 73 % favorable of Catholics
  • 57 % favorable of "evangelical Christians"
  • 55 % favorable of Muslims
  • 35 % favorable of Atheists

[edit] American Muslims and American society

After September 11 2001, there were attacks on Muslims living in the U.S. [4] [5] Muslim women who wore distinctive hijab were harassed; some women stayed home, others abandoned hijab temporarily.[6], [7] In 2006, one California woman was shot dead as she walked her child to school; she was wearing a headscarf and relatives and Muslim leaders believe that the killing was religiously motivated.[8]

Yet other Americans have expressed their rejection of such prejudice in various ways. In one city, women of various faiths all started wearing headscarves, so that Muslim women could not be singled out.[citation needed] In several cities, concerned neighbors patrolled mosques to prevent arson and vandalism.[citation needed] Many Americans have spoken out against anti-Muslim prejudice.

[edit] Disaffected Muslims in the US

Some Muslims in the US have adopted the strident anti-American rhetoric common in many Muslim-majority countries. In some cases, these are recent immigrants who have carried their anti-American sentiments with them. The Egyptian cleric, Omar Abdel-Rahman is now serving a jail sentence for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He had a long history of involvement with Islamist and jihadi groups before arriving in the US.

There is an openly anti-American Muslim group in the U.S. The Islamic Thinkers Society [9], found only in New York City, engages in leafleting and picketing to spread their viewpoint.

At least one non-immigrant American, John Walker Lindh, has also been imprisoned or convicted on charges of serving in the Taliban army and carrying weapons against US soldiers. He had converted to Islam in the U.S., moved to Yemen to study Arabic, and thence went to Pakistan where he was recruited by the Taliban.

Other notable cases include:

  • The Lackawanna Six: Shafal Mosed, Yahya Goba, Sahim Alwan, Mukhtar Al-Bakri, Yasein Taher, Elbaneh Jaber. Six Muslims from the Lackawanna, N.Y. area were charged and convicted for providing material support to al Qaeda. [10]
  • Iyman Faris In October 2003, Iyman Faris was sentenced to 20 years in prison for providing material support and resources to al Qaeda and conspiracy for providing the terrorist organization with information about possible U.S. targets for attack. [11]
  • Ahmed Omar Abu Ali In November 2005, he was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for providing material support and resources to al Qaeda, conspiracy to assassinate the President of the United States, conspiracy to commit air piracy and conspiracy to destroy aircraft. [12]
  • Ali Al-Timimi was convicted and sentenced in April 2005 to life in prison for recruiting Muslims in the US to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan.[13]

[edit] Prominent critics of American Islamic radicalism

[edit] Responses to criticism

  • Peter Bergen claims that a minority of US Muslims have adopted Islamism, saying that a "vast majority of American Muslims have totally rejected the Islamist ideology of Osama Bin Laden".[42]

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ A Brief History of Islam in the United States Retrieved on 5 January 2007
  2. ^ The Mosques in America: A National Portrait. A Study by Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), A.S. Ghazali, August 4, 2001. Retrieved on 5 January 2007
  3. ^ Religious Identification Survey - City University of New York. 19 December 2001
  4. ^ "Religious Congregations & Membership: 2000," Report, Glenmary Research Center, Atlanta, GA. Published in 2002-SEP.
  5. ^ Tom W. Smith, Estimating the Muslim Population in the United States, New York, The American Jewish Committee, October 2001.
  6. ^ "Faith Communities Today: Mosque in America: A National Portrait," April 2001. Hartford Seminary's Hartford Institute for Religious Research.
  7. ^ The 2005 Annual Megacensus of Religions. (2007). In Britannica Book of the Year, 2006. Retrieved January 6, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  8. ^ Ilyas Ba-Yunus, Muslim of Illinois: A Demographic Report, East-West University, Chicago, 1997, p.9
  9. ^ United States- CIA World Factbook
  10. ^ Tom W. Smith, Estimating the Muslim Population in the United States, New York, The American Jewish Committee, October 2001.
  11. ^ Number of Muslims in the United States at Retrieved on 6 January 2006
  12. ^ CAIR website, American Muslims: Population Statistics
  13. ^ Abdul Malik Mujahid, Muslims in America: Profile 2001
  14. ^ Islam and America, William B. Milam (U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan), Presented to the American Studies Conference, Islamabad, 5 November 1999
  15. ^ Private studies fuel debate over size of U.S. Muslim population - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 28 October 2001
  16. ^ The Mosque in America: A National Portrait, Bagby, I., Perl, P.M., and Froehle, B.T., CAIR, Washington, D.C., 2001
  17. ^ Image detailing concentrations of Muslim centres throughout the USA Harvard University, 2004
  18. ^ Map showing Muslims as a percentage of all residents, 2000 Valparaiso University, 2002
  19. ^ Zogby phone survey
  20. ^ Stars, Stripes, Crescent - A reassuring portrait of America's Muslims.. Wall Street Journal, 24 August 2005
  21. ^ a b The Diversity of Muslims in the United States - Views as americans - United States Institute of Peace. February 2006
  22. ^ Official Website - Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
  23. ^ official Website - Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)
  24. ^ Official Website - Islamic Supreme Council of America (ISCA).
  25. ^ Official Website - Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA).
  26. ^ Official Website - Muslim Student Association (MSA)
  27. ^ Official Website - Islamic Information Center (IIC).
  28. ^ Official Website - The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
  29. ^ Statement Of Principles - The American Islamic Congress
  30. ^ Official Website - Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN)
  31. ^ Views of Muslim-Americans hold steady after London Bombings - Pew Research Center. 26 July 2005
  32. ^ Views of Muslim-Americans hold steady after London Bombings - Pew Research Center. 26 July 2005
  33. ^ Restrictions on Civil Liberties, Views of Islam, & Muslim Americans - Cornell University. December 2005
  34. ^ Poll news CBS.
  35. ^ Views of Muslim-Americans hold steady after London Bombings - Pew Research Center. 26 July 2005
  36. ^ The Enemy Within (and the Need for Profiling) by Daniel Pipes. New York Post, via, 24 January 2003
  37. ^ ‘American Jihad’ by Steven Emerson. Iranscope, 26 February 2002
  38. ^ Robert Spencer
  39. ^ Wahhabism and Islam in the U.S. - 26 June 2003
  40. ^ Expert: Saudis have radicalized 80% of US mosques - Jerusalem Post. 08 December 2005
  41. ^ Schumer: Saudis Playing Role in Spreading Main Terror Influence in United States - Charles Schumer Press Release. September 10, 2003
  42. ^ Peter Bergen on Jon Stewarts Daily Show - Comedy Central
  43. ^ Will the Extreme Right Succeed? Turning the War on Terror into a War on Islam - Media Monitors USA, Louay M. Safi. 29 December 2005

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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