Muslims in the U.S.A.: Problems and Prospects

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Muslims in the U.S.A.: Problems and Prospects

The Muslim Community in the United States: Historical Development

Islam in the United States started in the early 16th century, with Estevanico of Azamor being the first Muslim to enter the historical record in North America [1]. The Muslim population of the United States increased greatly in the twentieth century, with much of the growth driven by rising immigration and wide spread conversion [2]. In the year 2005 nearly 96000 people from Islamic countries became legal permanent United States residents, the largest number in the previous two decades [3].

Recent Immigrant Muslims make up the majority of the total Muslim population. Native born American Muslims are mainly African Americans who makeup one-third of the total Muslim population. Many of these have converted to Islam during the last 70 years. Conversion to Islam in prison [4] and in large urban areas has also contributed to its growth over years. Muslims in the U.S.A. come from various backgrounds, and are one of the most racially diverse religious group in the United States.

1. Queen, Edward L., Stephen Prothero and Gardiner H. Shattuck Jr. 1996.The Encyclopedia of American Religious History. New York: Facts on File.

2. A Nation Challenged: American Muslims; Islam Attracts Converts by the Thousands, Drawn Before and After Attacks.

3. Muslim immigration has bounced back


Muslims in the Early United States:

Estevanico[1] of Azamor may have been the first Muslim to enter the historical record in North Arecica. Estevanico was a Berber originally from North Africa who explored the future states of Arizona and New Mexico for the Spanish Empire. Estevanico came to the Americas as a slave of the 16th century Spanish explorer Alvaer Nuneg Cabeza de Vaca. After joining the ill-fated Narvaeg expedition in 1527, Cabeza de Vaca and Estevanico were caprured and enslaved by Indians,escaping to make an arduous journey along the coast of the gulf of Mexico. In 1539 Estevanico guided the first Spanish explorations of what is now the American Southwest[2].

Amadou Mahtar M’Bow , a Senegalese educator and former UNESCO director, has speculated that the presence of Islam in the United States of America began with the Moriscoes who accompanied the Spanish invadors.

1. Estevanico (c. 1500 – 1539) (also known as “Mustafa Zemmouri”, “Black Stephen”, “Esteban”, “Esteban the Moor”, “Estevan”, “Estebanico”, “Stephen the Black”, “Stephen the Moor”, and “Little Stephen”) was of Berber North African origin, possibly from Azemmour, Morocco. He was the first known person born in North Africa to have arrived in the present-day continental United States.

2. Rayford W. Logan. “Estevanico, Negro Discoverer of the Southwest: A Critical Reexamination.” Phylon (1940-1956), Vol. 1, No. 4. (4th Qtr., 1940), pp. 305-314.

In 1587 a shipload landed and settled in the coastal towers of South Carolina, reaching the mountains of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina [1].But this claim is not widely accepted. However, following their time great numbers of Muslim slaves were imported to this continent to work on the plantations of the south.

There is limited academic research regarding African Muslims transported to North America as slaves. Historacal records provides sparse information regarding both ethnic origins and cultuural differinces. However , some contemporary authors and historians speculate a sizable percentage of slaves possessed at least some knowledge of Islam. Alaves began arriving in America diring the 1520s. By 1900, roughly 500000 Africans were sent to this area, representing 4.4% of the 11,328,000 slaves imported world wide [2]. It is estimated that over 50% of the slaves to North America came from areas where Islam was followed by at least a minority population. Thus no less than 200,000 came from regions influenced by Islam. Subtantial numbers originated from Senegambia, a region with an established community of Muslim inhabitants extending to the 11 century [3].

1. M’Bow, Amadou Mahtar; Kettani, Ali (2001). Islam and Muslims in the American continent. Beirut: Center of historical, economical and social studies. Pg. 109

2. The Slave Trade, Hugh Thomas, Simon and Schuster, 1997, ISBN 0-68481063-8

3. Koszegi, Michael; Melton, J. Gordon (1992). Islam in North America: A Sourcebook. New York: Garland Publishing Inc.. pp. 26–27.

Michael A. Gomez theorized that Muslim slaves may have accounted for “thousands, if not tens of thousands,” but dies not offer a precise estimate. He also suggests many non-Muslim slaves were acquainted with some tenets of Islam, due to Muslim trading and proselytizing activities [1]. Historical records indicate many enslaved Muslims conversed in the Arabic language. Some even composed literature (such as autobiography and commentaries on the Quran [2]. Despite living in a hostile environment, there is evidence that early Muslim slaves assembled for communal prayers. In limited cases, some were occasionally provided a private praying area by their owner.

A Chinese document known as the Sung Document records the voyage of Muslim sailors in 1178 AD. to a land known as “Mu-Lan-Pi” which has been claimed to some part of the Americas (specially, present-day California). If the document is authentic, and furthermore if the identification of Mu-Lan-Pi with America is correct, then it is one of the earliest records of pre-Columbian trans-oceanic travel from the Eurasian continent to the Americas. However both the authenticity of the Sung Document and identification of Mu-Lan-Pi with America are doubtful.

1.Gomez, Michael A. (November 1994). “Muslims in Early America”. The Journal of Southern History 60 (4): 682. doi:10.2307/2211064

2. Gomez, Michael A. (November 1994). “Muslims in Early America”. The Journal of Southern History 60 (4): 692, 693, 695. doi:10.2307/2211064

The Navigator of Columbus, who during the famous voyage, brought along a copy of a travel narrative written by Portuguese Muslims who had sailed to the New World (America) in the 12th century. The narrative by Al Idrisi was called “The Sea of Tears”. In this narrative he discusses the voyage of 80 Muhagharrun (explorers) who lived in Lisbon during the reign of the Murabit Amir, Yusuf Ibn Tashufin.[1] In the narrative it mentions visits to fourteen islands. Over half of these islands were later traced to be in either the Canary Islands or the Azores. However , the ones not traced could have been as far away or the Azores.[2] However, the ones not traced could have been as far away as the Caribbean.[3] An early travel from 942 mentioned in the Annuals of Al-Masudi [4].

Istafan, the Arab, was guid for the Spanish that wished to settle the area that would later be called Arizona in 1539. Istafan was from Azamor, Morocco and had previously been to the New World in ill fated expediton of Panfilo de Narvaez to Florida in 1527.

1. Yusuf Ibn Tasufin reined 1061-1106AD., was a king of the Berber Almoravid empire in North Africa. Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. The Almoravids are a Berber dynasty(1040-1147 AD.) which lived between the current Senegal and south of the current Morocco.

2. The Azores is a Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, about 1,500 km.from Lisbon and about 3900 km. from the east coast of North America.

3. The Caribbean is a region consisting of the Caribbean Sea, its islands and the surrounding coasts. The region is located southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and Northern America, east of Central America, and to the north of South America. These islands called the West Indies.

4. Aramco World , May-June 1992.[Saudi Aramco World is a bi-monthly magazine published by Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia, The bimonthly magazine is published in Houston, Texas.]

Brent Kenedy mentions him in his article in Islamic Horizons as being one of the first Moors and Muslims in America. Istafan was one of four to survive a five thousand mile tour of the American Southwest. Originally he was part of a three hundred member exploratory group [1].

Another early Muslim in this period was Nasruddin. He is famous for having killed a Mohawk princess who refused to marry him and for being the earliest permanent Arab settlers in the New World [2].

Ayub Sulaiman Ibn Diallo a go between for his people and the British after his repatriation. He continued to practice Islam during his two years of slavery in the 1730’s in Maryland. He was versed enough in Arabic to write at least a half dozen letters in that language, translate coin inscriptions for the British Museum, and draw a map of West Africa writing place names in Arabic.

Salim the Algerian, who was a Muslim from a royal family of Algiers who studied in Constantinople. After returning from a visit to Constantinople, he was captured by a Spanish Man of War and later sold into slavery to the French in New Orleans. Eventually he became free after running from slavery, lived among Indian tribes, and settled in Virginia. It was ascertained that he knew Greek and he was given a Greek New Testament. Several future members of the U.S. Congress

  1. Islamic Horizons, November-December 1994, pp.24-27
  2. History of Green Century, New York, pp, 19-22

Befriended him and he converted to Christianity. A New convert to Christianity he decided to go back home to spread the Gospel. After a disastrous journey to his homeland where he was shunned as an apostate, he returned to America, met Thomas Jefferson, attended the 1st Continental Congress, and died an insane man having given-up his family and religion for America. Near the end of Salem’s life, he regained his long lost sanity. Some say he renounced Christianity, other say he died in an insane asylum [1].

Wahab brothers were shipwrecked on the coast of North Carolina in the 1770’s. They settled, married and started a farm. Their ancestors today own one of the largest private hotel chains in North Carolina. Around this same time a ship of 70 Moorish slaves landed in Maryland.

Theodore Dwight, Jr. Wrote about a slave named Lamen Kebe who was a school teacher in Africa. He was the focus of two articles byDwight. Dwight also mentions Abdul Rahman and Ayub Sulaiman Diallo in passing.

William Brown Hodgson was perhaps the most important person for documentation of the Islamic presence on the slave quarters. The main characters Hodgson documented were the following:

  1. Grahams magazine, 1857, pp. 433-437

Bilali Muhammad, who wrote the only extant book of Islamic Law written in America and contributed several Islamic terms. Bilali (Ben Ali) Muhammad, a Fula Muslim from Guinea-Conakry, arrived to Sapelo Island during 1803. While enslaved, he became the religious leader and Imam for a salve community numbering approximately eight Muslim men residing on his plantation. He is known to have fasted during the month of Ramadan, worn a fez [1] and kaftan [2], and observed the Muslim feast ( Eid –al Adha), in addition to consistently performing the five obligatory prayers [3]. In 1829, Bilaili authored a thirteen page Arabic Risala on Islamic law and conduct. Known as the Bilali Document, it is currently housed at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Umar Ibn Said was a butler of a brother of a former Governor of North Carolina and who wrote a 13 pp. autobiography in Arabic. Abdul Rahman Ibrahim Sori who wrote two autobiographies, two copies of the Fatiha, signed a charcoal sketch of himself and dictated several letters to his family while he was traveling the U.S. to raise money to return to Africa.

  1. The fez is a red felt hat in the shape of a truncated cone. The fez originated in Ancient or Byzantine Greece, later finding popularity in the Ottoman Empire
  1. A kaftan is a man’s cotton or silk cloak buttoned down the front, with full sleeves, reaching to the ankles and worn with a sash.
  1. Muslim roots of the blues, Jonathan Curiel, San Francisco Chronicle August 15, 2004

None of his Arabic writings show the least formal education but it is surprising that he remembered the little Arabic he knew after forty years in slavery before he returned to Africa to die. His story is documented in Prince Among Slaves by Terry Alford. In 1991, a mosque in Fayetteville, North Carolina, renamed as Masjid Omar Ibn Said in his honor [1].

A slave named London was detailed in a pamphlet by Hdgson. London was held in slavery by the Maxwell family of Savannah, Georgia. They latter moved to Florida where he died. An unknown slave correspondent from Georgetown, who wrote 5 chapters of the Quran from memory.

In 1856 the United States Cavalry hire Hadji Ali (Philip Tedro) a Greek convert to Islam and one of six camel handlers (three Arabs, two Turks, and Hadji Ali) in the short lived U.S. camel corp. The Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis introduced a bill in Congress that passed in 1855to import camels for military purpose in the Arizona desert. During the experiment, 77 camels and six handlers were brought over from East. When the War Between the States broke out, this experiment was abandoned. It was called off due to the impending Civil War. Hadji Ali was the only of the cameleers to remain in the U. S.. Hadji Ali became a prospector in the Colorado River Area. Hadji Ali lived to 1903 in Quartzsite, Arizona where he was a Prospector and resident Imam.

1. [ Omar ibn Said] Davidson Encyclopedia Tammy Ivins, June 2007

Alexander Russel Webb is considered by historians to be the earliest prominent Anglo-American convert to Islam in 1888. Before he became Muslim, he was a newspaper editor and later the consular to the Philippines for the U.S.A.. While a consular he began to read books on Eastern and oriental religions. Soon afterwards he began written correspondence with Indian Muslims and in 1888 he had a lecture tour of four cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Kalkata, and Hyderabad. The topics for this lectures included: Islam, the Better Way; and philosophical Islam. Upon returning to the U.S. he set up the Oriental Publishing Company which published at least a half dozen of books including “Islam in America” (Webb, Muhammad A.R., New York,1892.) and short lived periodical “Muslem World”. In 1893 he was the only person representing Islam at the first Parliament for the World’s Religions. [1].

Modern Imigration

Small-scale migration to the U.S. by Muslims began in 1840, with the arrival Yemenites and Turks [2] and lasted until World War 1. Most of the immigrants, from Arab areas of the Ottoman Empire. Came with the purpose of making money and returning to their hmerland.

  1. M’Bow, Amadou Mahtar; Kettani, Ali (2001). Islam and Muslims in the American continent. Beirut: Center of historical, economical and social studies. Pg. 109
  1. Koszegi, Michael; Melton, J. Gordon (1992). Islam in North America: A Sourcebook. New York: Garland Publishing Inc.. pp. 26–27.

However, the economic hardships of 19th century America prevented them from prospering, and as a result the immigrants settled in the United States permanently. Regarding the causes of immigrants’ staying permanently in the U. S. A. Gutubi Mahadi Ahmad asserts quite contrary- “Many, however, failed to realize their dreads and eventually returned, disenchanted, to their home countries. Those who were more successful and were able to adjust to the American way of life generally found in their kin relationships and trade partnerships forms of association that made any other kind of organization unnecessary. Tempted by their success in business and their ability to adjust, some decided to stay permanently and send for their families to join them.” [1] However these immigrants settled primarily in Dearborn, Michigan; Quincy, Massachusetts; and Ross, North Dakota. Ross Dakota is the site of the first documented mosque and Muslim Cemetery, but it was abandoned and later torn down in mid 1970s. A new mosque was built in its place in 2005 [2].

1910-1950 saw several orthodox Sufi, Ahmadiyyah, Bahai, Shia and Black Nationalist groups arise. In the early part of 20th century, waves of immigrants form various parts of Muslim world, most notably Palestine, Lebanon and what is now Pakistan, appeared on these shores.

  1. The Muslims of America, edited by Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Oxford University Press, New York, 1991, p. 11.
  1. M’Bow, Amadou Mahtar; Kettani, Ali (2001). Islam and Muslims in the American continent. Beirut: Center of historical, economical and social studies. Pg. 109

These people were mostly illiterate, unskilled Arabs who found work in the auto factories of Detroit or peasants from the Punjab who set up house in such places as Sacramento.

In 1950s the picture changed drastically. An influx of Muslim professionals, many of them physicians, finding conditions in their homelands inhospitable, settled in this country after completing their studies. The black movements, the back-to-Africa groups, had come into flower by this time. Great numbers of Muslins students from all parts of the world also began to arrive in this country.

This is the period which saw formation of the early Muslim Communities and mosques in such places as Detroit, Ann Arbor, Gary (Indiana), Cedar Rapids (Iowa), Sacramento and the like. Visiting scholars and missionary groups from the Middle East and the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent also began to arrive. And Islam began, in a very slow manner, to gain adherents among white Americans.

It was this period which also witnessed the formation of national Islamic groups, such as the Muslim Students Association (MSA) of the United States and Canada, later to be replaced by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and their supporting institutions. Regional and national conferences of Muslims for the discussion of issues of common concern were streamlined during this period. Many Muslims who had never practiced their religion now found their way back to their roots and began, for the very first time, to appreciate the value of their faith.

In 1915, what is most likely the first American mosque was founded by Albanian Muslims in Biddeford, Maine. A Muslim cemetery still exists there [1]. Construction of mosques sped up in the 1920s and 1930s, and by the 1952, there were over 20 mosques [2].

In 1906 Bosnian Muslims in Chicago, Illinois started the Jamaat-al-Hajrieje (a social service organization devoted to Bosnian Muslims). This is the longest lasting incorporated Muslim Community on the United States. They met in coffeehouses and eventually opened the first Islamic Sunday School with curriculum and textbooks under Shaykh Kamil Avdich (a graduate of al-Azhar and author of Survey of Islamic Doctrines).

  1. Ghazali, Abdul Sattar, “The number of mosque attendants increasing rapidly in America“,American Muslim perspective,

2. M’Bow, Amadou Mahtar; Kettani, Ali (2001). Islam and Muslims in the American continent. Beirut: Center of historical, economical and social studies. Pg. 109

In 1907 Tatar [1] immigrants from Poland, Russia and Lithunia founded the first Muslim organization in New York City.

In 1920 first Islamic mission station was established by an Indian Ahmadiyya Muslim Missionary, followed by the building of the Al-Sadiq Mosque in 1921.

In addition to immigration, the state, federal and local prisons of the United States may be a contributor to growth of Islam in the country. J. Michael Waller claims that Muslim inmates comprise 17-20% of the prison population, or roughly 350,000 inmates in 2003. He also claims that 80% of the prisoners who find faith while in prison convert to Islam [2]. These converted inmates are mostly African American, with a small but growing Hispanic minority. Waller also asserts that many converts are radicalized by outside Islamist groups linked to terrorism, but other experts suggest that when radicalization does occur it has little to no connection with these outside interests [3].

1. Tatars, sometimes spelled Tartars, are a Turkic ethnic group mainly inhabiting Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. They numbered 10 million in the late 20th Century, which includes all subgroups of Tatar people, such as Crimean Tatars and Volga Tatars. Russia is home to the majority of ethnic Tatars, around 5,500,000.

2. United State Senate, Committee on the Judiciary , Testimony of Dr. J. Michael Waller October 12, 2003

3. United State Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, Testimony of Mr. Paul Rogers, President of the American Correctional Chaplains Association, October 12, 2003

African American Muslims:

During the first half of the 20th century few numbers of African Americans established groups based in Islamic and Black supremacist teachings [1]. The first of such groups created was the Moorish Science Temple of America [2], founded by Timothy Drew (Drew Ali) in 1913. Drew taught that Black people were of Moorish origin but their Muslim identity was taken away though slavery and racial segregation, advocating the return to Islam of their Moorish ancestry [3]. The Nation of Islam (NOI) was the largest organization, created in 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad [4]. It however taught a different form, of Islam, it promoted Black supremacy and white people as “devils”. Fard drew inspiration for NOI doctrines from those of Noble Drew Ali’s Moorish Science Temple of America. He provided three main principles which serve as the foundation of the NOI: “Allah is God, the white man is the devil and so called Negroes are the Asiatic Black people, the cream of the planet earth.”

1.Jacob Neusner (2003). pp.180-181. ISBN 9780664224752.

2. The Moorish Science Temple of America is an American religion founded in the early 20th-century by Timothy Drew. He based it on the belief that African Americans had descended from the Moors and were originally Muslims. Drew put together elements of major traditions to develop a message of personal transformation, racial pride and uplift.

3. Moorish Science Temple of America Britannica Online Encyclopedia.

4. Wallace Fard Muhammad was a preacher and founder of the Nation of Islam (NOI). He established the Nation of Islam’s first mosque in Detroit, Michigan in 1930 and preached his distinctive religion there for three years before mysteriously disappearing in June 1934. His follower and succeeding leader Elijah Muhammad proclaimed him to have been Allah on earth.

In 1934 Elijah Muhammad became the leader of the NOI, he deified Wallace Fard, saying that he was an incarnation of God, and taught that he was a prophet who had been taught directly by God in the form of Wallace Fard. Although Elijah’s message caused great concern among white Americans, it was effecting among Blacks attracting mainly poor people including students and professionals. One of the famous people to join the NOI was Malcolm X, who was the face of the NOI in the media. Boxing world champion, Muhammad Ali was also a member of this organization. After the death of Elijah Muhammad, he was succeeded by his son, Warith Deen Muhammad. W.D. Muhammad rejected many teachings of his father, such as the divinity of Fard Muhammad and saw a white person as also a worshiper. As he took control of the organization, he quickly brought in new reforms [1]. He renamed it as the World Community of AL-Islam in the West, later it became the American Society of Muslims. It was estimated that there were 200,000 followers of W.D. Muhammad at the time [2]. He introduced teachings which were based on orthodox Sunni Islam [3].

1.John Esposito (2008-09-10) W.D. Mohammed: A Witness for True Islam The Washington Post.

2.Imam W. Deen Mohammed 1933 ~ 2008 – Chicago Tribune CAIR Chicago. Retrieved on 2009-11-12.

3. Richard Brent Turner (2003). Islam in the African-American experience. pp. 225-227. ISBN 9780253216304.

He removed the chairs in temples with mosques, teaching how to pray salah, to observe the fasting of Ramadan, and to attend the pilgrimage to Mecca. It was the largest mass religious conversion in the 21st century, with thousands who had converted to orthodox Islam.

A few number of Black Muslims however these new reforms brought by Imam Mohammad, Louis Farrakhan who broke away from the organization, re-established the Nation of Islam under the original Fardian doctrines, and remains its leader [1].

However, today the group has a wide influence in the African American community. The Million Man March in 1994 remains the largest organized march in Washington D.C. [2]. The group sponsors cultural and academic education, economic independence, and personal and social responsibility. The Nation of Islam has received a great deal of criticism for its anti-white, anti-Christian, and anti-Semitic teachings [3] and is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center [4]

  1. Warith Deen Mohammed: Imam who preached a moderate form of Islam to black Americans The Independent. 15 September 2008.
  2. Farrakhan backs racial harmony BBC News (BBC). 2000-10-16.
  3. Dodoo, Jan (May 29, 2001). “Nation of Islam“. University of Virginia.
  4. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is an American non-profit legal organization, internationally known for its tolerance education programs,<href=”#cite_note-wjfa-0>[1] its legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of organizations it calls hate groups.

Muslim Population in the U.S.A.:

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 ongoing debate as to the true size of the Muslim population in the U.S.A.. Various institutions and organizations have given widely varying estimates about how many Muslims live in the U.S.A.. These estimates have been controversial, with the number of researchers being explicitly critical lf the survey methodologies that have led to the higher estimates [1]. Others claim that no scientific count of Muslims in the U.S. has been done, but the larger figures should be considered accurate [2]. Some journalists have also alleged that the higher numbers have been inflated for political purposes [3].

1.Tom W. Smith, Estimating the Muslim Population in the United States, New York, The American Jewish Committee, October 2001.

2. CAIR website, American Muslims: Population Statistics

  1. Number of Muslims in the United States at Retrieved on 6 January 2006

On the other hand, some Muslim groups blame Islamophobia[1] and the fact that many Muslims identify themselves as Muslims, but do not attend mosques for the lower estimates.

The following are various estimates of the Muslim population:

v 1.6 million (2000) [2]

v 2.0 million (2000) [3]

v 6-7 million (2001) [4]

v 1.1 million (2001) [5]

v 1.9 million (2001) [5]

v 4.7 million (2005) [6]

v 2.4 million (2007) [7]

v 2.5 million (2009) [8]

v 7 million (2009) [9]

  1. Islamophobia is a neologism that refers to prejudice or discrimination against Islam or Muslims. The term seems to date back to the late 1980s but came into common usage after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. In 1997, the British Runnymede Trust defined Islamophobia as the “dread or hatred of Islam and therefore, to the fear and dislike of all Muslims,” stating that it also refers to the practice of discriminating against Muslims by excluding them from the economic, social, and public life of the nation. It includes the perception that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion.
  2. “Religious Congregations & Membership: 2000,” Report, Glenmary Research Center, Atlanta, GA.. published in 2002-September.
  3. “Faith Communities Today: Mosque in America: A National Portrait,” April 2001. Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religious Research
  4. Ihsan Bagby, Paul M. Perl, Bryan T. Froehle (2001-04-26) “The Mosque in America: A National Portrait”. Council on American-Islamic Relations (Washington, D.C.)
  5. Tom W. Smith, Estimating the Muslim Population in the United States, New York, The American Jewish Committee, October 2001.
  6. The 2005 Annual Megacensus of Religions. (2007). In Britannica Book of the Year, 2006. Retrieved January 6, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  7. “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream”, Pew Research Center, 22 May 2007
  8. Miller, Tracy, ed. (October 2009) (PDF), Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population
  9. President at Cairo University The White House. 2009-06-04.

Religious Beliefs and Ethnic Affiliations:

According to the PEW Forum on Religion & Public Life, based on the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, 82% said they are absolutely certain that they believe in God and 9% fairly certain. The Importance of Religion in One’s life was another important question raised among Muslims, overall in the United States 59% believe it is important, whereas a high proportion of Muslims believed religion is very important (72%), and 18% said religion is somewhat important. The frequency of receiving answers to prayers among Muslims was 31% at least once a week and 12% once or twice a month [1].

The American Muslim Community is a mosaic of cultures, its members having come from all of the five major continents. The immigrant communities of South Asian and Arab descent and the native born of African Americans are the main ethnic groups of American Muslims. The most recent data covering a range of ethnicities is a report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in 2009. According to the CAIR studies, regular mosque attendees come from the following backgrounds: South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Afghanistani) 33%, African American 30%, Arab 25%, African 3.4%, European 2.1%,white 1.6%, Southeast Asian 1.3%, Caribbean 1.25, Turkish 1.1%, Iranian 0.7%, and Hispanic/Latino 0.6% [2].

  1. Portrait of Muslims – Beliefs & Practices Pew Research Center
  2. Ihsan Bagby, Paul M. Perl, Bryan T. Froehle (2001-04-26) “The Mosque in America: A National Portrait”. Council on American-Islamic Relations (Washington, D.C.). Retrieved on 2009-07-22.

Since the arrival of South Asian and Arab communities during the 1990s there has been divisions with the African Americans due to the racial and cultural differences, however since post 9/11, the two groups joined together when the immigrant communities looked towards the African Americans for advice on civil rights [1]. In 2005, according to the New York Times, more people from Muslim countries became legal permanent United States residents — nearly 96,000 — than in any year in the previous two decades [2],[3].

The 2007 Pew Forum survey of Muslim Americans finds two-thirds (65%) of the Muslim Americans are foreign-born. Among the foreign-born, most have immigrated since 1990, 24% are from the Arab region, 8% Pakistan, 10% Other South Asia, Iran 8%, Europe 5%, Africa 4% and other 4%. The native-born constitute 35%, with African Americans 20% of the total Muslim population, the majority of these are converts to the religion [4].

1. Andrea Elliot (2007-03-11) Between Black and Immigrant Muslims, an Uneasy Alliance The New York Times. Retrieved on 2009-07-23.

2. Migration Information Source – The People Perceived as a Threat to Security: Arab Americans Since September 11


4. Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream Pew Research Center. 2007-05-22. Retrieved on 2009-07-21.

However, when Muslim respondents were asked about their race in a recent Pew Research Center survey, 37% answered White, 24% answered Black, 20% answered Asian, 15% answered “other/mixed race,” and 4% answered Latino [1].

Nearly a quarter of the Muslims are converts to Islam (23%), mainly native-born. Of the total who have converted, 59% are African American and 34% White. Previous religions of those converted was Protestantism (67%), Roman Catholicism (10%) and 15% no religion. Approximately half (50%) of the religious affiliations of Muslims is Sunni, 16% Shia, 22% non-affiliated and 16% other/non-response [2].

  1. U.S. Religious Landscape Survey
  1. Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream Pew Research Center. 2007-05-22. Retrieved on 2009-07-21.

Different Islamic Traditions:

There exist a number of different traditions within the Muslim Community in the United States. Sunni Muslims are in the majority. Shia Muslims, especially those in the Iranian immigrant community, are also active in community activities. All four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence are found among the Sunni community. Some Muslims in the U.S. are also adherents of certain global movements within Islam such as the Salafi/Wahabi, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Gulan Movement, and the Tablighi Jamaat, as well as movements which most Muslims would consider non-Muslim, such as Jama’at Ahmadiyya or Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement or Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam.

Islamic Organizations in the U.S.A.:

The American Society of Muslims (ASM) is a predominantly African-American association of Muslims which is the direct descendent of the original nation of Islam. The group largly accepted beliefs and practices based on mainstream Islam, which was created by Warith Din Mohammad after he took control of the Nation of Islam in 1975. This has been a twenty three tears process of religious reorientation and organizational decentralization, in course of which the goroup was known by other name, such as the American Muslim Mission.

The number of members in the organization is between 2-3 million. [1] It should be noted that the original Nation of Islam beliefs differed sharply from traditional Islam, worshipped a man as God, did not recognize Muhammad as God’s final Prophet.

Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) based in Plainfield, Indiana, U.S.A., is a Muslim umbrella group that describes itself as the largest Muslim organization in North America. ISNA had its origin in the Muslim Student Association and was founded in 1963. ISNA is an association of immigrant Muslim organizations and individuals that provides a common platform for presenting Islam. Its membership may have recently exceeded ASM, as many independent mosques throughout the United States are choosing to affiliate with it. ISNA’s goal is “to be an exemplary and unifying Islamic organization in North America that contributes to the betterment of the Muslim community and society at large.” ISNA is an association of Muslim organizations and individuals that provides a common platform for presenting Islam, supporting Muslim communities, developing educational, social and outreach programs and fostering good relations with other religious communities, and civic and service organizations.

1. THE MORNING NEWS, August 10, 2007, “Muslim Americans Setting Example For Muslims Abroad”, Leader Says, By Jason Wiest,

ISNA’s annual convention is generally the largest gathering of American Muslims in the United States.[1] ‘Islamic Horizons’ is the bi-monthly publication of ISNA.

Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) is the third largest group in North America. According to the Islamic Circle of North America, the goal of ICNA “shall be to seek the pleasure of Allah through the struggle of Iqamat-ud-Deen (establishment of the Islamic system of life) as spelled out in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of [Muhammad].” Their major Dawah activities include dawah field trips, a toll-free number for non-Muslims, distribution of Islamic literature, dawah through mosques, dawah by mail, dawah through media, dawah in prisons, campus dawah support, dawah flyers online, and dawah through email. is an ICNA program. Since Why Islam (WI) was launched, in April 2000, the website has been used to propagate a better understanding of Islam for the general public. ICNA’s annual convention is one of the largest gatherings of American Muslims in the United States. The ‘Message International’ is the bi-monthly publication of ICNA.[2]

The Islamic Supreme Council of America (ISCA) is a Muslim religious organization in the United States.

1. Islamic Society of North America Official Website

2. Islamic Circle of North America Official Website

The ISCA strives to integrate traditional scholarship in resolving contemporary issues affecting the maintenance of Islamic beliefs in a modern, secular society. The Council states that it promotes traditional Islamic legal rulings, and that it explicitly rejects puritanical forms of Islam, such as the Wahhabi Islam practised by Saudi Arabia, the Taliban, and many terrorist organizations who espouse Islamist ideologies. Shaykh Hisham Kabbani, founding member and current chairman of ISCA.[1]

The Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA) is aan important Muslim organization headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan. According to its website, IANA’s goals include 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.” IANA’s activities include conventions, general meetings, dawah-oriented institutions and academies, books of an academic, dawah-oriented or Islamic thought nature in both Arabic and English, magazines and other periodical literature, technical programs, youth programs, investment projects and other means possible in the U.S.A..[2] IANA folded in the aftermath of the attack of September 11, 2001 and they have reorganized under various banners such as Texas Dawah and the Almaghrib Institute.

1. Islamic Supreme Council of America Official Website

2. Islamic Assembly of North America Official Website

IANA’s principles include presenting “the correct Islamic methodology derived from the Book of Allah and the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah, according to the understanding and application of the early pious forefathers is the basic premise and framework for the work of IANA.” [1]

The Muslim Students’ 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.[2]

The Islamic Information Center is one of America’s premier Muslim advocacy organizations and is centered in the National Press Club, a worldwide hub of more than 300 international news organizations, in Washington, DC.

1. Islamic Assembly of North America Official Website

2. Muslim Student Association Official Website

The goal of the group is to be complementary to other major Muslim initiatives such as CAIR and MPAC by giving a specific focus to the spiritual and philosophical aspects of Islam. The main purpose of this organization is to provide authentic Islamic information as taught by Prophet Muhammad and his Holy progeny.[1]

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) describes itself as America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group. Founded in 1994 by officers of the Islamic Association of Palestine, it is headquartered on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, with regional offices nationwide and in Canada. Through media relations, lobbying, and education, CAIR presents what it views as an Islamic perspective on issues of importance to the American public, and seeks to empower the American Muslim community and encourage its social and political activism.

1. Islamic Information Center Official Website

It has condemned acts of terrorism – while naming no one in particular and has been working in collaboration with the White House on “issues of safety and foreign policy.”[1] The group has been criticized for alleged links to Islamic terrorism by conservative media, but its leadership strenuously denies any involvement with such activities.

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.” [2]

1. THE MORNING NEWS, August 10, 2007, “Muslim Americans Setting Example For Muslims Abroad”, Leader Says, By Jason Wiest,

  1. Muslim Public Affairs Council Official Website

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 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.”[1]

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.

1. The American Islamic Congress Statement Of Principles

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. [1]

Islamic Relief USA is the American branch of Islamic Relief Worldwide, an international relief and development organization. Their stated goal is “to alleviate the suffering, hunger, illiteracy and diseases worldwide without regard to color, race or creed.” They focus of development projects; emergency relief projects, such as providing aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina; orphans projects; and seasonal projects, such as food distributions during the month of Ramadan. They provide aid internationally and in the United States.

1. Inner-City Muslim Action Network Official Website

2. Muslim Student Association Official Website

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.

Mosques in the U.S.A.:

There are 1,209 mosques in the United States and the nation’s largest mosque, the Islamic Center of America, is in


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