March 9, 2012

07RNS: U.S. Mosques Multiply Rapidly in Past 10 Years

U.S. Mosques Multiply
Rapidly in Past 10 years

BY LAUREN MARKOE                                                                                   ©2012 Religion News Service

The number of mosques in America has jumped 74 percent since 2000, and the majority of them--56 percent--espouse a less-than-literal approach to interpreting Islam's holy texts.
These are some of the findings of a major new survey of American mosques that was released February 29, the third study produced by a coalition of Islamic civic groups and Muslim and non-Muslim religion scholars. "Islam," said David Roozen of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, part of a Protestant seminary, "is one of the few growth spots in America's religious mosaic."
Leaders of the institutions that sponsored the survey offered it as a counterargument to the currents of Islamophobia that they say have tainted much political and personal discourse during the past 10 years. The report, they said, shows a strong willingness on the part of mosque leaders to encourage worshippers to engage in American society, including its politics.
"Post-9/11, I was really afraid of the new negative attitude Muslims were receiving," said Safaa Zarzour, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America. "It made me feel that Muslim communities would feel marginalized from American society, and that to me is where things can become dangerous."
But that did not happen, he continued. "We see outreach and engagement among mosques -- mosques with food pantries, medical clinics. You have people who can look at mosques in their neighborhood and see Muslims as people who can help, not people to be feared."
The survey, "The American Mosque 2011," counted 2,106 mosques in the nation, and a spike in the number of people who attend Eid prayers, the Muslim holy days that tend to attract more people than any other. In 2011, the survey found 2.6 million people had gone to Eid prayers, up from 2 million in 2000.
That last figure challenges many previous estimates of the U.S. Muslim population, which generally fall well below 3 million. Given the number of Muslims who do not pray the Eid prayers, the total number of Muslims in the U.S. likely exceeds 3 million, perhaps by more than a million, the study's authors conclude.