Mosques spread across coun­try de­spite hos­til­ity since Sept. 11

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY RACHEL ZOLL

NEW YORK | The num­ber of Amer­i­can mosques has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally in the past decade de­spite protests aimed at Mus­lim houses of worship in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks, ac­cord­ing to a new study.

Re­searchers con­duct­ing the na­tional count found a to­tal of 2,106 Is­lamic cen­ters, com­pared to 1,209 in 2000 and 962 in 1994, the in­crease re­flect­ing Mus­lims mov­ing into the sub­urbs and the ar­rival of newer im­mi­grants from Africa, Iraq and else­where.

About one-quar­ter of the cen­ters were built from 2000-2011, as the com­mu­nity faced in­tense scru­tiny by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and a sus­pi­cious public.

In 2010, a protest against a mosque near the for­mer World Trade Cen­ter site erupted into a na­tional de­bate about Is­lam, ex­trem­ism and re­li­gious free­dom.

Anti-mosque demon­stra­tions spread to Ten­nessee, Cal­i­for­nia and other states.

Ih­san Bagby, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Ken­tucky and lead au­thor of the study, said the find­ings show Mus­lims are carv­ing out a place for them­selves de­spite the back­lash.

“This is a grow­ing, healthy Mus­lim com­mu­nity that is well in­te­grated into Amer­ica,” he said. “I think that is the best mes­sage we can send to the world and the Mus­lim world in par­tic­u­lar.”

The re­port re­leased Wed­nes­day, “The Amer­i­can Mosque 2011,” is a tally based on mail­ing lists, web­sites and in­ter­views with com­mu­nity lead­ers, and a sur­vey and in­ter­views with 524 mosque lead­ers. The re­search is of spe­cial in­ter­est given the limited schol­ar­ship so far on Mus­lim houses of worship, which in­clude a wide range of re­li­gious tra­di­tions, na­tion­al­i­ties and lan­guages.

Re­searchers de­fined a mosque as a Mus­lim or­ga­ni­za­tion that holds Fri­day con­gre­ga­tional pray­ers called jumah, con­ducts other Is­lamic ac­tiv­i­ties and has op­er­a­tional con­trol of its build­ing.

Build­ings such as hos­pi­tals and schools that have space for Fri­day prayer were not in­cluded. Chap­ters of the Mus­lim Stu­dent As­so­ci­a­tion at col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties were in­cluded only if they had space off-cam­pus or had over­sight of the build­ing where pray­ers are held.

The over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of mosques are in cities, but the num­ber lo­cated in sub­urbs rose from 16 per­cent in 2000 to 28 per­cent in 2011.

The North­east once had the largest num­ber of mosques, but Is­lamic cen­ters are now more con­cen­trated in the South and West, the study found.

New York still has the great­est num­ber of Is­lamic cen­ters — 257 — fol­lowed by 246 in Cal­i­for­nia and 166 in Texas. Florida is fourth with 118. The shift fol­lows the gen­eral pat­tern of pop­u­la­tion move­ment to the South and West.

The study found the eth­nic makeup of mosque par­tic­i­pants largely un­changed from 2000.

South Asians com­prise about one-third of par­tic­i­pants, while Arabs and blacks are about one-quar­ter each. Mr. Bagby found a slight in­crease in the per­cent­age of Mus­lims from West Africa and So­ma­lia.

An in­flux of Iraqi and Ira­nian refugees is be­hind a jump in the num­ber of Shi­ite mosques since the 1990s, though Shi­ites still rep­re­sent a very small per­cent­age of the U.S. Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion.

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