Islam in the United States: Wikis


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Muslim Americans
Muslim Americans.png
Total population
Estimates range from 2.5 million to 7 million
Regions with significant populations
Largest Muslim populations in California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Indiana, Michigan, Virginia, Texas, Ohio, and Maryland.

American English, Arabic, Urdu

The earliest documented cases of Muslims to come to the United States were two West African slaves: Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, who was brought to America in 1731 and returned to Africa in 1734,[1] and Omar Ibn Said in the mid 19th century. There has been some speculation that a Moor slave Estevanico of Azamor, who had converted to Christianity [2][3][4] 14 years before his arrival in North America in the early 16th century, was at least the first born Muslim to enter the historical record in North America.[5] There is also a dubious tradition of an Egyptian named Nasereddine who settled in the Hudson Valley during colonial times.[6] Once very small, the Muslim population of the US increased greatly in the twentieth century, with much of the growth driven by rising immigration and widespread conversion.[7] In 2005, more people from Islamic countries became legal permanent United States residents — nearly 96,000 — than in any year in the previous two decades.[8][9] The new position has been created under white house executive office as a United States special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference to promote relation between Islamic world and United States government.

Recent immigrant Muslims make up the majority of the total Muslim population. Native-born American Muslims are mainly African Americans who make up a quarter of the total Muslim population. Many of these have converted to Islam during the last seventy years. Conversion to Islam in prison,[10] and in large urban areas[11] has also contributed to its growth over the years. American Muslims come from various backgrounds, and are one of the most racially diverse religious group in the United States according to a 2009 Gallup poll.[12]

A Pew report released in 2009 noted that nearly six-in-ten American adults see Muslims as being subject to discrimination, more than Mormons, Atheists, or Jews.[13]



The history of Islam in the United States can be divided into three periods: the colonization period, post World War I period, and the last few decades.[14]

Muslims in early United States

Estevanico of Azamor may have been the first Muslim to enter the historical record in North America. 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 Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. After joining the ill-fated Narváez expedition in 1527, Cabeza de Vaca and Estevanico were captured 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.[15]

N. Brent Kennedy has speculated that during the period 1567-1587, Moors and Turks were brought to the present-day Carolinas by Sir Francis Drake and/or by Portuguese or Spanish expeditions, and that some of these intermarried with Native Americans, giving rise to the Melungeon communities of Southern Appalachia.[16] Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow, a Senegalese educator and former UNESCO director, has made similar assertions.[17] The claim is not widely accepted.

In 1790, the South Carolina legislative body granted special legal status to a community of Moroccans, twelve years after the Sultan of Morocco became the first foreign head of state to formally recognize the United States.[18] In 1796, then president John Adams signed a treaty declaring the United States had no "character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen".[19]

Alexander Russell Webb is considered by historians to be the earliest prominent Anglo-American convert to Islam in 1888. In 1893 he was the only person representing Islam at the first Parliament for the World's Religions.[17]


Drawing of Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori who was a Muslim prince from West Africa and made a slave in the United States.

There is limited academic research regarding African Muslims transported to North America as slaves. Historical records provide sparse information regarding both ethnic origins and cultural differences.[20] However, some contemporary authors and historians speculate a sizable percentage of slaves possessed at least some knowledge of Islam. Slaves began arriving in North America during the 1520s. By 1900, roughly 500,000 Africans were sent to this area, representing 4.4% of the 11,328,000 slaves imported worldwide.[21] Historians estimate that between 15 to 30 percent of all enslaved African men, and less than 15 percent of the enslaved African women, were Muslims. These enslaved Muslims stood out from their compatriots because of their "resistance, determination and education" [22] It is estimated that over 50% of the slaves imported 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. Substantial numbers originated from Senegambia, a region with an established community of Muslim inhabitants extending to the 11th century.[1] Michael A. Gomez theorized that Muslim slaves may have accounted for "thousands, if not tens of thousands," but does 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.[23] Historical records indicate many enslaved Muslims conversed in the Arabic language. Some even composed literature (such as autobiographies) and commentaries on the Quran.[24]

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. Two of the most widely known examples of Muslim slaves in North America are Ayuba Suleiman Diallo and Omar Ibn Said. Suleiman was brought to America in 1731 and returned to Africa in 1734.[1] Like many Muslim slaves, he often encountered impediments when attempting to perform religious rituals. For example, it is said that a white child threw dirt at Suleiman’s face after catching him praying. However, Suleiman was eventually allotted a private location for prayer by his master.[24] Omar Ibn Said (ca. 1770 –1864) is among the best documented examples of a practicing-Muslim slave. He lived on a colonial North Carolina plantation and wrote many Arabic texts while enslaved.

Born in the kingdom of Futa Tooro (modern Senegal), he arrived in America on December 27, 1807 aboard the ship Heart of Oak, one month before the US abolished importation of slaves. Some of his works include the Lords Prayer, the Bismillah, this is How You Pray, Quranic phases, the 23rd Psalm, and an autobiography. In 1857, he produced his last known writing on Surah 110 of the Quran. In 1819, Omar received an Arabic translation of the Christian Bible from his master, James Owen. This Bible is housed at Davidson College in North Carolina from a donation by Ellen Guion in 1871. Although Omar converted to Christianity on December 3, 1820, many modern scholars believe he continued to be a practicing Muslim, based on dedications to Muhammad written in his Bible. In 1991, a masjid in Fayetteville, North Carolina renamed itself Masjid Omar Ibn Said in his honor.[25]

Another example is Bilali (Ben Ali) Muhammad, a Fula Muslim from Timbo Futa-Jallon in present day Guinea-Conakry, who arrived to Sapelo Island during 1803. While enslaved, he became the religious leader and Imam for a slave community numbering approximately eighty Muslim men residing on his plantation. He is known to have fasted during the month of Ramadan, worn a fez and kaftan, and observed the Muslim feasts, in addition to consistently performing the five obligatory prayers.[26] In 1829, Bilali 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.

Modern immigration

Small-scale migration to the U.S. by Muslims began in 1840, with the arrival of Yemenites and Turks,[1] and lasted until World War I. Most of the immigrants, from Arab areas of the Ottoman Empire, came with the purpose of making money and returning to their homeland. However, the economic hardships of 19th-Century America prevented them from prospering, and as a result the immigrants settled in the United States permanently. These immigrants settled primarily in Dearborn, Michigan; Quincy, Massachusetts; and Ross, North Dakota. Ross, North Dakota is the site of the first documented mosque and Muslim Cemetery, but it was abandoned and later torn down in the mid 1970s. A new mosque was built in its place in 2005.[17]

  • 1906 Bosnian Muslims in Chicago, Illinois started the Jamaat al-Hajrije (a social service organization devoted to Bosnian Muslims). This is the longest lasting incorporated Muslim community in the United States. They met in coffeehouses and eventually opened the first Islamic Sunday School with curriculum and textbooks under Imam Kamil Avdić (a graduate of al-Azhar and author of Survey of Islamic Doctrines).
  • 1907 Lipka Tatar immigrants from the Podlasie region of Poland founded the first Muslim organization in New York City.[27]
  • 1915, what is most likely the first American mosque was founded by Albanian Muslims in Biddeford, Maine. A Muslim cemetery still exists there.[28][29]
  • 1920 First Islamic mission station was established by an Indian Ahmadiyya Muslim missionary, followed by the building of the Al-Sadiq Mosque in 1921.
  • 1934 The first building built specifically to be a mosque is established in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
  • 1945 A mosque existed in Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest Arab-American population in the U.S.

Construction of mosques sped up in the 1920s and 1930s, and by 1952, there were over 20 mosques.[17] 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.

Black Muslim movements

Mosque Maryam in Chicago, the headquarters of the Nation of Islam (NOI).

During the first half of the 20th century few numbers of African Americans established groups based on Islamic and Black supremacist teachings.[30] The first of such groups created was the Moorish Science Temple of America, founded by Timothy Drew (Drew Ali) in 1913. Drew taught that Black people were of Moorish origin but their Muslim identity was taken away through slavery and racial segregation, advocating the return to Islam of their Moorish ancestry.[31] The Nation of Islam (NOI) was the largest organization, created in 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad. It however taught a different form of Islam, it promoted Black supremacy and labeling white people as "devils".[32] 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 the so called Negroes are the Asiatic Black People, the cream of the planet 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 effective 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. Also boxing world champion, Muhammad Ali.[30]

Malcolm Shabazz Mosque in Harlem, New York City, formerly known as Mosque No. 7.

After the death of Elijah Muhammad, he was succeeded by his son, Warith Deen Mohammed. Mohammed rejected many teachings of his father, such as the divinity of Fard Muhammad and saw a white person as also a worshipper. As he took control of the organization, he quickly brought in new reforms.[33] 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 WD Mohammed at the time.[34] He introduced teachings which were based on orthodox Sunni Islam.[35] He removed the chairs in temples, with mosques, teaching how to pray the salah, to observe the fasting of Ramadan, and to attend the pilgrimage to Mecca.[36] 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 rejected these new reforms brought by Imam Mohammed, Louis Farrakhan who broke away from the organization, re-established the Nation of Islam under the original Fardian doctrines, and remains its leader.[37] As of today it is estimated there are at least 20,000 members.[38] 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.[39] 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,[40] and is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.[41]


Muslim population estimates
American Religious Identification Survey 1.3 million (2008)[42]
Pew Research Center 2.5 million (2009)[43]
Encyclopædia Britannica 4.7 million (2004)[44]
U.S. News & World Report 5 million+ (2008)[45]
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) 7 million (2010)[46]

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 US. Various institutions and organizations have given widely varying estimates about how many Muslims live in the U.S. These estimates have been controversial, with a number of researchers being explicitly critical of the survey methodologies that have led to the higher estimates.[47] Others claim that no scientific count of Muslims in the U.S. has been done, but that the larger figures should be considered accurate.[48] Some journalists have also alleged that the higher numbers have been inflated for political purposes.[49] On the other hand, some Muslim groups blame Islamophobia and the fact that many Muslims identify themselves as Muslims, but do not attend mosques for the lower estimates.[50]

Tucson Islamic Center, Tucson, Arizona

According to a 2007 religious survey, 72% of Muslims believe religion is very important, which is higher in comparison to the overall population of the United States at 59%. The frequency of receiving answers to prayers among Muslims was, 31% at least once a week and 12% once or twice a month.[51] 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.

Mosques are usually explicitly Sunni or Shia. There are 1,209 mosques in the United States and the nation's largest mosque, the Islamic Center of America, is in Dearborn, Michigan. It was rebuilt in 2005 to accommodate over 3,000 people for the increasing Muslim population in the region.[52] In many areas, a mosque may be dominated by whatever group of immigrants is the largest. Sometimes the Friday sermons, or khutbas, are given in languages like Urdu or Arabic along with 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 who immigrate 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.[53] The influence of the Wahhabi movement in the US has caused concern.[54][55][56]

Ethnic origins of Muslim Americans (Zogby International)

Muslim Americans are the most racially diverse communities in the United States, two-thirds are foreign-born.[57] The ethnic composition consists of immigrant groups of South Asian and Arab descent which make up three-fifths of the total, about a quarter of the population are indigenous African Americans, while the remaining are other ethnic groups which includes Turks, Iranians, Bosnians, Malays, Indonesians, West Africans, Somalis, Kenyans, with also small but growing numbers of white and Hispanic converts.[58] A more comprehensive data on ethnic groups by the Pew Forum survey in 2007 showed 37% were of White descent (mainly of Arab origin), 24% were Black (mainly African American), 20% Asian (mainly South Asian origin), 15% other race (includes mixed and also Arabs or Asians) and 4% were of Hispanic descent.[57] 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.[59] Approximately half (50%) of the religious affiliations of Muslims is Sunni, 16% Shia, 22% non-affiliated and 16% other/non-response.[57] Muslims of Arab descent are mostly Sunni (56%) with minorities who are Shia (19%). Pakistanis (62%) and other South Asians (82%) are mainly Sunni, whereas remaining (38%) of Pakistani Muslims are Shia while Iranians are mainly Shia (91%).[57] Of African American Muslims, 48% are Sunni, 34% are unaffiliated and 15% are other affiliations.[57]

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.[8][9][60] In addition to immigration, the state, federal and local prisons of the United States may be a contributor to the 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.[61] 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.[62][63][64]


Islamic Society of Northern Wisconsin Mosque in Altoona, Wisconsin

Muslims in the United States have increasingly contributed to American culture; there are various Muslim comedy groups, rap groups, Scout troops and magazines, and Muslims have been vocal in other forms of media as well.[65]

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. Shia 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 U.S. are also adherents of certain global movements within Islam such as the Salafi/Wahabi, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Gulen Movement, and the Tablighi Jamaat, as well as movements which are not a part of mainstream Islam, such as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community or Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement or Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam.


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.[66] 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.[67] 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.[68]

Growing Muslim populations have caused public agencies to adapt to their religious practices. Airports such as the Indianapolis International Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport[69] as well as the Kansas City International Airport have installed foot-baths to allow Muslims, particularly taxicab drivers who service the airports, to perform their religious ablutions in a safe and sanitary manner.[70] In addition, Denver International Airport included a masjid as part of its Interfaith Chapel when opened in 1996.[71]


Islamic Society of Boston mosque in Roxbury

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 Mohammed. This group evolved from the Black separatist Nation 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. The number of members in the organization is between 2-3 million.[37][72] 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, worshipped a man as God, did not recognize Muhammad as God's final Prophet and followed another man as a false prophet.
  • The second largest group is the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). ISNA is an association of immigrant Muslim organizations and individuals that provides a common platform for presenting Islam. It is composed mostly of immigrants. 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 in the United States.[73]
  • 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 composed mostly of immigrants and the children of immigrants. It is growing as various independent mosques throughout the United States join and also may be larger than ASM at the present moment. Its youth division is Young Muslims.[74]
  • The Islamic Supreme Council of America (ISCA) represents a few 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. [75] It has been linked to neoconservative thought.
  • 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.[76] 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
  • 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.[77]
  • The Islamic Information Center (IIC) (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.[78]


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 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."[68] 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."[79]
  • 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."[80]
  • 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.[81]


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.[82]
  • 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.[83]


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.[citation needed]

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 the list of North American Muslims.

Views of America and Islam

American populace's views on Islam

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.[84]

July 2007 Newsweek survey of non-Muslim Americans[85]
Statement Agree Disagree
Muslims in the United States are as
loyal to the U.S. as they are to Islam
40% 32%
Muslims do not condone violence 63%
Qur'an does not condone violence 40% 28%
Muslim culture does not glorify
49% 41%
American Muslims more "peaceable"
than non-American ones
52% 7%
Muslims are unfairly targeted by
law enforcement
38% 52%
Oppose mass detentions of Muslims 60% 25%
Muslim students should be allowed
to wear headscarves
69% 23%
Would vote for a qualified Muslim
for political office
45% 45%

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.[84] A December 2004 Cornell University survey shows that 47% of Americans believe that the Islamic religion is more likely than others to encourage violence among its believers.[86]

A CBS April 2006 poll showed that, in terms of faiths[87]

The Pew survey shows that, in terms of adherents[84]

American Muslims' views of the United States

PEW's poll of views on American Society[88]
Statement U.S.
Agree that one can get
ahead with hard work
71% 64%
Rate their community as
"excellent" or "good"
72% 82%
Excellent or good
personal financial situation
42% 49%
Satisfied with the
state of the U.S.
38% 32%

In a 2007 survey titled Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream, the Pew Research Center found Muslim Americans to be

largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world.[88]

47% of respondents said they considered themselves Muslims first and Americans second. However, this was compared to 81% of British Muslims and 69% of German Muslims, when asked the equivalent question. A similar disparity exists in income, the percentage of American Muslims living in poverty is 2% higher than the general population, compared to an 18% disparity for French Muslims and 29% difference for Spanish Muslims.[88]

Politically, American Muslims were both pro-larger government and socially conservative. For example, 70% of respondents preferred a bigger government providing more services, while 61% stated that homosexuality should be discouraged by society. Despite their social conservatism, 71% of American Muslims expressed a preference for the Democratic Party.[88] The Pew Research survey also showed that nearly three quarters of respondents believed that American society rewards them for hard work regardless of their religious background [89].

The same poll also reported that only 40 percent of U.S. Muslims believe that Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks. Another 28 percent don't believe it and 32 percent said they had no view. Among 28 percent who doubted that Arabs were behind the conspiracy, one-fourth of those claim the U.S. government or President George W. Bush was responsible. Only 26 percent of American Muslims believe the U.S.-led war on terror is a sincere effort to root out international terrorism. Only 5% of those surveyed had a "very favorable" or "somewhat favorable" view of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda. Only 35% of American Muslims stated that the decision for military action in Afghanistan was the right one and just 12% supported the use of military force in Iraq.[88]

American Muslim life after the September 11, 2001 attacks

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, there were occasional attacks on some Muslims living in the U.S., although this was restricted to a small minority.[90][91]

In a 2007 survey, 53% of American Muslims reported that it was more difficult to be a Muslim after the 9/11 attacks. Asked to name the most important problem facing them, the options named by more than ten percent of American Muslims were discrimination (19%), being viewed as a terrorist (15%), public's ignorance about Islam (13%), and stereotyping (12%). 54% believe that the U.S. government's anti-terrorism activities single out Muslims. 76% of surveyed Muslim Americans stated that they are very or somewhat concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism around the world, while 61% express a similar concern about the possibility of Islamic extremism in the United States.[88]

On a small number of occasions Muslim women who wore distinctive hijab were harassed, causing some Muslim women to stay at home, while others temporarily abandoned the practice. 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.[90][91] While 51% of American Muslims express worry that women wearing hijab will be treated poorly, 44% of American Muslim women who always wear hijab express a similar concern.[88]


Some Muslim Americans have been criticized for letting their religious beliefs affect their ability to act within mainstream American value systems. Muslim cab drivers in Minneapolis, Minnesota have been criticized for refusing passengers for carrying alcoholic beverages or dogs, including disabled passengers with guide dogs. The Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport authority has threatened to revoke the operating authority of any driver caught discriminating in this manner.[92] There are reported incidents in which Muslim cashiers have refused to sell pork products to their clientèle.[93]

Public institutions in the U.S. have also been criticized for accommodating Islam at the expense of taxpayers. The University of Michigan–Dearborn and a public college in Minnesota have been criticized for accommodating Islamic prayer rituals by constructing footbaths for Muslim students using tax-payers' money. Critics claim this special accommodation, which is made only to satisfy Muslims' needs, is a violation of Constitutional provisions separating church and state.[94] Along the same constitutional lines, a San Diego public elementary school is being criticized for making special accommodations specifically for American Muslims by adding Arabic to its curriculum and giving breaks for Muslim prayers. Since these exceptions have not been made for any religious group in the past, some critics see this as an endorsement of Islam.[95]

The first American Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison, created controversy when he compared President George W. Bush's actions after the September 11, 2001 attacks to Adolf Hitler's actions after the Nazi-sparked Reichstag fire, saying that Bush was exploiting the aftermath of 9/11 for political gain, as Hitler had exploited the Reichstag fire to suspend constitutional liberties.[96] The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Anti-Defamation League condemned Ellison's remarks. The congressman later retracted the statement, saying that it was "inappropriate" for him to have made the comparison.[97]

At Columbus Manor School, a suburban Chicago elementary school with a student body nearly half Arab American, school board officials have considered eliminating holiday celebrations after Muslim parents complained that their culture's holidays were not included. Local parent Elizabeth Zahdan said broader inclusion, not elimination, was the group's goal. "I only wanted them modified to represent everyone," the Chicago Sun-Times quoted her as saying. "Now the kids are not being educated about other people."[98] However, the district's superintendent, Tom Smyth, said too much school time was being taken to celebrate holidays already, and he sent a directive to his principals requesting that they "tone down" activities unrelated to the curriculum, such as holiday parties.

The 2007 Pew poll reported that 15% of American Muslims under the age of 30 supported suicide bombings against civilian targets in at least some circumstances, while a further 11 percent said it could be "rarely justified." Among those over the age of 30, just 6% expressed their support for the same. (9% of Muslims over 30 and 5% under 30 chose not to answer). Only 5% of American Muslims had a favorable view of al-Qaeda.[88]

Disaffected Muslims in the U.S.

Some Muslims in the U.S. have adopted the strong anti-American opinions common in many Muslim-majority countries.[citation needed] 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 [4], found only in New York City, engages in leafleting and picketing to spread their viewpoint.

Young, immigrant Muslims feel more frustrated and exposed to prejudice than their parents are. Because most U.S. Muslims are raised conservatively, and won't consider rebelling through sex or drugs, many experiment with their faith shows a poll, dated June 7, 2007. [5]

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 U.S. 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 Buffalo 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.[99]
  • 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.[99]
  • 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.[99]
  • Ali al-Tamimi was convicted and sentenced in April 2005 to life in prison for recruiting Muslims in the US to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan.[99]

Criticism of Islam in the United States

Responses to criticism

  • Peter Bergen says that Islamism is adopted by a minority of U.S. Muslims, saying that a "vast majority of American Muslims have totally rejected the Islamist ideology of Osama bin Laden".[107]
  • International Institute of Islamic Thought Director of Research Louay M. Safi has questioned the motives of several noted critics, alleging that members of what he terms the "extreme right" are exploiting security concerns to further various Islamophobic objectives.[108]
  • A 1998 United Nations report on "Civil and Political Rights, including Freedom of Expression" in the United States sharply criticised the attitude of the American media, noting "very harmful activity by the media in general and the popular press in particular, which consists in putting out a distorted and indeed hate-filled message treating Muslims as extremists and terrorists", adding that "efforts to combat the ignorance and intolerance purveyed by the media, above all through preventive measures in the field of education, should be given priority."[109]

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External links

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