U.S. Muslims Divided Over America

Results of First Comprehensive Survey Unveiled

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WASHINGTON, D.C., APR. 26, 2001 (Zenit.org).- More than one in four U.S. Muslims strongly believes that «America is an immoral, corrupt society,» a new poll shows.

The poll, the first comprehensive survey of the faith´s presence in the United States, found that American Muslims comprise are a growing community, with 1,209 mosques nationwide, according to an Associated Press report. The results were released here today.

There has been disagreement over U.S. Muslim numbers, and reliable figures were scarce. AP said the new study, led by professor Ihsan Bagby of Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, offers these figures:

–6 million to 7 million is a reasonable estimate for Americans who would consider themselves ethnic Muslims. (That compares with an ethnic count of 6.06 million for U.S. Jews.)

–2 million Muslims are religiously involved to varying degrees with local mosques, for example by attending the two yearly Eids (festivals). That projection was based on a survey of 416 mosque leaders.

–411,000 Muslims, 78% of them men, nationally attend the Friday Jum´ah prayers in an average week, judging from mosque leaders´ reports.

The statistics excluded Louis Farrakhan´s Nation of Islam, the Ahmaddiya movement and other groups that mainstream Islam has regarded as heterodox, Bagby said.

About 87% of the local mosques in the survey were founded since 1970.

The survey is the latest sign of the demographic changes remaking the United States. Recent U.S. Census figures showed that Hispanics may have surpassed blacks as the largest minority.

Historically, black Americans have operated their own mosques and immigrants´ mosques were divided by national origin. The new survey showed blacks remain dominant in 27% of mosques, South Asian immigrants in 28% and Arab-Americans in 15%. The others were more pluralistic. «Our mosques are much more diverse than we think,´´ Bagby said, though falling short of Islam´s multiracial ideal.

«Muslims are very divided on how they view America,´´ Bagby said. Heavy majorities of mosque leaders strongly agreed that believers can learn from the nation´s technological advances and should be involved in politics and American institutions.

However, when asked whether America «is an example of freedom and democracy that we can learn from,´´ only 35% strongly agreed. Some 28% strongly agreed that «America is an immoral, corrupt society,´´ and 15% strongly agreed that «American society is hostile to Islam.´´

Among other highlights of the survey:

–Among regular Muslim worshippers, 47% were reported to be 35 or younger.

–Among the regulars, 29% were converts to Islam. Among 19,700 annual converts, an estimated 14,000 were black and 13,000 were men.

–There were no paid full-time employees at 55% of mosques, and 45% had no paid staff even on a part-time basis. The typical imam or other mosque leader is a part-time volunteer who makes a living elsewhere.

–21% said their mosques maintain a literal interpretation of the faith drawn directly from the Koran and Sunnah (practices of the Prophet Mohammed); 71% said they take into account the purposes of revelations in light of «modern circumstances.´´ The rest followed other Muslim traditions or did not respond.

The survey´s sampling margin of error was 5 percentage points.

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