The number of American mosques has nearly doubled over the past decade, jumping from 1,209 in 2000 to more than 2,100 in 2010, according to a new study out Wednesday.
The building boom came during a time when the building of several new Islamic centers sparked protests and controversy, particularly plans to build one in downtown New York City that opponents have dubbed the Ground Zero Mosque. But the numbers suggest that many of the new mosques went up with little attention being paid by many local residents.
The study (available in .pdfhere) found the most mosques in New York, 257, followed by California with 246 and Texas with 166. The report is generating interest in part because relatively little study on Muslims in the U.S. has been conducted. The Census, for example, is forbidden from asking mandatory questions about religious affiliation.
Researchers, working as part of a study on American congregations called Faith Communities Today, counted mosques in the U.S. and then interviewed a sample of Imams or other designated congregation leaders to reach their tallies.
Some other nuggets from the study:
—While most mosques are still located in cities, the numbers of Islamic centers are increasing in the suburbs, from 16 percent in 2000 to 28 in 2011.
—Just 3 percent of mosques are ethnically homogeneous.
—Ninety-eight percent of mosque leaders said that Muslims should be involved in American institutions. Ninety-one percent believe Muslims should be involved in politics.
—The percentage of mosque leaders who believe America is hostile to Muslims has dropped since 9/11: Twenty-five percent of leaders believed Americans were hostile to Islam in 2011, while 54 percent believed the same thing in 2000.
The study promotes one controversial finding: Its estimate of the Muslim population in the U.S. appears inflated, at least compared to other comprehensive studies of Muslim affiliation. Although there is no precise count of Americans by religion, a recentPew survey on Muslimsin the U.S. estimated the population to be about 2.6 million in 2010. In general, studies show that the Muslim population is under 3 million, somewhere between 1 and 2 percent of the U.S. population. By contrast, the new study's lead author Ishan Bagby says the findings indicate that the Muslim American population is as high as 7 million, based on the figures tracking attendance at Friday prayers.
The study was sponsored by Hartford Seminary, Council on American-Islamic Relation, and a handful of other prominent American Muslim organizations.