The Mosque Studies

All of the statistics in unMosqued come from Dr. Ihsan Bagby's "The Mosque Studies: 

Mosque Studies Part 1: The American Muslim Mosque

Mosque Studies Part 2: Activities, Administration, and Vitality of American Muslim Mosques

Mosque Studies Part 3: Women and American Mosques

This research is a part of the larger Faith Communities Today research project.  The report, written by Dr. Bagby, was also sponsored by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research (Hartford Seminary),  the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, as well as the nation's largest Islamic civic and religious groups, including theIslamic Society of North America, Islamic Circle of North America, theInternational Institute of Islamic Thought and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

 

We suggest you watch the film to visualize the statistics, and see just how dire the mosque situation in America actually is: 

<Insert Film Player Here>

The Statistics

Introduction

Over the past decade, the total number of mosques in the US has continued to grow at a tremendous rate. As part of this Survey, a count of all mosques in the US was conducted and 2,106 mosques were identified. A total of 1,209 mosques were counted in 2000, and 962 mosques were counted in 1994.

The average number of participants per mosque has dropped from 1,625 participants per mosque in 2000
to 1,248 participants in 2011.

Women

  • Mosques reported an average of 18% female attendance at Friday prayers. The percentage of female attendance has not changed over the past decade. Men make up the majority of participants at Friday prayers: 77% of all attendees are men. The number of women who attend Friday Prayer on average is only slightly higher in 2011 (18%) compared to 2000 (15%). Children made up on average 7% of the Friday congregation in 2000 and 6% in 2011
  • Two thirds (66%) of mosques sampled use dividers to demarcate women’s prayer spaces during daily prayers. This percentage has also not changed over the past decade.
  • Mosques—whose Imam is American-born—are much less likely to use a divider: 38% of mosques with an American-born Imam use a divider as compared to 78% of mosques with an Imam born outside America.
  • Between 1994 and 2000, the percentage of mosques that used curtains or dividers to distinguish women’s spaces increased from 52% to 66%. In 2011, there was no change in that figure, with about two thirds, or 66% of mosques reporting the use of a divider.
  • The pattern of using curtains or partitions seems to vary by ethnicity, with African American mosques reporting less use (39%) and South Asians reporting the highest use (80%). About 70% of Arab mosques, mixed South Asian and Arab mosques, and other mosques have curtains. Comparing mosques within the African American category, there is a striking difference between those who follow the leadership of the late W. Deen Mohammed who are least likely to use dividers (only 10%) compared to other African American mosques (68%).
  • A large majority of the mosques (71%) said they had women’s activities or programs; however, a small percent, only 4%, said women’s activities or programs were a “top priority.”
  • About a third of the mosques reported they had women’s groups (32%), and 3% said these were a “top priority.” 
  • Programmatic access seems relatively high at the mosques sampled. A large percentage of mosques stated they conduct women’s programs (71%), even though a small proportion said these were a top priority. About 29% said they had no women’s programs at all. Types of women’s programs include women study circles and other gatherings such as teas, cooking classes, book clubs, etc.
  • Most mosques (63%) score “fair” or “poor” on a scale for a women-friendly mosque. Only 14% of mosques score “excellent” for being a women-friendly mosque.

Other observations we have made while producing unMosqued

  • African American mosques tend to be more women-friendly, in particular the mosques that follow the leadership of Imam W. Deen Mohammed.
  • Mosques that are open to involvement in American society through activities such as interfaith and community service tend to be more women-friendly.
  • Women’s involvement in governance makes a difference in the use of dividers—mosques reporting women’s participation at the board level are less likely to use dividers.

Contemporary realities marked by the greater visibility of women in the public square across all national and cultural contexts indicate the need for greater inclusion of women in worship spaces. A continued exclusion of women from the mosque when contrasted to their rapid inclusion in other institutional forms not only damages the social and spiritual fabric of Muslim communities but also reinforces a perception that mosque spaces are not keeping pace with cultural and institutional shifts. Yet changing existing structures and interpretations is challenging, particularly when these structures are traditional, because they are more resistant to change. Because of the institutional traditionalism, many women leaders have occasionally preferred to start off with new organizational structures as an avenue to public engagement, rather than integrating themselves into existing organizational forms and seeking change from within.

It is important to note that mosques currently are not the main congregation area for women. While this particular survey did not address women’s activities outside the mosque, women’s groups can and do meet outside of the mosque, often in each other’s homes or organizational meeting spaces.

Ethnocentrism

  • 75% of all mosques are dominated by one ethnic group. In most cases this one group is either South Asian, Arab or African American.
  • The main groups that comprise the American Muslim community are South Asians(Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis, and Afghanis), Arab (prominent groups include Egyptians, Palestinians, Lebanese, Yemenis; 22 Arab countries are represented), and African Americans. Many of the South Asians and Arab mosque goers have been arriving in America since the 1960s and 1970s, and their second generation children are now taking prominent roles in the US Muslim community.
  • African Americans have been converting to Islam in relatively large numbers since the 1960s and 1970s, and now their second-generation Muslim children are now in adulthood. Other significant groups include Iranians who came in large numbers since 1979 and many recent arrivals such as West Africans, Somalis and Bosnians.

Other observations we have made while producing unMosqued

  • Millennials and GenXers are much less likely to be affiliated with their mosque after they graduate from college than their parents. 
  • Young Muslims typically have vibrant, awesome MSA experiences in college, where they experience inclusion, acceptance regardless of religiosity level, etc. They are often shocked when they graduate and enter a mosque and get a very different, sour experience. At this point, many of them disengage from the mosque and find other creative outlets to express and grow their spirituality and closeness to God

Converts

  • Only 3% of mosques consider "New Muslim" classes a top priority
  • The conversion rate per mosque has remained steady over the past two decades.
  • In 2011 the average number of converts per mosque over the last 12 month period was 15.3. In 2000 the average was 16.3 and in 1994 it was 16.5.
  • African American mosques do the best in attracting new Muslims. Their average is 20.3 new converts per year, and one-third of all converts come from African American mosques. All other mosques, whether South Asian or Arab, are close in their rate of conversions.
  • The location of mosques—urban, suburban, town—does not seem to affect the conversion rate. However, since there are more mosques in the urban area, 64% of all conversions take place in urban mosques and 29% take place in suburban mosques.
  • More female converts in mosques were recorded in the 2011 survey than in the 2000 survey. Whereas only 32% of all converts in 2000 were female, 41% of converts were female in 2011.
  • The ethnicity of new converts remained the same except for an increase among Latinos from 6% of all converts in 2000 to 12% of all converts in 2011, and a slight decrease of white American converts.
  • The majority of African American converts (52%) chose Islam in non-African American mosques.
  • Over 82% of all mosques had at least one African American convert. The vast majority of African Americans converted in urban mosques.
  • Whites converted to Islam in all types of mosques except African American mosques. The highest conversion rate for whites is found in suburban mosques, especially mosques located in new suburban areas. While new-suburban mosques represent only 7% of all mosques, 16% of whites converted in mosques located in new suburban areas. As mosques continue to be established in the suburbs, it might be expected that the conversion of whites will increase.
  • Likewise, Latinos converted in all types of ethnic mosques except African American mosques. Mosques that are roughly evenly mixed between South Asian and Arab have the highest rate of conversion among Latinos. In terms of mosque location, the best rate of conversion for Latinos is among suburban mosques, whether in new or older suburban areas

Youth/Programming

Stewardship/Imams

  • Two-thirds(66%) of Imams were born outside the United States. Among full-time, paid Imams, 85% were born outside America.
  • Almost half (47%) of Imams who have come from abroad arrived in America since 2000.
  • Mosques are under-financed. While mosque attendance is higher than other American religious congregations, mosque budgets are less than half the budget of other congregations. The median income for mosques is $70,000 and the median income of all congregations is $150,000.
  • Mosques are under-staffed. Only 44% of all Imams are full-time and paid. Half of all mosques have no full-time staff. Program staff such as youth directors or outreach directors account for only 5% of all full-time staff.
  • American mosques are disconnected and unorganized—62% of all mosques are unaffiliated with any other organization.