WASHINGTON - Once considered an asterisk in any religious census of America, the nation's Muslim community is growing because of immigration and conversions, and now 2 million Americans go to a mosque at least occasionally, according to a new report.
Mosques increasingly are becoming political centers, according to the report, which said 89 percent of the mosque leaders interviewed say Muslims should be involved in politics. Ten percent have voter registration centers. A majority of Muslims voted for President Bush in the fall election.
The Toledo area is home to more than 5,000 Muslims, and the Islamic center in Perrysburg Township serves 500 families.
Nationwide, the average household income of mosque participants is $41,000, and one-fourth of those associated with a mosque have incomes of less than $20,000, below the poverty level.
At least 86 percent of all mosque leaders said their mosques emphasize fasting, abstaining from sex outside marriage and alcohol, personal prayer or devotions, restrictions diet and on holy days, and family devotions. Only 32 percent said they encourage displaying Islamic symbols in the home.
Eighty-two percent strongly agree with the statement that America “is a technologically advanced society that we can learn from.''
Asked whether America “is an immoral, corrupt society,'' 28 percent strongly agree, 39 percent somewhat agree, 27 percent somewhat disagree, and 6 percent strongly disagree.
Asked whether “American society is hostile to Islam,'' 15 percent strongly agree, 41 percent somewhat agree, 32 percent said they somewhat disagree, and 12 percent said they strongly agree.
Spearheaded by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Mosque Study Project of 2000 is part of a larger study of faiths in America coordinated by the Hartford Institute for Religious Research. Researchers from Vassar College, Shaw University, and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University participated either in gathering or analyzing data about Muslims in America.
The study estimates 350,000 Muslims are at Friday prayers on any given week. With five calls to prayer each day, an average of 112,437 Muslims are at each one.
One of three regular participants is a convert to Islam. And 40 percent of mosque participants travel more than 15 minutes to get to a mosque from home, meaning residential patterns are not concentrated around a mosque.
Mosques, said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, especially those in the suburbs, are characterized by “overcrowded parking lots and praying in shifts.''
The rate of conversions in 2000 was the same as in 1994, with mosques having an average of 16 conversions each a year. But 62 percent of all mosques were established in the 1980s and 1990s.
Seventy-eight percent of the participants at Friday prayers are men; women make up 15 percent, and children account for 7 percent. At 66 percent of mosques women pray behind a curtain; in 1994, that was 52 percent.