Islam Among America’s Fastest-Growing Faiths, U.S. Religion Census Finds 

Driven largely by immigration, the number of Muslims in the U.S. offering prayers in mosques has jumped dramatically over the past decade, reflecting a three-fold increase in the construction of Islamic houses of worship, according to a national survey of religious life in the country.

Islamic Cultural Center in Manhattan, New York. (Photo by Matt Green, Creative Commons license)
Islamic Cultural Center in Manhattan, New York. (Photo by Matt Green, Creative Commons license)

The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, a nonprofit forum of 31 faith groups that conducts the U.S. Religion Census (USRC) every 10 years, found that while mainline congregations shrank from 2010 through 2020, those unconnected with recognized denominations have steadily grown.

The study, conducted by analysts from various faith groups, also found that the number of practicing Muslims—as well as non-denominational Christians— increased sharply over the past decade, largely because of immigration. (Spanish-speaking immigrants accounted for the lion’s share of members in the Catholic Church, whose 61 million adherents outnumber those from any other faith.)

The latest USRC, whose details were released in November, is the most exhaustive survey of the nation’s religious life in every U.S. county. It documented 372 religious organizations, 356,739 congregations and some161 million participants, also known as adherents.

The growth in the number of adherents appears to be most remarkable among Muslims. Some 4.5 million Muslims offer prayers in mosques—a 75-percent increase over 2010, when 2.6 million participated in mosque prayers.

In fact, this may well be something of a golden age for Islam in the U.S., driven mainly by immigration, according to Ihsan Bagby, associate professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky. The scholar, who gathered data on Muslims for the survey, estimates that 871 mosques were constructed in the U.S. over the past decade, bringing their total number to 2,771.

Because mosques in the U.S.—like those overseas—don’t usually keep track of the number of adherents, Bagby said he based his estimates on information that he sought about weekly Friday prayers (known as Jumah) as well as prayers offered during Islamic holidays or Eid.

Mosques “have mellowed and matured and become more moderate in their understanding of Islam and that has also been an attraction,” Bagby said, explaining that the average Muslim in the U.S. is younger than the average adherent to other faiths. “Many Muslims who had kept away feel more comfortable coming.”


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