Islam in America

Updated September 9, 2022 | David Johnson and Catherine McNiff

Muslims move to the mainstream

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During Dec. 2000 a crescent symbolizing Islam stood along with the Christmas tree and the Hanukkah candelabra on the Ellipse in Washington, DC. In 2001 the postal service issued the first stamp honoring the Muslim feasts of Eid-al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha at the request of thousands of Muslim school children. The "Eid" stamp has been reissued with different color backgrounds five times, and in 2011 and 2013, was issued as a forever stamp.

The stamp is one indication that American Muslims have arrived as a political and social force.

Mosques Dot the Country

Once confined to the nation's biggest cities, mosques, Islamic houses of worship, are rapidly becoming a familiar site on Main Streets across the country. According to the U.S. Mosque Survey of 2011, there are more than 2,000 mosques in the U.S., with the highest number in New York, California, and Texas.

Fueled by immigration and conversions, Islam is the fastest growing religion in America and is second only to Christianity worldwide.

According to the Pew Research Center, there were approximately 2.75 Muslin Americans in 2011. High immigration and fertility rates will cause this figure to nearly double to 6.9 million by 2030.

Many People Confuse Terms

Many people mistakenly assume 'Muslim' and 'Arab' are interchangeable. Many Arabs are Christian. There are two million Christian Arabs—mainly Orthodox and Roman Catholic—living the U.S.

The majority of Muslims in the world are not Arab. In fact, Indonesia, in Southeast Asia, is the largest Islamic country in the world. Millions of Muslims live in such non-Arab areas as India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Central Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Diverse Origins

The Pew Research Center states that American Muslims have the following origins: Middle East/North Africa, 26%; South Asia (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan), 16%; sub-Saharan Africa, 7%; Europe, 5%; Iran 3%.

More Muslims Favored Bush in 2000

According to Neveen Salem, director of communications and media at the AMC, 70% of all U.S. Muslims voted for George Bush. The remainder of the vote was split between Albert Gore and Ralph Nader.

One reason for Bush's support was his criticism of "secret evidence," which is used to hold a person suspected of belonging to a terrorist organization, but which is not shown to the suspect for fear of compromising intelligence sources. The law is used almost exclusively against Arabs.

However, in 2004, 9 in 10 Muslim Americans voted for John Kerry, and in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Muslim Americans (92%) voted for Barack Obama.

Almost half of U.S. Muslims self-identify themselves as Democrats or lean Democratic (48%), while 40% say they are either Republicans or lean Republican. Those that claim independence stand at 12%.

Muslims in Congress

James George Abourezk was the first Arab American to serve in the Senate from 1973–1979. Since then, there have been up to a handful serving in Congress at any time.


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