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Islam

How many Muslims are there in
the U.S. and the rest of the world?

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Number of Muslims in the world:

Estimates of the total number of Muslims in the world vary greatly:

bullet 0.700 billion or more, Barnes & Noble Encyclopedia (1993)
bullet 0.817 billion, The Universal Almanac (1996)
bullet 0.951 billion, The Cambridge Factfinder (1993)
bullet 1.100 billion, The World Almanac (1997)
bullet 1.200 billion, CAIR (Council on American-Islamic relations)
bullet 1.570 billion, Pew Forums

As of mid 2010, we accept the Pew Forum's estimate 1.57 billion as the most reliable estimate.

With that number, they represent about 22% of the world's population. They are the second largest religion in the world. Only Christianity is larger, with 33% of the world's inhabitants -- a little over 2 billion.

Islam is growing about 2.9% per year. This is faster than the total world population which increases about 2.3% annually. It is thus attracting a progressively larger percentage of the world's population.

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Number of Muslims in the U.S.

Nobody knows.

This is a political hot-potato. Some non-Muslims have accused Muslims of exaggerated their numbers in order to obtain more political clout. Some Muslims have accused non-Muslims of releasing false, low numbers in order to "marginalize" Islam. 4 In religion, as in war, truth is often the first casualty.

Estimates of the number of Muslims in North America range from a little over one million adults to seven million adults and children. One cause of the disagreement appears to be related to the  percentage of Muslim immigrants:

bullet Who have abandoned Islam since they arrived in the US, or
bullet Who still consider themselves to be Muslims, but who do not participate in mosque activities.

Estimates of the number of U.S. Muslmis include:

In order of the

Date Number of Muslims Note Source Ref.
2001- 1.1 million adults; 1.8 million adults and children A ARIS study 2
2000 1.6 million B Glenmary Research Center 1
2001-OCT 1.9 million C National Opinion Research Center 6
2001-APR 2 million Muslims D Hartford Institute for Religious Research 3
2001 2.8 million E American Jewish Committee 4
2001 4.1 million F Britannica book of the Year 6
2001 A little over 5 million G Abdul Malik Mujahid 9
2001 5.78 million H World Almanac 7
1995 6 million I CAIR 6
1997 6.7 million J Ilyas Ba-Yunus 8
2001-APR 6 to 7 million K Prof. Ihsan Bagby 6
2001 7.0 L Four Islamic groups 4
2002 7.0 M CAIR 5
1998 12 million N Pakistani newspaper 10

Notes:

bullet A: This was a phone survey which asked the question "What is your religion, if any.?" This type of poll has an inherent inaccuracy, because there are always some subjects that refuse to reveal their religion. Followers of some faith groups, like Wicca, which are heavily persecuted in the U.S. often do not disclose their actual religion. They either give false data or refuse to answer. Five percent of the subjects contacted did not reply to this question.
bullet B: This was part of a study of all faith groups in America. It was compiled in the year 2000 by 149 denominations and research groups, and published by the Glenmary Research Center of Atlanta, GA. The information was released in 2002-SEP. "Several Islamic groups last week accused the researchers of trying to diminish their numbers and influence." Faiz Rehman, communications director for the American Muslim Council, said: 'They may claim whatever they want to claim, but we refuse to accept this report. They are grossly wrong, and they are not serving the country well if they continue to marginalize Muslims.' " Kenneth M. Sanchagrin, director of the Glenmary Research Center, stands by the accuracy of their estimate. He said: "There was no intention, desire, question of trying to distort or fudge the data at all." The Washington Post reported that: "Mosques typically do not keep membership rolls. The Muslim estimate was based on a self-reported count from about a third of the country's 1,209 mosques." The Center then compared the results with statistics on immigration and conversion rates to Islam. 4

Sulayman S. Nyang is a professor at Howard University professor, and co-director of an Islamic research center at Georgetown University. He said that the actual number of Muslims is likely higher than the Glenmary Research Center's estimate, but that "demographic jealousy" has made accuracy difficult. He said: "The whole question is a statistical game. And it's played on both sides. There are Jewish reports that have made the number very small, and some Muslims like to exaggerate the number."

bullet C: This study was commissioned by the American Jewish Committee. The National Opinion Research Center analyzed various public opinion surveys, studies of mosque attendance, and immigration statistics. They estimated a range of from 1.5 to 3.4 million Muslims; their best estimate was 1.9 million
bullet D: This was part of a study of all faith groups in the U.S. called: "Faith Communities Today: Mosque in America: A National Portrait." It was released in 2001-APR. Leaders in 416 mosques were asked to estimate the number of people involved in their mosque in any way. The average answer was 1,625 participants. There are 1,209 known mosques in the U.S. If the average of all mosques was the same as the 416 sampled, then the total "mosqued Muslims" in the U.S. is 1.96 million.
bullet E: This was mentioned by the Washington Post as an estimate of the American Jewish Committee. It is apparently based on the National Opinion Research Center data. Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that this estimate is  part of an effort by the Jewish community to "marginalize" Islam in the United States. He asked: "Why are they worried about our numbers? What's it triggering? We have never misrepresented our figures and have never been interested in competing with any other faith or ethnic community."
bullet F: This estimate was prepared by demographer David B. Barrett and staff who prepare religious estimates for Encyclopaedia Britannica and twenty other yearbooks.
bullet G: Abdul Malik Mujahid bases this value on the findings of many public survey organizations which normally report about 2% Muslims in the U.S. Two percent of the total American population in the 2000 census gives "a little over 5 million..." 9
bullet H: The yearbook states (only in the case of Islam) that: "Estimate; figures from other sources may vary."
bullet I: This estimate was used by the Council on American-Islamic Relations from 1995 until 2001.
bullet J: Sociologist Ilyas Ba-Yunus reviewed all available studies. 9
bullet K: Professor Bagby of Shaw University in Raleigh, NC multiplied the Hartford Institute value of 2 million by a factor of three to account for those Muslims who are not active participators in mosque activities. The Washington Post reports that: "He calls this multiplier an educated guess based on years of observation of the Islamic community."
bullet L: This estimate was made by four American Islamic groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
bullet M. This is the value that CAIR currently uses on their web site.
bullet N: No information could be found on the identity of the newspaper.

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Ethnic origins of Muslims in the U.S.:

According to the "Faith Communities Today" report, the ethnic origins of regular participants in U.S. mosques are as follows:
bullet South Asian (Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, Afghani) = 33 %
bullet African-America = 30 %
bullet Arab = 25 %
bullet Sub-Saharan African = 3.4 %
bullet European (Bosnian, Tartar, Kosovar, etc.) = 2.1 %
bullet White American = 1.6 %
bullet Southeast Asian ( Malaysian, Indonesian, Filipino) = 1.3 %
bullet Caribbean = 1.2 %
bullet Turkish = 1.1 %
bullet Iranian = 0.7 %
bullet Hispanic/Latino = 0.6 %

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Muslims in Canada:

Unlike the U.S. which does not tabulate individuals' religion, the Canadian census asks people what their religion is. Statistics Canada reports that 253,260 Canadians identified themselves as Muslims (0.9% of the total population) during the 1991 census. Those figures are believed to be an under-estimate, because some Muslims would be reluctant to reveal their religion out of fear.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Religious Congregations & Membership: 2000," Report, Glenmary Research Center, Atlanta, GA. Published in 2002-SEP.
  2. "American Religious Identification Survey: Key findings," City University of New York, at: http://www.gc.cuny.edu/studies/key_findings.htm
  3. "Faith Communities Today: Mosque in America: A National Portrait," April 2001. Hartford Seminary's Hartford Institute for Religious Research. Quoted in the "Demographic Facts" report by the U.S. Department of State, International Information Programs, at: http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/
  4. David Cho, "Evangelicals Help Pace U.S. Growth in Church Attendance; Tally of Muslims Rejected as Low By Islamic Groups," Washington Post, 2002-SEP-16, at:  http://www.washingtonpost.com
  5. "About Islam and American Muslims," Council on American-Islamic Relations, at: http://www.cair-net.org/asp/aboutislam.asp. Downloaded 2002-SEP-18.
  6. Bill Broadway, "Number of U.S. Muslims Depends on Who's Counting," Washington Post, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com
  7. "The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2001," World Almanac Books, (2001), Page 689.
  8. Ilyas Ba-Yunus, "Muslim of Illinois, A Demographic Report,"  East-West University, Chicago, 1997, Page 9. Referred to by Abdul Malik Mujahid, "Muslims in America: Profile 2001," SoundVision.com at: http://www.soundvision.com/info/
  9. Abdul Malik Mujahid, "Muslims in America: Profile 2001," SoundVision.com at: http://www.soundvision.com/info/
  10. Daniel Pipes, "How Many U.S. Muslims?," 2001-AUG-29, American Jewish Committee, at:  http://www.ajc.org/InTheMedia/

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Site navigation: Home page > World Religions > Islam menu > here

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Copyright © 2002 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-SEP-18
Latest update: 2010-JUN-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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