American Muslim Facts

It is almost impossible to generalize about American Muslims: converts, immigrants, factory workers, doctors; all are making their own contribution to America’s future. This complex community is unified by a common faith,underpinned

by a countrywide network of a thousand mosques.

Muslims were early arrivals in North America. By the eighteenth century there were many thousands of them, working as slaves on plantations. These early communities, cut off from their heritage and families, inevitably lost their Islamic identity as time went by. Today, many African-American Muslims play an important role in the Islamic community.

The nineteenth century, however, saw the beginnings of an influx of Arab Muslims, most of whom settled in the major industrial centers where they worshipped in hired rooms. The early twentieth century witnessed the arrival of several hundred thousand Muslims from Eastern Europe: the first Albanian mosque was opened in Maine in 1915; others soon followed, and a group of Polish Muslims opened a mosque in Brooklyn in 1928.

In 1947 the Washington Islamic Center was founded during President Truman’s term and several nationwide organizations were set up in the fifties. The same period saw the establishment of other communities whose lives were in many ways modeled after Islam. More recently, numerous members of these groups have entered the fold of Muslim orthodoxy.

More information on American Muslims may be found at: cair


There is no scientific count of Muslims in the U.S. Six to seven million is the most commonly cited figure.

Ethnic Breakdown of (Sunni) Mosques Attendees in the United States:

Ethnicity %
South Asian 33
African American 30
Arab 25
Sub-Saharan African 3.4
European (Balkan) 2.1
White American 1.6
Southeast Asian 1.3
Caribbean 1.2
Turkish 1.1
Iranian 0.7
Hispanic/Latino 0.6

Source: Ihsan Bagby et. al, The American Mosque: A National Portrait. CAIR 2001.

Muslim Population in North America*

Ethnic Ancestry As % of Estimated Muslim Population
South Asian 25
Arab 23
African American 14
Sub-Saharan African 10
Iranian 10
Turk 6
Other Asian 5
Balkan 2
Other** 5

Source: Mohamed Nimer. The North American Muslim Resource

Guide: Muslim Community Life in the United States and Canada. New York, NY: Routledge, 2002.

*United States and Canada.

**This category is comprised from many ancestries, including Anglo Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Canadian Aboriginals.

Islamic Centers:

Distribution of Mosque Communities

There were 1,256 mosque communities by August 2003. All states, in addition to the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, have mosques widely ranging in number from one to 214. As shown in the table below, California ranked first (accounting for 17 percent of all U.S. mosques) in the number of mosques; New York is placed second, with a little less than 14 percent of the total. More than 30 percent of Muslim congregations in the United States are located in these two states. Nearly half the congregations are located in California, New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, and Illinois. And more than 75 percent of all mosques are located in only 15 states: the above six in addition to Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington.

Islamic centers are found in 635 cities and towns across the Untied States. There are 39 cities with five or more mosques; these alone comprise 31 percent of all congregations in the United States. Nearly half the congregations (610 mosques) are located in 107 cities, each of which has three or more Islamic centers. Brooklyn has the highest number of mosques—42. It is followed by Houston, which is home to 38 places of worship. The Detroit area, including Dearborn, has 25 mosques; Chicago, 19; Los Angeles, 12; Bronx, 11; New York, Queens and Cleveland have 10 each.

Sometimes local resistance to a new mosque is a factor in the Muslim community’s choice of location. As Kathleen Moore indicates in Al-Mughtaribun: American Law and the Transformation of Muslim Life in the United States, community decisions in some regions are shaped both by the restrictions of local building codes and by the apprehensiveness of local officials about the political cost of approving an Islamic presence. As a result, it is not unusual to find large mosques built in low-income residential areas or industrial zones.

Traditionally, Muslims preferred mosque structures with classical Islamic architectural designs. But other considerations frequently trump such preferences. Most communities have found the cost of building domes and minarets prohibitive. It is common for small or low-income Muslim communities to buy houses, churches or other public buildings (such as warehouses, schools and government facilities) and convert them to Islamic centers. Some large and affluent communities would rather expand facilities and programs than invest in marvelous landmarks. Save building signs, most Islamic centers would not be distinguishable from their surroundings. While there are some “mega-mosques” with thousands of regular worshippers, most centers are smaller.

Number and Percentage of Mosques by State:

State Number Percentage
AK 3 0.2
AL 18 1.4
AR 7 0.6
AZ 14 1.1
CA 214 17.1
CO 10 0.8
CT 15 1.2
DC 8 0.6
DE 4 0.3
FL 78 6.2
GA 32 2.6
HI 1 0.1
IA 10 0.8
ID 1 0.1
IL 56 4.5
IN 18 1.4
KS 6 0.5
KY 10 0.8
LA 18 1.4
MA 29 2.3
MD 26 2.1
ME 2 0.2
MI 54 4.3
MN 11 0.9
MO 9 0.7
MS 8 0.6
MT 2 0.2
NC 32 2.6
ND 2 0.2
NE 7 0.6
NH 3 0.2
NJ 61 4.9
NM 8 0.6
NV 3 0.2
NY 170 13.6
OH 47 3.8
OK 11 0.9
OR 5 0.4
PA 47 3.8
PR 1 0.1
RI 4 0.3
SC 14 1.1
SD 2 0.2
TN 13 1
TX 83 6.6
UT 4 0.3
VA 25 2
VI 1 0.1
WA 21 1.7
WI 18 1.4
WV 5 0.4
WY 3 0.2
Total 1253 100


American Muslim Databank Project. Last update: August 15, 2003 SOURCE