Number of Muslims in the United States

Q. How many Muslims are in the United States?

A. According to an academic review of available survey-based data in 2001, informed by information provided by Muslim organizations and mosques, the highest reasonable total number of Muslims in the United States is 2.8 million.

A more realistic number, supported by statistically significant survey data comparable to what has been used to to calculate the sizes of other religious groups, is less than 2 million Muslims in the United States, or about 0.5% of the total population.

Estimates of the U.S. Muslim population of 6 million, 8 million, 10 million or more may indeed be correct, but are not supported by empirical data. Such numbers may best be understood as "spiritual" numbers, rather than actual numbers.

See also:
- American Religious Identification Survey 2001 - based on a survey of 50,000 Americans nationwide
- Estimating the Muslim Population in the United States - an authoritative study by Tom W. Smith, NORC, University of Chicago
- Islam in the United States: Muslim Population in the US - list of numerous estimates from different sources
- Some Notes on Muslims in Canada and the US - by M. Darrol Bryant, Renaissance: A Monthly Islamic Journal (Pakistan)
- History Detectives: Islam in America (PBS)

Group: Muslim Population Overstated

Date: 22 October 2001
By: Rachel Zoll, AP Religion Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - The American Jewish Committee, concerned by the growing political influence of U.S. Muslims, released a report Monday saying commonly used estimates of the Muslim population in this country are too high, likely by millions.

The study concludes that the best estimate of Muslims in the United States is 2.8 million at most, compared to the 6 million figure used by many researchers and Muslim organizations. Muslim leaders said the report was an attempt to undercut their influence.

David Harris, the committee's executive director, said his group commissioned the review just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

At the time, President Bush was making an unprecedented effort to reach out to American Muslims, as he built his anti-terrorism coalition and tried to stem harassment of Muslims in this nation.

"This study sheds some light on what the actual numbers are. I'm sure that will be of interest to many throughout the country," Harris said.

Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington lobby group, called the report a "desperate attempt to discount the role of American Muslims.

"Very often the representatives of the extremist wing of the pro-Israel lobby such as the American Jewish Committee seek to block Muslim political participation," Hooper said.

In the past, Harris has warned that the increasingly visible American Muslim lobby posed a challenge to U.S.-Israel relations.

The American Jewish Committee and other groups estimate the number of Jews in this country is about 6 million.

"Six million has a special resonance," Harris wrote in a May 21 article in Jerusalem Report magazine. "It would mean that Muslims outnumber Jews in the U.S. and it would buttress calls for a redefinition of America's heritage as 'Judeo-Christian-Muslim,' a stated goal of some Muslim leaders."

Since the census does not consider religion, researchers must use other means to determine membership in a denomination.

The American Jewish Committee report, written by Tom Smith of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, concluded that unsound methods have been used in several studies to estimate the number of Muslims.

In some cases, he says mosques likely counted members who are no longer active and that some intentionally overstate their rolls - criticisms made of nearly every denomination in this country.

In other studies, he says researchers used experts, such as a U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, who gave no basis for their estimates, or counted immigrants as Muslim if they came from a predominantly Muslim country.

The assumption that Muslim immigrants likely wouldn't come forward to be counted was inaccurate, since demographic data indicate many Muslims are better educated and wealthier than the general public, Smith said.

Smith also questioned the most recent study, "The Mosque in America: A National Portrait," released in April by the Islamic Circle of North America, Hooper's council and other groups.

That review estimated that about 2 million Muslims were active in mosques and concluded that the Muslim population in the United States was between 6 million and 7 million.

"This assertion seems untenable," Smith wrote.

Professor Ihsan Bagby of Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., who wrote the mosque report, acknowledged that his 6 million to 7 million figure was a "guestimation," but argued it was an accurate one.

He said he calculated that number by multiplying by three the number of families associated with a mosque. He said he was following the lead of other researchers who adjust for the fact that most Muslims do not affiliate with a mosque, leading to underestimates of the population.

"I'm not going to hang my hat on 6 million, but I think it's reasonable in terms of guesses," Bagby said. "We need more thorough and accurate studies and more comprehensive studies. I think this is the best that we have now."

Smith disagrees. He said adjusted data from surveys of Muslim households would put the Muslim population around 1.9 million. If statistics on mosque participation, ancestry and immigration were adjusted and used, the highest estimate would be 2.8 million, he said.


On the Net:
American Jewish Committee:
Council on American-Islamic Relations:

How Many U.S. Muslims?

By: Daniel Pipes
Date: 29 October 2001
Source: New York Post

How many Muslims live in the United States?

Until now, basically, no one has had any idea. By law, the U.S. Census cannot ask questions about religion. There are also plenty of other difficulties in coming up with a number, starting with the problem of defining who is a Muslim: Does one include non-standard believers like Louis Farrakhan and the Druze?

Uncertainty has generated some wildly divergent numbers. A large 1990 demographic survey counted 1.3 million Muslims. In 1998, a Pakistani newspaper put the number at 12 million. Even the usually authoritative Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches found 527,000 American Muslims in 1996 and six times as many (3.3 million) in 1998.

Needing some kind of consensus figure, Muslim organizations came up with a self-acknowledged "guestimation" of 6 million, which this year they decided to raise to 7 million.

These numbers were so widely adopted (even by this writer) that they acquired a sheen of authority. But repetition does not transform a guess into a fact.

The trouble is a generic one; religious organizations commonly inflate their membership to enhance their voice in the public square.

Fortunately, the smog of imprecision finally lifted last week, with the appearance of two authoritative studies by highly regarded demographers. (Each study relied on respondents' religious self-identification.) Interestingly, they agreed on a very similar number, one much smaller than the old guestimate.

The American Religious Identification Survey 2001 carried out by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York polled more than 50,000 people and found the total American Muslim population to be 1.8 million.

Meanwhile, the University of Chicago's Tom Smith reviewed prior national surveys and (in a study sponsored by the American Jewish Committee) found that the best estimate puts the Muslim population in 2000 at 1,886,000. (With a nod toward figures supplied by Islamic organizations, he allowed that this number could be as high as 2,814,000 Muslims.)

In other words, two authoritative studies carried out by scholars found that American Muslims number under 2 million - less than a third of the hitherto-consensus number.

To this, the militant Islamic groups in Washington - widely but erroneously seen as representative of American Muslims - responded with predictable hyperbole. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) furiously accused Smith's report of working "to block Muslim political participation."

The American Muslim Council (AMC) charged Smith with nothing less than trying to "deny the existence of 4 1/2 million American Muslims" and blamed him for "tearing at the very heart of America."

The AMC also amusingly claimed that its own estimate of "more than 7 million" Muslims came from the 2000 Census figures - erroneously thinking that the Census asks about religion.

Oh, and that's the same AMC which in 1992 pressured a researcher named Fareed Nu'man to find 6 million Muslims in the country; Nu'man later testified that he counted just 3 million and was fired by the AMC when he refused to inflate his number above 5 million.

Why does the militant Islamic lobby insist on the 6-7 million figures? Because a larger number, even if phony, offers it enhanced access and clout. Convincing the Republican Party that Muslims number 8 million, for example, led to urgent calls from its chairman for "meeting with [Muslim] leaders," something which becomes less of a priority when the Muslim population turns out to be much smaller.

Knowing the real number of Muslims will, most immediately, likely impede two militant Islamic efforts now underway: one (pushed by The Minaret magazine) to get Americans to acknowledge that their own misdeeds partially caused the atrocities of Sept. 11; and another (led by CAIR) to halt the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. The longer-range implications will be yet more significant.

Private studies fuel debate over size of U.S. Muslim population

By: Teresa Watanabe
Date: 21 October 2001
Source: Los Angeles Times

Two new studies have found that Muslims in America may number no more than 2.8 million, a figure more than 50 percent lower than what is commonly cited by the media and many Islamic organizations.

The studies have reignited debate over whether Islamic organizations are vastly exaggerating their numbers -- or whether lower estimates are politically biased by Jewish interests.

One study, an analysis of more than 20 Muslim population estimates, was conducted for the American Jewish Committee by Tom W. Smith of the National Opinion Research Center in Chicago. The survey concluded that Muslim population figures ranged between 1.4 million and 2.8 million.

The other study, a random telephone survey of religious identification of 50,000 households, was conducted by Jewish researchers at City University of New York. That survey found that the Muslim adult population had doubled since 1990, with 1.1 million Muslim adults and 650,000 Muslim children.

Muslim organizations immediately decried the studies. "It is certainly a desperate attempt to undermine the growing influence and presence of the American Muslim community," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations office in Anaheim, Calif. The council, like many other American Muslim groups, uses a population estimate of 7 million.

Muslim groups have used this number to claim parity with American Jews. But the CUNY study found that Jews, while their numbers are declining, have an American population that is more than twice the size of the Muslim American population.

Ilyas Ba-Yunus, a professor of demography at State University of New York at Cortland, said general telephone surveys are certain to undercount Muslims, since immigrants in particular would refuse to respond to them. His own analysis this year yielded a figure of 6.7 million Muslims.

Kenneth Bandler of the Jewish committee denied any bias. He said the committee wanted to glean accurate figures for faith communities it frequently deals with, and that Buddhists, Sikhs and other emerging groups would be studied in the coming months. The committee chose to look at Muslims now because of the current intense media focus on them.

"We're not seeking to diminish or do battle, and we certainly don't see the American Muslim community as a threat," Bandler said. "They are part of the mosaic of American society."

But in an article for the Jerusalem Report in May, American Jewish Committee Executive Director David A. Harris urged American Jewry to unite with Israel to battle against the growing Arab and Muslim lobbies here and the challenge they present to long-standing U.S. support for Israel. Harris cited the "myth" of high Muslim population figures as one tactic Muslims are using to advance their position.

Smith, director of the highly regarded General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago, reviewed 24 Muslim population estimates published in the past 20 years and said most were based on flawed methodology.

Egon Mayer, professor of sociology at City University in New York, said his survey data on American religious affiliation was collected by a marketing firm over six months and therefore could not be manipulated. He said the most surprising finding was the doubling in number of Americans who did not choose any religious affiliation.

The demographic brouhaha underscores the difficulty in charting reliable figures for religious affiliation. The U.S. census does not ask that question.

Studies Suggest Lower Count for Number of U.S. Muslims

By: Gustav Niebuhr
Date: 25 October 2001
Source: The New York Times, pg. A16

A new survey, and a study of other polls and surveys, indicates that the Muslim population of the United States may be smaller than has previously been widely estimated.

Scholarly estimates, much cited in recent weeks, have put the Muslim population in the United States at as high as six million.

But a survey of religious affiliation among American adults, released yesterday by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, estimated that there were 1.1 million Muslim adults living in the United States (more than double the 500,000 Muslims found in a similar, sweeping survey done by the Graduate Center in 1990).

In an interview, Egon Mayer, a sociologist at the Graduate Center and Brooklyn College who directed the study with the sociologist Barry Kosmin, estimated the total American Muslim population, based on the findings, at 1.8 million adults and children. Of the 1.1 million adult Muslims, 17 percent are converts, the survey estimates.

The survey, the American Religious Identification Survey 2001, was based on random interviews from February through June with more than 50,000 people, said Ariela Keysar, a demographer at the Graduate Center who worked on the survey. Among its main findings are that 52 percent of adults identify themselves as Protestants, 25 percent as Roman Catholics, 1.3 percent as religious Jews. An additional 14 percent said they had no religion.

Another report came up with slightly different numbers.

The report, commissioned by the American Jewish Committee and confined to the Muslim population in the United States, estimates that there are at most 2.8 million Muslims making up no more than 1 percent of the American population. It was written by Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, who said that most estimates of the nation's Muslim population were not based on scientific methods.

Though the committee's report was compiled from independent surveys, it was unclear whether, given its sponsor, it would be accepted by some Muslim groups.

David A. Harris, the Jewish committee's executive director, said it sought the report after seeing "wildly divergent" figures being reported on the American Muslim population after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The report, titled "Estimating the Muslim Population in the United States," was the fifth in a series on religious issues the committee has asked the research center to do since 1991.

In the report, Dr. Smith wrote that the "best, adjusted, survey based estimates" - the General Social Survey, Gallup polls and other national surveys - indicated that 1.4 million adults identify themselves as Muslims. On that basis, he estimated a total Muslim population at 1.9 million adults and children. But Dr. Smith also wrote that other surveys indicated that there might be as many as 2.1 million Muslim adults in the United States, or 2.8 million adults and children, a figure equivalent to 1 percent of the total American population.

Two major American Muslim organizations offered somewhat differing responses to the reports when informed of their findings.

Ibrahim Hooper, national director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, said that Muslim population estimates varied because substantial numbers of Muslims "don't get caught up in a statistical net" when such surveys are conducted. "Recent immigrants are going to be far less likely to be accessible in this way," Mr. Hooper said, referring to telephone surveys.

In April, the council published a study reporting the number of mosques rose by about 25 percent, to more than 1,200, from 1994 to 2000. Based on reports of attendance at some mosques, some researchers estimated the number of American Muslims at 6 million to 7 million.

But Salam Al-Marayati, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said the actual number of Muslims in the United States was far less important than the role that American Muslims played in society.

"What's important is the level of understanding, the ability to include the Muslim voice within the American mosaic, and clarifying the direction that the American Muslim community will pursue with both domestic and international policy," Mr. Al- Marayati said.

How many US Muslims? Our best estimate

By: Howard Fienberg and Iain Murray
Date: 29 November 2001
Source: Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON - Call it "the Muslim question." Since Sept. 11, America has grappled with public-policy decisions on security, immigration, and border control, racial profiling, and so on. When issues as sensitive as Muslim profiling are raised, it helps to have firm facts and figures.

But the drive for information has hit a roadblock: Neither the Census Bureau nor the Immigration and Naturalization Service is allowed to collect information rooted in religious faith. How can we debate such thorny problems when we have no official idea how many Muslims are in America?

To establish a credible figure, we must wade through a swamp of conflicting data. Opposing experts promote their own figures: 1 million to 7 million. These variations arise from differing approaches: estimates from individual surveys, indirect calculations based on data from places of worship, and proxy measures such as ancestry and country of origin. Each has drawbacks, but some are better than others.

The most prominent study using ancestry data put the Muslim population at 4 million. Using US Census Supplemental Survey data on ancestry, this study assumed that the number of Muslims in this country of a specific ancestry matched the proportion in their countries of origin. The study then adjusted for African-American Muslims and immigration and birth rates.
U.S. Muslim Population Estimates
(In millions)
Mosque Study Project6 to 7
2001 Britannica Book of the Year4.1
National Opinion Research Center1.5 to 3.4
CUNY Religious Identification Survey2.8

But estimates from ancestry data usually fail to account for deaths, emigration, or conversions. Also, immigrants often differ markedly from the general population in their countries of origin. Russian immigrants at the turn of the century were predominantly Jewish, not Russian Orthodox; immigrants from Lebanon were mainly Christian, not Muslim.

So if we can't get a reliable estimate this way, can we rely on statistics from places of worship? The most prominent example is the 2000 Mosque Study Project. This produced the estimate of 6 million to 7 million Muslims in America, the press's most-cited figure. The project surveyed individual mosques, finding that 340 adults and children participated at the average mosque and that another 1,629 were "associated in any way" with the average mosque's activities, yielding a figure of 2 million Muslims. The authors then adjusted the estimate to 6 million to 7 million overall to take into account family members and unaffiliated Muslims.

With impressive candor, the Mosque Study Project's lead researcher, Ihsan Bagby of Shaw University in North Carolina, conceded to The Associated Press that the number was a "guesstimation." That's because the project has methodological flaws.

Mosques (just like any other body) could have inflated their rolls by counting "members" who were no longer active. For example, the Los Angeles Times reported on Oct. 25 that "the Southern Baptist Convention conducted an audit of membership rolls a few years ago and found 25 percent of those listed had died or left the faith." Others may have intentionally inflated their estimates. Given the loose definition of who is "associated in any way" with a mosque's religious life, it is likely that some individuals were "associated" with more than one mosque, resulting in duplicate counting.

Moreover, almost 15 percent of Muslims in the Mosque Study Project sample came from only two mosques (each claimed almost 50,000 affiliates). The sample also appears biased toward larger mosques, distorting the size of the "average" mosque.

Surveying individuals might provide better data. Tom Smith of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago was recently commissioned by the American Jewish Committee to come up with a better estimate of Muslims in America. Smith drew his estimate from his center's most recent General Social Survey, which found 1.4 million adult Muslims. To estimate the number of Muslim adults and children, Smith took the General Social Survey data and made two assumptions: Every Muslim respondent represented a Muslim home and every non-Muslim respondent represented a non-Muslim home. This yielded an estimate of 1.7 million.

Case closed? Not quite. The City University of New York recently released its 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, asking members of 50,000 American households to identify their own religious affiliation, if any, and that of their spouse or partner. The survey estimated 1.1 million adult Muslims, further adjusted to 1.8 million adults and children.

Being drawn from wider, scientifically representative samples, the estimates provided by the American Religious Identification Survey and the General Social Survey both seem reasonable. Delicate policy decisions require information, but knowing how accurate that information is can be at least as important as having it at all. While a precise figure remains elusive, "2 million Muslims, give or take a few hundred thousand" appears to be America's most accurate number - for now.

Howard Fienberg is research analyst and Iain Murray is senior analyst with the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS), a nonpartisan research organization.

Number of U.S. Muslims Depends on Who's Counting

By: Bill Broadway
Date: 24 November 2001
Source: Washington Post

With a spotlight cast on American Muslims since Sept. 11, one seemingly simple question has defied a clear answer and become the focus of a politically charged dispute: What is the size of the U.S. Muslim population?

Four major Muslim organizations released a study in April that estimated the population at 6 million to 7 million. Based in part on that report, most media organizations, as well as the White House and the State Department, have said in recent weeks that there are at least 6 million Muslims in the country.

But two studies released last month, including one commissioned by the American Jewish Committee, concluded that the total is much lower: no more than 3.4 million and perhaps as few as 1.5 million.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of the sponsors of the April report, condemned the AJC-sponsored study, calling it part of an effort by the Jewish community to "marginalize" Islam in the United States.

"Why are they worried about our numbers? What's it triggering?" Awad asked. "We have never misrepresented our figures and have never been interested in competing with any other faith or ethnic community."

David A. Harris, the AJC's executive director, said his organization had long believed that the U.S. Muslim community was inflating its population figures. With the attention brought to Islam by the terrorist attacks and the "wildly divergent" figures quoted in the media, Harris said the AJC decided it was time to commission an analysis.

"It's not about numbers; it's about truth and accuracy," Harris said. "If a group born yesterday suddenly says it has 8 million members, that has societal consequences. If it's true, God bless them. If not true, do we go with the manufactured number?"

Religious denominations, like all interest groups, can gain or lose political clout based on perceptions of their size, said J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara, Calif. In the case of the U.S. Muslim community, Melton said, its efforts to influence policy in the Middle East would get a boost if it were viewed as being larger than the country's Jewish population, which is estimated at 6 million.

"It's a political question: How does it sway votes?" he said.

Awad said the council's interest in U.S. Muslim population estimates has more to do with its desire to have a voice on domestic issues such as health care, education, crime and drug abuse.

The conflicting studies are not simply a case of sponsors with different political agendas, however. The gap in the numbers also illustrates the problems that demographers have long faced when trying to count religious populations.

Definitive numbers don't exist in part because the U.S. Census, the most extensive survey of American society, is prohibited from asking about religious affiliation. Religious groups, when contributing population figures for reference books, most often rely on self-reported membership figures from houses of worship.

Even then, numbers often are not comparable. Some denominations count anyone on the rolls, including babies, while others consider only baptized adults.

Islam presents a particular challenge, because mosques typically do not maintain membership lists.

The April report co-sponsored by CAIR, titled "The Mosque in America: A National Portrait," was the Muslim portion of the largest U.S. denominational survey ever, a project coordinated by the Hartford Institute for Religious Research.

Researchers called the nation's 1,209 known mosques and interviewed leaders at 416 of them. Respondents were asked to estimate the number of people involved in their mosque in any way. The average response was 1,625 participants. Multiplying that figure by the 1,209 mosques, lead researcher Ihsan Bagby determined there were 2 million "mosqued Muslims" in the United States.

Bagby, a professor of international relations at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., multiplied that number by three to account for people who identify themselves as Muslims but might not participate in mosque activities. He calls this multiplier an educated guess based on years of observation of the Islamic community.

Paul M. Perl, a research assistant at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, analyzed the data for Bagby and wrote a preliminary draft of the report. But Perl said he did not see the final version before publication, including Bagby's population estimate of 6 million to 7 million.

"I don't think there is an easy way to go from the number of people at mosques to a total population figure," Perl said. He also said the average figure Bagby used on mosque participation might have been high, noting that two imams in the survey estimated that their mosques had 50,000 participants.

Carl S. Dudley, co-director of the Hartford denominational project, said it is not uncommon for religious groups to multiply worship attendance figures by three, five or even seven to obtain an estimate of total adherents. "The whole thing is a little slippery," he said.

CAIR's Awad, asked why his group settled on an estimate of 7 million in its press statements rather than Bagby's range of 6 million to 7 million, said the organization had used 6 million for six years. "If we still used the number six," he said, "people would say, 'Haven't we grown?' "

The American Jewish Committee believed the number was wrong, so it hired Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

Smith analyzed 45 documents and papers, including public opinion surveys, worship attendance studies and immigration statistics. He concluded that his "best survey estimate" of American Muslims was 1.9 million but allowed for a range of 1.5 million to 3.4 million.

The AJC's Harris said his group knew it would be criticized for commissioning Smith to do the study. Smith was known to be skeptical about the figure of 6 million U.S. Muslims; last year, he told the Los Angeles Times that the number was "completely invalid" and that Muslim groups were "inventing an estimate."

But Harris said: "If Smith had said, 'Oops, I made a mistake. The estimate is 10 million,' we would have published it."

Smith said he had been looking at the Muslim population issue since 1995 and planned to publish a report by the end of the year even before the AJC approached him.

On Oct. 24, a day after the AJC published Smith's report, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York released its American Religious Identification Survey 2001.

The university study was based on a random telephone survey. Members of more than 50,000 households -- a sample 25 to 50 times larger than in most national surveys -- were asked, "What is your religion, if any?"

Researchers adjusted the figures to account for such factors as nonparticipation by immigrants who did not speak English or who were afraid to respond because they were from countries where publicizing one's religion can result in reprisals.

Projecting the numbers in the sample to the overall U.S. population, the study's authors put the number of Muslims at 2.8 million.

David B. Barrett, a demographer whose staff provides annual U.S. and world religion estimates for Encyclopaedia Britannica and 20 other yearbooks, last year estimated the U.S. Muslim population at 4.1 million.

Barrett said he has reservations about each of the other three studies. He said he was "not all that impressed" by Smith's study because it relied on old material. He said household telephone surveys, even one as large as CUNY's, miss people without telephones and do not account for teenagers who have different beliefs from their parents. The mosque study, he said, relies too heavily on self-reported figures.

Barrett said his own method is to analyze population data from a variety of sources, including United Nations reports. For U.S. Muslims, many of whom are immigrants, he looks at the percentage of Sunnis, Shiites and other sects in their country of origin and projects that onto the immigrant population here.

The large gaps between the various estimates suggest that more research needs to be done and that demographers would benefit from sharing data and variables specific to the Muslim community, said Bryan T. Froehle, executive director of the Georgetown research center, which was hired to analyze the mosque figures in Bagby's report.

"What their study does is force us to look more sharply, to think of other ways to get at this issue," Bagby said of the CUNY report. "I just wish it wasn't a political hot potato."

The Muslim Population In The United States

Source: Resources for Studying Islam and the Diverse Perspectives of Muslims (University of Georgia)
Date viewed: 7 April 2005

"A Brief Statement" By Fareed H. Numan, American Muslim Council (AMC), December 1992.

[The following note appears on the same University of Georgia webpage that posts features this article about the number of Muslims in America.]

Ed. note: Readers should keep in mind that it is in the interests of organizations supporting Muslim political power in the U.S. to assert that higher numbers of Muslims are American citizens. Conversely, it is in the interests of organizations that oppose Muslim political power in the US to argue for lower numbers. Daniel Pipes, in his article "How Many U.S. Muslims?, published in the New York Post, October 29, 2001, argues for lower numbers, making the surprising claim that Fareed Numan was "pressured... to find 6 million Muslims in the country; Nu'man later testified that he counted just 3 million and was fired by the AMC [American Muslim Council] when he refused to inflate his number above 5 million." For a more recent article than Nu'man's, see Muslims in America: Profile 2001 [URL:] by Abdul Malik Mujahid of Sound Vision [].

Muslim social scientists and researchers have spent a great deal of time trying to determine the number of Muslims in the United States. Most accept the estimate of from 5 million to 8 million. That is to say at least 5 million people in North America claim Islam as their religion and/or practice. What is represented in this report is based on estimates made in 1991, the World Almanac reports that Muslim in the United States number approximately 5,220,00. The total worldwide Muslim population is generally estimated at slightly more that 1 billion. David Barrett's publication, "International Bulletin of Missionary Research" cites a lower figure, 988,004,000.

An exact figure of Muslim population in the United States is very difficult to make. The figures presented here are based on available data.

In the United States, there are essentially three categories of Muslims: 1) immigrants; 2) American converts/reverts to Islam; and 3) those born to the first two groups as Muslims.

The immigrant population of the United States is relatively easy to document because the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Census Bureau, and other government agencies have been keeping records of immigrants. In order to arrive at our figures, we researched the history of Muslim ethnic groups around the world and then determined their percentage as Muslim. We then correlated this percentage with the number of Muslims in the United States, which enabled us to determine the percentage represented in the overall population.

Determining the number of indigenous Muslims was more difficult. In most cases, records have not been kept by any single source. To arrive at the number of American converts to Islam, we had to look at various groups' conversion rates and compare them against their mortality and fertility rates.

This is an on-going project, and AMC [American Muslim Council] will keep the reader informed of new statistics through our quarterly publication, the AMC Report. The figures cited here represent a starting point for serious research on demographic data about the Muslim population of the United States.

[This webpage also includes two tables: "U.S. Muslim Population Table" (featuring a breakdown of the U.S. Muslim population by ethnic background), and "Geographic Distribution: Muslim State Population Table," which purports to list a "breakdown by states of the largest Muslim communities in the United States. It shows that there are an estimated 3.3. million Muslims in these states. The figure represents 62 percent of the estimated 5 million Muslims living in the United States." Non-Muslim demographers and religious statisticians consider these figures inaccurate.]


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