On the 2nd June 2020 the US Mosque study, titled “The American Mosque 2020: Growing and Evolving” was jointly released by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), the Islamic Society of North America and the Center on Muslim Philanthropy. Previously conducted in 2000 and 2010, this survey is the third instalment published which includes data on the number of mosques in the US, mosque participation, the role of imams and mosque governance1. According to the ISPU the purpose of the Mosque Survey “is to conduct a scientific study that will generate accurate information about most aspects on the American mosques”2. In doing so, the ISPU’s goal is to provide a detailed image and understanding of the American mosque which in turn, will hopefully lead to a better understanding of mosques and dispel any misconceptions3.
Ten major findings are presented in the final report. The first one is that the number of mosques in the US continue to grow. Building on the previous 2010 report, the latest survey counted 2769 mosques across the US. This was an increase of 31% from the 2010 count of 2106 mosques4 and is reportedly the consequence of the steady expansion in the Muslim population in the US, through both immigration and increased birth rate. Conversion rates, however, as illustrated by the report, have declined by 4% since 20105. This is similar to research conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2017, which too found that the continued growth in the Muslim US population was not due to conversion rates (which were decreasing at the time), but was“driven both by fertility rates among Muslim Americans as well as the continued migration of Muslims to the US”6. The increase of mosques however, was not just contained to cities. The report shows that mosques are becoming more suburban and there has been a 14% decrease since 2010 of mosques in urban areas.
There is also a correlation between the increase in mosques and the number of mosque participants. Paying particular attention to the number of Muslims who attend Eid prayer after Ramadan, the report shows a 16% increase in attendance. There was also a 16% increase in Jum’ah prayer (weekly Muslim congregational prayer held on Friday)7.
The report further focused on the changes in demographics within mosque participants. In the 2010 survey, the ISPU had previously found that African American Muslims comprised 23% of all mosque attendees in the US, and African American mosques themselves equated to 23% of all US mosques. However, the last ten years has seen a 43% decrease African American mosques and a 33% decrease in their participants. The report attributes such a sharp decrease to the ageing population of African American Muslim population and the inability to attract the younger population to attend mosques. The report, however, does not include mosques used by Muslim minority groups such as the Nation of Islam, Ahmaddiya or Ismaili congregations due to the research team being unable to obtain relevant data. However, according to Ishan Bagby, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky and lead researcher in the survey, a significant factor in the decline and closure of African American mosques may be due to the death of former Nation of Islam leader. “Following the death of Warith Deen Mohammed in 2008” he said, “the community has never reconstituted itself and that has been a barrier for growth”8.
Relatedly, another key finding in mosque demographics shows that 24% of mosque participants are 18-34, which is much stronger than the demographic among Jewish and Christian groups. “Churches and synagogues are bemoaning loudly that this age group is not attending” said Bagby9. He further stated that despite “my colleagues who work on Jewish and Christian congregations say to enjoy it while it lasts, that this (is) not sustainable”, he believes “it is too early to say a long-term decline is unavoidable or predetermined”10.
According to the report, nearly all American mosques (98%) are run by their local congregations. Bagby also writes that “Muslim congregations are enthusiastic members of their local communities; they are on average more likely to participate in interfaith and civic efforts than other religious groups”11. Despite this, the report suggestions there is opposition to the construction of Muslim places of worship, which further reveals the institutionalisation of anti-Muslim sentiment in the US12. The reported figures show this sentiment has starkly increased in the last decade by 10%, with 35% of mosques encountering resistance within their neighbourhoods and cities13.
The final set of key findings focus on the evolving and varying mosque governance and inner economics of the mosque. Whilst churches and synagogues have full-time paid religious leaders, only 50% of American mosques have a full-time paid imam. However, despite this falling short of church and synagogue statistics, it is a 10% increase from the 2010 survey and shows steady promising progress. Of the total of full-paid imams, 22% of these are American-born in comparison to 15% in 2010. In relation to mosque governance, the imam is considered the leader in only 30% of the mosque, with an additional 77% having no managerial role at all. Whilst 54% of mosques have shared governance between imams and lay leadership, it is the lay leadership that tends to dominate the governance of most US mosques.
The income of mosques are also continuing to grow substantially. The average mosque budget was $317,140, which is a combined total of the mosque budget and for Zakah (or charity). Despite the income of mosques and churches being roughly the same, churches achieve their income levels with fewer regular participants than mosques.