Islam and the Religious Demographic Shifts in the USA
The Puritans, colonial settlers in New England were originally Protestants from Great Britain, they helped to shape the early religious makeup and cultural milieu of what would become the republic of the United States of America.
As colonial settlers expanded their control over the land, forcing Native American populations further West, pre-existing indigenous religions became marginalized and the first seeds of manifest destiny were planted.
While a complete book would be necessary to do justice to this topic alone, it is important to note that many Natives have until this day preserved, to varying degrees of success, their religious stories and practices.
In the end, the descendants of the Protestants, possessing military advantage and missionary zeal, became the religious hegemons of the early United States.
“Protestant work ethic” and Protestant concepts of “morality” became deeply ingrained within the fabric and history of the United States, and have survived as catch-phrases and concepts in our culture to this day.
Over time, the religious hegemony of Protestants in the USA would eventually encounter change, first with the forced arrival of African slaves, and then with the arrival of Catholic and Jewish immigrants from Europe.
One of the most significant changes has occurred in the past half century, as America has been introduced to religions that it had hitherto been unfamiliar with, or only knew through exotic tales of the Orient.
Today, the religious landscape of America is a mosaic, including varying Christian denominations, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Atheists and of course Muslims.
While Islam first arrived on American shores long ago, its sojourn into the nation’s conscious has been more recent.
A study by Hartford Institute for Religion Research (Hartford Seminary), the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, as well as the nation’s largest Islamic civic and religious groups found that the number of mosques in the US has increased 74% since 2000.
While protests against new mosques in New York, Tennessee and California made headlines, the overall number of mosques quietly rose from 1,209 in 2000 to 2,106 in 2010.
The number of Muslims in the United States is also believed to have increased,
A new survey reveals the dramatically changing face of religion in America, with the number of Muslims in the U.S. soaring 67% in the decade since the 9/11 attacks.
Data released Tuesday from the 2010 U.S. Religion Census shows Islam was the fastest growing religion in America in the last 10 years, with 2.6 million living in the U.S. today, up from 1 million in 2000.
Statistical studies are never an exact science and are open to interpretation, but what these numbers indicate is a definite growing presence of Islam and Muslims in the USA. According to Dale Jones, data analyst and mapping specialist for the Religion Census, one ironic contribution to the rise in Muslim numbers may be the strong anti-Islam sentiment prevalent today in certain sectors of society,
“Persecution is sometimes good for a religious group — in the sense of being able to attract more followers, for some reason,” Jones said. “Rarely is opposition a very effective tool in stopping the growth of a movement.”
Dr. Tariq Ramadan, speaking in the context of Europe, notes that instead of such growth in the “visible” presence of Muslims being viewed with suspicion and alarm, it should be viewed positively, for what it actually is, signs of healthy Muslim integration into the fabric of the nation.
Millions of Muslims are, in fact, already proving every day that “religious integration” is an accomplished fact, that they are indeed at home in the Western countries whose tastes, culture and psychology they have made their own. (Manifesto for a new “We”)
Ramadan notes that Muslims are already integrated within Western societies. Millions of Muslims, by going about their daily lives working, respecting the law, partaking in all aspects of the larger culture such as politics, sports, music, etc. have already proven that they are integrated.
The growing Muslim population should not be seen as a threat to the USA but rather as one more manifestation of the religious tolerance and freedom of religion that has made the US great.
Fear-mongers have existed in every age, and Muslims are not the first religious group to face heightened scrutiny and bigoted attacks. Similar language and rhetoric as we see employed against the growing Muslim presence today have been used against Jews and Catholics in the past.
We should not forget the very real “fear” that existed in the 19th and early 20th century regarding the Catholicization of America, or the “fear” of our first Catholic President, John F. Kennedy possibly taking orders from the Pope. Such hysteria eventually died down over time and will with Islam as well.