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Study shows mosques spreading across US, little Islamist influence

Mosque in New Mexico

A study sponsored by a coalition of major American Muslim and academic organizations shows ethnically diverse, community-minded mosques have spread across the U.S. in the last ten years with little radical Islamist influence.

The study was sponsored by the National Executive Director of the Council on America-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), as well as Islamic scholars at University of Kentucky, the Hartford Institute for Religion Research and Hartford Seminary. It is based on on mailing lists, websites and interviews with community leaders, surveys and interviews with 524 mosque leaders.

It showed the number of mosques in the U.S. has grown from 1,209 in 2000, to 2,106 in 2011, a 76 percent increase.

The vast majority of those mosques, it said, adopt the a flexible approach towards the Koran and Sunnah  --  the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad  --  taking into account the overall purposes of Islamic Law and modern circumstances. Only one percent of the leaders of those mosques, it said, follow the salafi way. Salifism has been associated with Muslims espousing violent jihad against civilians as a legitimate expression of Islam.

The study also found that 75 percent of mosque leaders don’t feel that American society overall is hostile to Islam. In 2000, it said, 54 percent felt American society was hostile to the religion.  

American mosques are relatively young nationwide, with 76 percent of all existing mosques established since 1980. The vast majority of those mosques are located in metropolitan areas, according to the study, but percentages in urban areas are decreasing in favor of suburban areas. In 2000 16 percent of mosques were located in suburbs and in 2011 28 percent were located in suburbs.