The Rapid Spread of Islam in America
The growing number of people turning to Islam in the last few years shows that 
the true answer to this question is starting to be discovered. Every day, 
interest in Islam is increasing throughout the world, and many people are 
converting after reading the Qur'an and studying the Prophet Muhammad's life. 
In addition, there are people who may have not started to practice Islam yet 
but who are very influenced by the Qur'an's moral teachings and say that the 
best way of life for human beings is the one described in the Qur'an.

Thirty or forty years ago, the great majority of people knew almost nothing 
about Islam; now, Islam has become the most talked about, written about, and 
researched religion in the world, as well as the religion about which the most 
programs have been prepared. Of course, this state of affairs has contributed 
to society's learning about Islam. On the one hand, those involved in such 
activities have expanded their knowledge about Islam; on the other hand, those 
to whom this information is directed may have taken the opportunity for the 
first time in their lives to gain knowledge about Islam. So, it is from the 
lack of information or wrong information that people who have had little 
contact with Islam are coming to this religion in droves.

This movement is quite noticeable in the United States, a country founded on 
religious values. When Americans speak about their country, one of the things 
they stress is that people from every religious background are free to live 
together in peace and security. This situation has given Muslims immigrants a 
place to practice their religion freely and to talk about their faith. As a 
result, the number of Muslims increases daily. In spite of this, for years 
Muslims have remained small in numbers and economically and politically weak.

But over the past 10 years, these economic, social, and political difficulties 
have begun to disappear. In some states, existing mosques are filled to 
overflowing and new ones have been built. Hundreds of Islamic schools, both 
full-time and weekend, have opened and have had to expand to meet enrollment 
figures. Many companies have begun to set aside rooms for their Muslim 
employees, many banks have begun to open departments that operate according to 
Islamic law, and many state institutions have begun to hire Muslims for 
high-level positions.

A recent issue of Christianity Today, one of America's best-known magazines, 
contained an article entitled "Are Christians Prepared for Muslims in the 
Mainstream?" It gives this account of Islam's rise in America:

Islam could be the second-largest religion in America by 2015, surpassing 
Judaism, according to some estimates. By other estimates, Islam has achieved 
that rank already.

(Above) The voice of Islam rises, with 7 million muslims living in America, 
islam has become the country's third largest religion. It is estimated that 
within the next 10 years, there will be more Muslims than Jews in America.

Muslims moving to the West are changing the cultural and religious landscape. A 
hospital in Detroit offers Muslim patients copies of the Qur'an; Denver 
International Airport includes a chapel for Muslim prayers; the U.S. Senate has 
invited a Muslim cleric to open its session in prayer; the military has hired 
four Muslim chaplains; the White House sends greetings (like its Christmas 
cards) on Id al-Fitr, the feast that ends Ramadan; the Saudi Arabian Embassy in 
Washington D.C. sends 100 Qur'ans a month to prisons while imams (spiritual 
leaders) send volunteers to teach Arabic. "On Capitol Hill … weekly Muslim 
prayer services and forums to expose congressional staffers to Muslim 
viewpoints have become regular fare," notes Ira Rifkin of Religion News Service 
(Nov. 30, 1999), "and a bill has been introduced in Congress to issue a postage 
stamp commemorating Ramadan."38

These striking developments have attracted the interest of many sociologists. 
One of the most important names associated with this issue is Professor Dianne 
Eck, known for coining the name "Pluralism Project" for an enterprise in 
interfaith dialogue. In her book, A New Religious America, she gives an account 
of what she has determined about Islam's rapid rise:

As Muslims become more numerous and visible in American society, public 
officials have begun to shift from speaking of "churches and synagogues" to 
"churches, synagogues, and mosques." The annual observance of the Ramadan month 
of Muslim fasting now receives public notice and becomes the occasion for 
portraits of the Muslims next door in the Dallas Morning News or the 
Minneapolis Star Tribune. The fast-breaking meals called "iftar" at the close 
of each day have become moments of recognition. In the late 1990s there were 
iftar observances by Muslim staffers on Capitol Hill, in the Pentagon, and in 
the State Department. In 1996 the White House hosted the first observance of 
the celebration of Eid al-Fitr at the end of the month of Ramadan, a practice 
that has continued. The same year also saw the U.S. Navy commission its first 
Muslim chaplain, Lieutenant M. Malak Abd al-Muta' Ali Noel, and in 1998 the 
U.S. Navy's first mosque was opened on the Norfolk
 Naval Base in Virginia, where Lieutenant Noel was stationed. When 50 sailors 
attend Friday prayers at this facility, they signal to all of us a new era of 
American religious life.

Professor Diana Eck, who has done important work with The Pluralism Project and 
in the field of interfaith dialogue, has attracted attention with her book A 
New Religious America. (Right) The Internet site of the Project.

Eck considers these developments a sign of the beginning of a new age, one in 
which Islam will spread quickly, not only throughout America but throughout the 


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