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Islam and Muslims in USA - Islam is SD's fastest growing religion

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  • Zafar Khan
    Survey: Islam is SD s fastest growing religion Number of Muslims in county grew 179 percent during 2000s Written by Matt Clark 12:31 p.m., July 7, 2012
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 11, 2012
      Survey: Islam is SD's fastest growing religion
      Number of Muslims in county grew 179 percent during 2000s
      Written by
      Matt Clark
      12:31 p.m., July 7, 2012


      Islam was the fastest growing religious group in San Diego County between 2000 and 2010, according to the recently released 2010 U.S. Religion Census.

      During the decade, the county’s Muslim population grew by 179 percent from 7,878 adherents to 21,994, according to estimates from the survey of the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. Islam is now the seventh-largest religion in the county, the survey found.

      Only one other group grew more here, in overall numbers. The county’s Mormon community grew by 25,227 followers, an increase of 55 percent, making it the third largest church in the county.

      About one quarter of the county’s population is Catholic, making it the most popular religion despite the loss of 28,083 followers or 3.4 percent of its fellowship during the decade. The county had 801,850 Catholics in 2010, ahead of a religious group reported by the survey for the first time this year, a grouping of 148,930 non-denominational Christians which ranked second.

      The growth of Islam here is unique among California’s largest counties, according to the report. Both as a percentage and overall number, San Diego County’s Muslim population increase was nearly double that of any of the state’s 10 largest counties, according to the survey.

      Islamic Center of San Diego Imam AbdelJalil Mezgouri attributed the growth of the county’s Muslim population to immigration, especially among Somalian, Iraqi, Afghani and Bosnian refugees, and to an increase in births and Muslim conversions. He said the growth, which mirrors a national trend, has brought new challenges to the county’s Muslim community, but has also brought more understanding of Islam to the county as a whole.

      “Of course, as we say there is no gain without pain,” Mezgouri said. “The culture is becoming very, very diverse and also some of them have the challenge of adapting with the new place and the language, especially.”

      Cabdriver Mohammed Abdi came to the U.S. from Kenya in 2005, following his brothers and other relatives who came earlier seeking economic opportunities. He said becoming an American Muslim was a challenge at first, as he struggled to attend Friday prayers regularly. To avoid missing out three weeks in a row, which is shunned by Islam, he would sneak out of work to attend Mosque. He said being in America has ultimately strengthened his faith in Islam.

      “When I came to America is when I really started to practice Islam strongly,” Abdi said. “I saw a lot of Christians around me and I worried I would lose my faith.”

      Aside from San Diego’s weather, which is attractive to immigrants from warmer climates, Mezgouri said San Diego County’s large refugee communities also lead to increased immigration. The federal government resettles refugees in areas where their family or friends live or where they have the best opportunity for a new life.

      According to Horn of Africa, the San Diego-based African refugee assistance organization, San Diego has the second-largest East African refugee population in the country. The group’s economic development director, Hussein Nuur, said the refugee community organizations — many based in City Heights — help new arrivals settle.

      “They have a lot of challenges, and our organizations help them a lot,” Nuur said.

      Oumar Ba, 48, was seeking help from Horn of Africa on Friday after being laid off more than a year ago from his job installing fiberglass on ships for General Dynamics-NASSCO. Ba came to San Diego County in 2006 after fleeing violence in his home country of Mauritania in northwest Africa, where his uncle was killed during a civil war.

      “When I came, I didn’t even speak English,” Ba said. “So, it was difficult. If you don’t speak the language, you don’t have a job. You need lots of support, which is available but it is not enough.”

      Mezgouri said the high unemployment rate has made integration difficult for recent immigrants. He said discrimination that intensified after the 9/11 attacks is also still a challenge, but the growth of the Muslim community and the interest in Islam that came with the attacks has given Muslims the chance to increase understanding of their religion.

      “We are promoting education and people are coming to the mosque to learn about Islam,” Mezgouri said. “I think there is huge progress in that regard.”

      Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Diego Chapter Executive Director Hanif Mohebi said the organization is aware of hate crimes committed against Muslims in San Diego County.

      “In general, San Diego County is a wonderful place, and it is diverse and people are open to that idea,” Mohebi said. “But there is also Islamophobia and hate crimes that have been recorded by our organization.”

      The U.S. Religion Census seeks to count all of the houses of worship across the country and then surveys them every ten years to determine how their congregations have changed. For some religions, including Islam, the report’s authors use a sample of responses to estimate populations.

      Nationally, Islam grew by 1 million followers between 2000 and 2010, according to the census, again behind Mormonism, which saw an increase of 1.9 million adherents. Islam grew by 67 percent, whereas Mormonism grew by 46 percent.

      University of Kentucky Islamic Studies Professor Ihsan Bagby, who helped produce the report’s Muslim estimates, said the growth nationally is also attributed to immigration and, to a lesser extent, conversion.

      Due to the increase in the number of mosques, Bagby said Muslim immigrants, many of whom are refugees, are finding it easier to integrate into American Society. Before, many Muslim immigrants would form a social group until the group was large enough to form a mosque.

      “The sense of being an outsider and totally foreign is kind of alleviated somewhat, because their co-religious have gone through that process of becoming part of the American society,” Bagby said. “They see that it can be done, and it is something that a Muslim can embrace.”

      Houston's Hispanic imam bridges cultures
      By Ken Chitwood
      Updated 05:01 p.m., Thursday, July 5, 2012


      Growing up in New York and Houston, Isa Parada was always part of a vibrant faith community. An altar boy in his family's Roman Catholic parish, his family regularly prayed and read Scripture together. Today it is no different for Parada, save for one thing: He is now a Muslim imam.

      A convert since 1996, Parada is fluent in Arabic and was educated in Muslim theology in Saudi Arabia. With family roots in El Salvador, Parada is part of a growing number of Hispanic converts to Islam.

      According to the Pew Research Center, there are 2.6 million Muslims nationwide. Of those, 6 percent - or 160,000 people - are Hispanic. Further, one of 10 American-born converts is Hispanic, and that figure is growing.

      For Parada, and others like him, the conversion is more than switching faiths, it is a cultural odyssey replete with promise and pitfall.

      "The Islamic community and the Hispanic community don't know much about each other," said Parada, who works at several mosques through the Islamic Society of Greater Houston. "When I converted, many Hispanics thought I was rejecting my Latino culture. They thought I had to 'become Arab' to be a good Muslim."

      This tension during his conversion was felt most potently in his own family, he said. "My conversion was a shock for my family; they thought I rejected Jesus, Mary, my culture," Parada said.

      Likewise, Parada found that the Islamic community did not know how to deal with Hispanics and lacked resources for Spanish-speaking converts.

      Working with Mujahid Fletcher, another Hispanic convert from Houston, the pair now produce Spanish-language videos, audio files and literature to educate Latinos about Islam. Their website is called IslamInSpanish.org.

      Manuel Morales, a Hispanic house church planter in the Fifth Ward, said he is concerned about such similarities and the appeal that Islam has for Latinos. He worries that some may not fully understand the differences between Christian and Muslim faiths - believing they are more alike than they actually are.

      "There are familiar names like Jesus and Mary, so it is easy for some Latinos to think that Islam and Christianity are one and the same," Morales said.

      Though Parada notes the differences between Islam and Christianity, specifically the fact that to Muslims Jesus is purely a prophet and teacher, not the "Son of God" or "Savior" as in the Christian faith, he believes that Islam is a completion of everything he learned growing up as a Roman Catholic altar boy. He said, "Isa is my name; it means Jesus. I still respect and represent him. I still follow Jesus, but now I follow his full teachings."

      He mentioned that on key issues, such as immigration and gang violence, Muslims provide a deep resource for Latinos.

      "You are not going to see many Muslims look down on immigrants," Parada said. "They know how it feels to be ostracized, looked down upon, stereotyped and treated as a second-class citizen."

      His own work as an imam in Houston focuses on educating youths whom he hopes to keep off the streets and away from negative influences.

      Parada said, "It's what I lacked as a teenager, a consistent positive influence with clear rules."

      For these reasons and others, Parada says the Latino Muslim community will continue to grow.

      "When I first converted, there were only about 20 other Hispanic Muslims in Houston, but just the other month we had a potluck at one mosque with over 100 Latinos in attendance," Parada said. "I am usually the first Hispanic Muslim people meet, and that uniqueness gives me the opportunity to educate, but I won't be unique for long."

      Right at home: U.S. mosques are often more Middle America than Middle East
      By Max Perry Mueller
      For the Deseret News
      Published: Friday, July 6 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT



      Most And Least Muslim States In America (PHOTOS)
      The Huffington Post | By Jahnabi Barooah
      Posted: 06/27/2012 6:44 am Updated: 06/27/2012 6:44 am



      Montgomery County Muslims Hope for Eid School Holidays
      Written by Wafa Unus, Muslim Link Staff Reporter
      THURSDAY, 14 JUNE 2012 10:43



      Muslim players have faith in U.S. basketball
      At least eight compete in the NBA, while others hope amateur games will dismiss negative notions.
      Religion News Service
      Posted on Fri, Jun. 15, 2012 04:15 PM


      Omar Abdelkader, a student at Northeastern University in Boston, is an observant Muslim but admits being occasionally seduced by the swish of a perfect jump shot over the Islamic call to prayer.

      “Sometimes we’d sneak out of prayers to play ball,” recalled Abdelkader, who grew up attending the Worcester Islamic Center in central Massachusetts. Like a growing number of American mosques, the center has a basketball court — and hence a built-in temptation for younger members.

      “It’s not supposed to be like that, but kids love to play the game,” Abdelkader said.

      He was watching the NBA playoffs on a big-screen television at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. He was joined by about 20 other Muslims, a scene replicated in living rooms and Islamic community centers during the ongoing NBA finals.

      At least eight Muslims compete in the NBA: four Turks, two African-Americans, one Iranian and one Tanzanian. One of them is center Nazr Mohammed of the Oklahoma City Thunder, now battling the Miami Heat for the championship.

      The special relationship between Muslims and basketball goes beyond any particular player or team and embraces the sport itself. It is not unlike the one described in “Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story,” a 2010 documentary film by Ira Berkow, Pulitzer winning sportswriter.

      Mohamed El-Housiny came to America from Gaza when he was about 5. He didn’t speak English, but he could communicate in a language Americans understand very well. He could pass a ball and get it through the hoop.

      The kids he played with would talk to him and he picked up a bit more English.

      “As a first generation in this country, I longed to fit in. I always had a hard time breaking social barriers, but after a good game of basketball you can talk to anyone,” said El-Housiny, at 27 an architect for Black & Veatch in Kansas City.

      El-Housiny started the National Muslim Basketball Tour with Haron Saadeh and Farhan Khalique from Chicago “as a way to bring people of all ages closer to God.”

      Evolving from pick-up games in Chicago, the group was launched in 2010 and now holds at least four meets per year. The most popular one, in Chicago, has attracted 42 teams.

      The tour also allows for non-Muslims and creates an environment where players from other faiths can learn about Islam and help dispel the negative notions and concepts that surround the religion.

      For many Muslims, basketball works the same way. They can meet at the mosque, shoot a few hoops after prayers and have a good laugh.

      “Every Muslim community I go to, there’s this obsession for basketball. Almost every mosque you go to, there’s a basketball court outside,” said Musab Abdali, a 19-year-old Houston man helping to organize youth programs.

      “We have people to look up to. We have Muslims who have won championships and who have set records,” Abdali said.

      “Basketball has become more than a sport; it’s a culture for us.”

      That culture is more recognized by major Islamic organizations, which have been criticized for being out of touch with Muslim youth.

      The Islamic Society of North America has asked El-Housiny’s group to set up a tournament during its September convention in Washington, D.C.

      “We do that so we could set a good example to non-Muslims,” said Ziad Pepic, a co-commissioner of the Muslim Basketball League in Southern California. The league started in 2005 and now has close to 300 players.

      “We can’t go out to a bar Saturday night and meet people. But being able to go to a basketball court and play is a great way to meet people and build bridges with them,” said Saad Khurshid, of the Muslim Basketball league in Parsippany, N.J., which has teams named Mecca, Cairo and Timbuktu.

      Muslims have competed professionally in football, boxing and soccer, but the number of basketball stars putting their faith in a positive spotlight is unrivaled. These include all-time NBA leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and 12-time NBA All-Star Hakeem Olajuwon, who retired in 2002 after a long career spent mainly with the Houston Rockets.

      El-Housiny saw Olajuwon as a hero and an inspiration.

      “Without any other superstar Muslim athletes in other sports, Hakeem represented the best of what Islam was and made us all proud. I still remember that he used to fast during Ramadan even during the NBA playoffs, and they would always do a half time report on the month of Ramadan during his games.”

      A retired star, Shaquille O’Neal, said in a 2010 interview with a Turkish journalist that he planned to make the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

      And the nation’s top high school player, Shabazz Muhammad of Las Vegas, will be a freshman at University of California, Los Angeles this year.

      “There are so many temptations facing kids these days that we wanted to provide them an alternative,” El-Housiny said. “Especially as a Muslim, there are many things we can’t do, so we were trying to find an alternative.”

      Basketball, with its small teams, also is the easiest and most affordable sport for Muslims to organize.

      “There are basketball hoops in every neighborhood and unlike other sports, you don’t need many people to play,” El-Housiny said. “Even when I used to be stressed I could always go in the backyard and shoot hoops.”

      Don't Panik! Islam and Europe's 'Hip Hop Wars'
      The debate over Islam and hip hop in Europe is heating up as governments wade in.
      Last Modified: 05 Jun 2012 12:26


      Video: The Growing Political Role of American Muslims (CAIR)


      Muslims grow, Baptists decline in Metro Orlando, religion census says
      6:44 p.m. EST, May 1, 2012|By Jeff Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel


      Metropolitan Orlando's Muslim population grew dramatically in the past decade, gaining more than 25,000 worshippers since 2000, according to a new census of religions released Tuesday. Muslims were second only to Roman Catholics, whose numbers increased by nearly 64,000, the census found.

      Muslims now outnumber Presbyterians, Lutherans and Episcopalians in the Orlando area of Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. Imam Tariq Rasheed, director of the Islamic Center of Orlando, said the growth comes from Muslims moving to Central Florida from other American cities and from abroad.

      "Because of the good weather, they are moving here in big numbers. They choose Florida because of the climate, and housing is cheaper," he said.

      Central Florida roughly followed the national trend, in which Muslims and Mormons experienced the greatest increase from 2000 to 2010, said Rich Houseal, who worked on the survey for the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies.

      "The Muslims were the second-fastest-growing group across the nation. The number of congregations almost doubled from 1,200 to 2,106," Houseal said. "Mormons were No. 1 [in numerical growth] with almost 2 million."

      Increased numbers often are followed by increased tensions, including Islamophobia, said John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron.

      "Historically, fear of ethnic and religious groups has often occurred as their numbers increase," said Green, who studies American religion at the university.

      In Central Florida, the Mormon church — Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — grew by 9,136 members, behind Roman Catholics, Muslims, the Pentecostal Assemblies of God and Seventh-day Adventists.

      Houseal said the Mormons and Muslims have expanded throughout the nation, and their growth represents new congregations in places beyond their traditional strongholds.

      The count, conducted every 10 years, found that Roman Catholics remain the largest religious affiliation in Metro Orlando, with 281,165 members, followed by nondenominational evangelicals at 121,531 and Southern Baptists with 107,542.

      There are more nondenominational churches — 323 — than any other house of worship, representing nearly 20 percent of the 1,636 congregations in the Orlando area.

      Green said much of the nondenominational growth is the result of the fluidity of religious affiliation in the United States. Americans are increasingly less brand-loyal than in the past.

      At Temple, no to 'irrational hatred'
      April 24, 2012|BY HALEY KMETZ, Daily News Staff Writer


      PROTESTERS who had filled the auditorium seats at an anti-Muslim event on Temple University's campus Monday night left the room quite empty when they marched out in opposition after the discussion began.

      The organization hosting the "Islamic Apartheid Conference," Temple University Students for Intellectual Freedom, says its mission is to introduce controversial issues often left out of mainstream debates and defends its right to political incorrectness. Panelists at the conference included Robert Spencer, contributor to the blog Jihad Watch, and Pamela Geller, famous for her hostility to the proposed construction of an Islamic community center near the site of the World Trade Center.

      After walking out, more than 50 demonstrators, consisting of North Philadelphia residents, campus groups and Occupy Philly protesters, remained outside in the rain, holding signs and confronting attendees as they left the event in Ritter Hall, on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 13th Street.

      Walter Smolarek, a freshman education major at Temple University, said that the content of the conference is "based solely on irrational hatred toward people, in this case, because of their religious faith, and we don't feel like it falls under the umbrella of free speech, or should be part of political debate.

      "An attack against Muslim communities is an attack against all working people," said Smolarek.

      Though Temple University approved the conference for its calendar, it did not promote the event in the daily campus-events email distributed to the student body.

      Contact Haley Kmetz at kmetzh@... or 215-854-5926.

      Poll: American Jews Favor Muslims & Mormons Much More Than Conservative Evangelical Christians
      By Billy Hallowell | The Blaze – Mon, Apr 16, 2012


      Muslims urged to take greater role in civic life
      SUNDAY, MARCH 18, 2012 LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY MARCH 18, 2012, 8:41 PM


      TEANECK — North Jersey Muslim leaders called upon their community Sunday to become more civically engaged, starting with the simple act of voting, continuing with participation in secular community groups and eventually running for office.

      At one of the biggest meetings of the faith in New Jersey since the New York police surveillance was exposed, the conversation at the 15th annual American Muslim Union’s Community Brunch focused on ways to combat such police practices through active participation at every level of government.

      “Today we live in a world of Islamophobia,” Mohamed Younes, president of the AMU, told an audience of 400 Muslims and government officials. “It is only when we as Muslims have a voice in the government that we can make sure our rights are protected.”

      The event brought together Muslims of all backgrounds, Arabs, Asians, Africans and more to the Marriott at Glenpointe. Some men wore traditional robes while others wore suits. Some women covered their hair with hijabs while others let their locks flow freely.

      The message, though, was unified: More Muslims need to integrate themselves into every facet of American society, even if they feel like they are being pushed out. Public demonstrations and other acts of outrage can only go so far. “If you don’t get involved, guess what? You’re not going to get ahead,” said Hassaan Arshad, of Closter, a Pakistani native who has voted in almost every election since becoming a U.S. citizen.

      Morad Abou-Sabe, a Rutgers biology professor and president of Arab American League of Voters of New Jersey, said Muslim participation in American life was at its highest before Sept. 11, 2001. But after the attacks by 19 terrorists from the Islamist militant group Al-Qaida that killed almost 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa., “anything and everything that looked Arab or Muslim had become the enemy,” Abou-Sabe said.

      A 2009 Gallup poll found that only 51 percent of young Muslim Americans ages 18 to 29 were registered to vote, the lowest of any major religion surveyed. About 65 percent of all U.S. citizens in that age group were registered.

      Outside the hotel’s ballroom, voter registration applications were laid out on tables Sunday.

      Mirza Ayub didn’t need one. He will be voting in his first presidential election this year, something the 22-year-old Little Ferry resident said is “the only way to speak loud.”

      “I don’t think Muslims want special treatment, they just want fair treatment,” said Subhan Farooqi, a Ridgewood lawyer. “And we can help ourselves by getting more involved.”

      In an opening prayer, Rabbi Lawrence Zierler of the Jewish Center of Teaneck called on God to bless “the Jew, the Christian, the Muslim and all faith communities to be there for each other.”

      The conference also drew some of the state’s top law enforcement leaders such as U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa and Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the State Police. Fishman and Chiesa said in no way would they ever want police to spy on ordinary citizens just because of their religion.

      The NYPD collected information on mosques, businesses and worshipers in Newark and targeted the Masjid Omar mosque in Paterson for surveillance, according to police documents made public last month by The Associated Press. The NYPD also monitored Muslim student groups at 16 Northeast colleges, including Rutgers University, according to the AP and police documents.

      “As long as we’re in office, our organizations will be available to hear those complaints to talk about the right path and to make sure we all understand there is no conflict between effective policing and civil liberties,” Fishman said to applause. “We are a more secure and safer country when people’s civil liberties and civil rights are protected.”

      Chiesa said he spoke to a Sunday school class he teaches about how they would feel if somebody was secretly writing down where they went, who was in church and who they associated with. The students “looked at me like I have three heads,” he said.

      Fuentes said he wants to see more Muslims recruited into the state police.

      “Please send your sons, your daughters when we have our recruiting drives,” he said. “The way to understand law enforcement better is to come into our ranks.”

      Among the attendees was Manny Pavon, a Hindu, who accompanied a Muslim friend to the conference.

      “I don’t want to see any religion discriminated against,” he said. “That’s not what this country is about.”

      Email: fallon@...

      Before Games, Religious Questions
      In Texas, Islamic Schools Face Tough Road to Participation
      Published: March 2, 2012


      With 500 students, increasing academic prestige and an established soccer team, Iman Academy SW, an Islamic school in Houston, was seeking membership in 2010 to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, a group that organizes competition among more than 200 schools in the state.
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