Islam in the United States

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Ahmed Zewail, with his Othmer Gold Medal, awarded by the Chemical Heritage Foundation in 2009.
Party Like It's 632
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Turning towards Mecca

Islam is perhaps the fastest growing religion in the United States of America due both to immigration and to conversions. Various estimates put the number of Muslims in the United States between 1 and 6 million.[note 1] The vast majority of American Muslims have South Asian, Arabic, or African ancestry; about one-quarter are African-Americans. As of 2010 the United States had 2,106 mosques, up 74% in 10 years.[1]

Early years[edit]

Contrary to what Dominionists might have you believe, Muslims figured among the earliest Old World immigrants to areas that would become the US. A Moroccan slave named Estevanico was shipwrecked in what is now Galveston, Texas in 1528; he traveled through much of what is now the American Southwest.[2] Anthony Jansen van Salee, a Dutch-Moroccan, arrived in New Amsterdam (later New York City) in 1633.[3] An estimated 20% of African slaves professed Islam, at least before slave owners suppressed their religion.[2] A few Muslims fought in the American Revolution (though mostly on the British side) — two were known to have fought with the Americans: Yusuf ben Ali and Bampett Muhamed.[4] Ali and Muhamed likely did not fight with the purpose of making the thirteen colonies a Christian nation. The first iftar dinner, ending Ramadan, that celebrated in the White House was in 1805 and hosted by Thomas Jefferson for Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, the Tunisian ambassador.[5]

One of the earliest slave narratives was written in Arabic in 1831 by Omar ibn Said, a.k.a. Morro or Uncle Moreau, when he was still enslaved.[6] ibn Said was a Muslim scholar in West Africa who was abducted in 1807, and the narrative included a verse from the Qur'an.[6]

Modern America[edit]

Indeed, America would fight with her whole strength for your right to have here your own church and worship according to your own conscience.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, addressing the opening of the Islamic Center of Washington in 1957[7]

As with every other religion, no set theology, political view, or level of religious conservatism correlates with the practice of Islam in the United States. The trend appears more progressive than in European and Middle Eastern Islam, possibly because many American Muslims (particularly the African-American segment) do not come from a culturally Muslim background and many converted for political reasons. However, that is by no means true of all American Muslims.

Muslim women in the US are often offered more access to the religion in the United States than in Europe, the Middle or Far East. Women are taking active roles in redesigning the mosques they attend, teaching classes for both men and women, and even pressing to become imams.[8][9]

Famous and infamous American Muslims[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. Because the US does not track religion in the census, exact numbers are very hard to come by.


  1. USA Today: Number of U.S. mosques up 74% since 2000
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Muslims of Early America by Peter Manseau (February 9, 2015) New York Times.
  3. Anthony Jansen van Salee, the Turk by Bill Greer
  4. Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History. Retrieved March 5, 2015. 
  5. Trump just ended a long tradition of celebrating Ramadan at the White House by Amy B. Wang (June 24, 2017, 4:56 PM) The Washington Post.
  6. 6.0 6.1 When few enslaved people in the United States could write, one man wrote his memoir in Arabic by Michael E. Ruane (January 20 at 8:00 AM) The Washington Post.
  7. 120 — Remarks at Ceremonies Opening the Islamic Center by Dwight D. Eisenhower (June 28, 1957) American Presidency Project.
  8. Abdul-Ghafur, Saleemah, ed (2012). Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak (1 ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press. ISBN 9780807096925. Retrieved 2017-01-22. 
  9. Muslim Women in America: The Challenge of Islamic Identity Today by Yvonne Yazbeck
  10. Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian chemist Zewail dies August 2, 2016 Reuters.