Mapping Muslim assimilation: Islam’s growing social infrastructure

Like Jews, Catholics and other immigrant groups before them, Muslims are building a social infrastructure in America that includes houses of worship, schools, health clinics, banks, charities and more. Muslims’ social and religious needs are diverse – and that diversity is reflected in the network of mosques and related social services centers they are creating.

Social services affect all aspects of the daily lives of Muslims as they seek mortgages, medical care and schooling tailored to their cultural and religious needs. Such services have multiplied in recent years, and many provide services to non-Muslims as well, further shaping the fabric of American as well as Muslim life.

This edition of ReligionLink gives journalists a catalog of organizations involved in these efforts and experts who study their growth.

Mosques

The number of U.S. mosques, or masjids, is increasing, and attendance is growing at many of them. From 1990 to 2000, the number of mosques grew by 42 percent, and from 1995 to 2000, 60 percent of mosques experienced at least a 10 percent rise in attendance, according to a Faith Communities Today study. In 2001, another study found, there were 1,209 mosques in the U.S. While mosques had been built in larger cities with significant Muslim populations, there are now more mosques spread across different areas of the country and more cities with multiple mosques.

  • Salat-o-matic

    Salat-o-matic allows users to search by state and city for mosques and schools in the United States and around the world. It provides descriptions of mosques and contact information. Contact through the website.

  • Islamic Finder

    Islamic Finder is a web tool that enables users to search for mosques by ZIP code or city.

Social services (general)

  • Islamic Social Services Association

    Aneesah Nadir is president of the Islamic Social Services Association, based in Tempe, Ariz. It has provided networking and resources for Muslim social service agencies since 1999 by promoting awareness of available services, increasing awareness of the need for culturally sensitive Muslim services among both Muslim and non-Muslim social service providers and providing professional training for social service agencies.

  • Aamir A. Rehman

    Aamir A. Rehman, a former research associate at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, is the author of the study Enhancing Board Performance in the Islamic Non-Profit Sector, in which he studied the roles of nonprofit board members and made recommendations for improvement.

  • “Experts by Policy Area”

    A directory of Islam experts is posted by the Minaret of Freedom Institute, the Association of Muslim Social Scientists of North America and the International Institute of Islamic Thought in the areas of business, economic development, education, human rights, gender studies and more.

  • “Experts on Islam Initiative”

    The Center for Global Understanding posts a searchable list of scholars with expertise on Muslims and Islam.

Education

The number of Islamic schools has grown from 50 in 1987 to 240 today, according to the Islamic Schools League of America. But it is estimated that only about 3 percent of Muslim children in the U.S. attend an Islamic school, so Muslims are working to increase the number and quality of Islamic schools as well as doing outreach to public schools, providing educational materials and teacher training in an effort to give a fuller and more accurate portrait of Muslims and Islam.

Major issues in Islamic education include:

  • Fundraising. Many Islamic schools struggle to raise money. Tight budgets mean many schools can’t offer courses in all subject areas, and it’s estimated that only half of teachers are certified by state education boards. About a fifth of Islamic schools are associated with a mosque; as they mature, they often become independent.
  • Quality of education. Muslim organizations and leaders are focused on provided more and better training for teachers and administrators.
  • Curriculum. Muslims debate whether Islamic schools should create their own curricula only for Arabic, the Quran and Islamic history, or whether they need their own curricula for all subject areas.
  • Community service. Islamic schools emphasize the need for students to contribute to their community.

Islamic schools

  • Islamic Schools League of America

    The Islamic Schools League of America is a national organization that provides resources and networking to help Islamic schools improve the quality of education they provide. It’s based in Falls Church, Va.

    Contact: 517-303-3905.
  • Council of Islamic Schools in North America

    The Council of Islamic Schools in North America provides resources and training for full- and part-time Islamic schools. It’s based in Plainfield, Ind.

  • Islamic Society of North America

    The Islamic Society of North America promotes unity and leadership among Muslims. The organization, based in Plainfield, Ind., has a large immigrant presence. Contact executive director Ahmed Elhattab.

    It sponsors an annual Education Forum conference. ISNA can connect journalists with sources around the country in education.

Public schools

  • Arab World and Islamic Resources

    Audrey Shabbas is founder of Arab World and Islamic Resources, which provides educational resources about Islam and the Arab world for students from elementary to high school. She leads workshops for teachers around the country. AWAIR is based in Abiquiu, N.M.

    Contact: 510-704-0517.
  • Institute of Islamic Information & Education

    The Institute of Islamic Information & Education in Chicago works to overcome Americans’ prejudices about Islam and Muslims through education. The institute includes an article about the concept of forgiveness in Islam.

Higher education

  • Zaytuna College

    The Zaytuna College in Berkeley, Calif., is the first Muslim seminary in the United States. It is run by two influential American clerics who received classical training abroad and who have large followings here, particularly among young American Muslims. A 2006 New York Times article credited the scholars, Sheik Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir, with countering the influence of conservative Wahhabism that has been spread in the United States by clerics trained in Saudi Arabia.

    Contact: 510-582-1979.
  • “Muslim plan for U.S. college moves ahead”

    Read a May 18, 2009, Associated Press article (posted by USA Today) about plans by the Zaytuna founders to open a Muslim university named Zaytuna College.

Student organizations

  • Muslim Students Association

    The association seeks to provide a forum for the unification of Muslim students from diverse backgrounds. Its website contains a list of the association’s chapters on college campuses across the country. Contact through the form on the website.

Individuals

  • Yvonne Y. Haddad

    Yvonne Y. Haddad is professor of the history of Islam and Muslim-Christian relations at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She co-authored Muslim Women in America: The Challenge of Islamic Identity Today and Educating the Muslims of America. Her scholarly interests include Muslims in the West, Islamic revolutionary movements, 20th-century Islam and the intellectual, social and political history of the Arab world.

  • Farid Senzai

    Farid Senzai is a fellow and director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, which researches the Muslim community in the United States. He is also an assistant professor of political science at Santa Clara University. A co-editor of Educating the Muslims of America (2009), he helped organized a 2006 conference on Islamic education in the United States.

  • Louis Francis Cristillo

    Louis Francis Cristillo is research assistant professor of education at Columbia University. He was the principal investigator on a three-year study of the experiences of Muslim teenagers in New York City public schools; see an article.

Articles

Health care

Muslims have started dozens of health clinics in the last decade, most of them free or low-cost. Many begin by offering culturally and religiously sensitive services to Muslims and then expand to offer services to anyone in need. There are a large number of Muslim physicians and health professionals in America – see the list of organizations below – and many volunteer their time at Muslim clinics or do outreach to non-Muslim health providers to sensitize them to Muslims’ special needs.

Organizations

Individuals

  • Wendy Cadge

    Wendy Cadge is an associate professor of sociology at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. She has written widely about homosexuality and Christianity, especially as it pertains to mainline Protestantism.

    With Lance Laird, she is the author of the 2008 study “Caring for Our Neighbors: How Muslim Community-Based Health Organizations are Bridging the Health Care Gap in America,” the first report to document the development and growth of Muslim health-care organizations in the U.S.

  • Lance D. Laird

    Lance D. Laird is a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. With Wendy Cadge, he is the author of the 2008 study “Caring for Our Neighbors: How Muslim Community-Based Health Organizations are Bridging the Health Care Gap in America,” the first report to document the development and growth of Muslim health-care organizations in the U.S. They found that most Muslim health clinics offer free or low-cost services to anyone in need, regardless of whether they are Muslim or not.

    Contact: 617-414-5465.
  • Abdul Basit

    Abdul Basit, a clinical psychologist, is assistant professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University in Chicago. A former Fulbright Scholar, he is the former editor in chief of the Journal of Muslim Mental Health and a member of the National Advisory Mental Health Council.

Articles

Finance

Islamic finance has grown into a $500 billion industry, according to a 2009 symposium. In America, several Islamic banks and Islamic mortgage companies have been started, and many banks and law firms offer services aimed at Muslims, usually with a board of religious advisers who certify that their work complies with Islamic law. There are dozens of Islamic mutual funds, as well as a Dow Jones Islamic Index – made up of companies that do not invest in Islamically prohibited products such as alcohol, pork or pornography.

The increasing availability of Islamic financial products has allowed many U.S. Muslims to buy homes and cars for the first time; shariah, Islam’s law, bans Muslims from paying or receiving interest. However, there is much debate over what exactly Muslims in Western society need to do to comply with shariah. Some argue that some Muslim mortgages and investments overcharge clients eager to comply with Islamic law.

Organizations

  • Arab Bankers Association of North America

    The Arab Bankers Association of North America is a nonprofit organization that promotes cooperation and understanding between financial services in the Arab world and North America.

    Contact: 212-599-3030.

Individuals

  • Isam Salah

    Isam Salah heads Islamic finance and investment at the New York law firm King & Spalding.

  • Ibrahim Warde

    Ibrahim Warde teaches Islamic banking and finance at Tufts University in Boston.

  • Khaled Abou El Fadl

    Khaled Abou El Fadl is an internationally recognized law professor and the Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Distinguished Fellow in Islamic Law at the University of California, Los Angeles. He teaches a course on Islamic law and has also taught about Middle Eastern investment law, immigration law and human rights and terrorism. His books include Speaking in God’s Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women, and he wrote the entry on Shariah for The Oxford University Handbook of Islam and Politics.

  • Liaquat Ali Khan

    Liaquat Ali Khan is a professor of law at the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kan. A native of Pakistan, he focuses his research on terrorism and conflict in Muslim societies. He has written extensively about Islamic law and in 2008 wrote an article for The American Muslim about Islamic perspectives on the economic meltdown.

  • Mahmoud El-Gamal

    Mahmoud El-Gamal is a professor of economics and statistics at Rice University in Houston and holds the endowed chair in Islamic economics, finance and management. He has published about Islamic transaction law and finance.

Articles

Charities

One of the five pillars of Islam requires Muslims to give to the needy, so Muslim charities play an important role in U.S. Muslim life. That role has become increasingly complicated since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A 2004 congressional investigation of two dozen Muslim charities suspected of having links to terrorists is ongoing. And in 2009, five leaders of the Holy Land Foundation, which was once the largest Muslim charity in America, were sentenced to prison for funneling money to Hamas, which the U.S. Justice Department has designated a terrorist organization.

Muslims are necessarily wary about which organizations to give money to because of the investigations. And Muslim charities are working to find ways to finance programs for poor and vulnerable people overseas and in the U.S. in ways that don’t draw government scrutiny. In 2008, Muslim Advocates began offering a voluntary accreditation program for Muslim charities that included workshops around the country to train charity leaders in transparent business practices.

Many Muslim social services – health clinics, food banks, domestic violence programs – operate as nonprofits, and many Muslim organizations have begun charities to fund educational or outreach activities for both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Organizations

  • Helping Hand USA

    Helping Hand USA is an Islamic global humanitarian relief and development organization that focuses on Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Kenya and Iraq. Its American office is in Detroit.

  • Zakat Foundation of America

    The Zakat Foundation of America provides assistance for food, shelter, clothing and transportation for poor and needy Muslims in the United States. It is based in Bethesda, Md.

  • Islamic Relief USA

    Islamic Relief USA is a California-based international Islamic nonprofit agency founded in 1984. It operates projects in education and training, water and sanitation, income generation, orphan support, health and nutrition, and emergency relief in foreign countries and in the U.S. It has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator.

Civil rights

Muslim civil rights became a headline-making issue after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Most of the major national Muslim organizations in the United States speak out about civil rights; some organizations specialize in civil rights.

  • Council on American-Islamic Relations

    The Council on American-Islamic Relations says it is the largest advocacy group for Muslims in the U.S. It advocates for Muslims on issues related to civil liberties and justice. Contact communications director Ibrahim Hooper in Washington, D.C.

  • Muslim Advocates

    Muslim Advocates uses legal advocacy, policy engagement and education to promote rights for Muslims and others. Contact executive director Farhana Khera.

  • Muslim Public Affairs Council

    The Muslim Public Affairs Council works for Muslim participation in civic life. It is a leading Islamic advocacy group with offices in New York and Los Angeles, committed to developing leaders with the purpose of enhancing the political and civic participation of American Muslims. It works to cultivate leadership in young Muslims and encourage a sense of ownership over their religious and national identity as Americans. The group’s $1.1 million budget includes no overseas funding. It has offices in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles and several state chapters. The council is considered moderate and politically savvy and is led by first- and second-generation Americans. Contact Salam Al-Marayati, executive director.

Organizations

Women's organizations

Women’s organizations are an important part of the social infrastructure of any large community. Muslim women’s groups often focus on charitable activities and educational outreach to their communities, but experts are seeing more groups take on Muslim women’s rights, domestic violence, human rights and political issues.

  • Muslim Women’s League

    The Muslim Women’s League is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the status of women in the American Muslim community. Part of its mission is to create awareness about domestic violence within the American Muslim Community. It is based in Los Angeles.

  • Muslim Women Resource Center

    The Muslim Women Resource Center provides assistance to women immigrants and refugees, helping them integrate into U.S. society and the job market. It is based in Chicago.

    Contact: 773-764-1686.
  • Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality

    The Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality is a program for the American Society of Muslim Advancement. It is a global social network and grassroots social justice movement designed to empower Muslim women, including promoting religious leadership roles for women. Its website posts a list of Islamic women’s organizations. Contact through the website.

Domestic violence

Muslim women, health providers and some clerics are becoming more outspoken about domestic abuse in Muslim families. There are a growing number of organizations that treat and counsel victims, provide educational seminars in mosques and push for reinterpretation of Quranic verses that some use to justify abuse.

Organizations

Articles

Professional organizations

Muslim professionals have formed national associations for networking and advocacy. In addition to the organizations listed above, they include:

Regional sources

In the Northeast

  • Zareena Grewal

    Zareena Grewal is a scholar in the MacMillan Program of the Middle Eastern Studies Department of Yale University in New Haven, Conn. She gave a presentation at a 2006 conference on Islamic education in America.

  • Mahboubul Hassan

    Mahboubul Hassan president of the Islamic Society of Greater Manchester and professor of economics at Southern New Hampshire University. In 2007 he received the Martin Luther King Award for his leadership in the Muslim community during times of discrimination and hardship.

  • Islamic Schools Association of New York

    The Islamic Schools Association of New York provides resources and networking for Islamic schools throughout the state. (See a list.) It’s based in the borough of Queens. Email through the website.

    Contact: 718-529-5130.

In the South

  • Crescent Community Clinic

    The Crescent Community Clinic opened in Spring Hill, Fla., in 2008 to serve the health needs of the area’s poor and uninsured. See an Aug. 25, 2008, St. Petersburg Times story.

    Contact: 352-610-9916.
  • M. Kabir Hassan

    M. Kabir Hassan is associate professor and associate chair of the department of economics and finance at the University of New Orleans. He spoke at a 2009 conference on Islamic finance and financial resilience.

  • Houston Shifa Clinic

    The Houston Shifa Clinic began providing health services in 1997 and opened a new, large facility in 2008.

  • Muslim Community Center for Human Services

    The Muslim Community Center for Human Services in Richland Hills, Texas, includes a medical clinic, eye clinic, dental clinic and domestic violence services for Muslims in North Texas.

    Contact: 817-589-9165.
  • Timur Kuran

    Timur Kuran is professor of economics and political science and Gorter Family Professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University in Durham, N.C. He has researched economic issues involving Islam, and his books include Islam and Mammon: The Economic Predicaments of Islamism (Princeton University Press, 2004).

  • Red Crescent Clinic

    The Red Crescent Clinic provides health services with a volunteer staff to both Muslims and non-Muslims in Tampa, Fla.

In the Midwest

In the West

  • Cultural Cup Food Bank

    The Cultural Cup Food Bank in Phoenix serves needy people who have religious or health dietary restrictions. It was founded by Zarinah Awad, a Muslim, but serves the wider community. Contact through the website.

  • Muslim Community Services

    Muslim Community Services of San Diego provides social and educational services in the area.

  • Refugee Women’s Alliance

    The Refugee Women’s Alliance is a multiethnic community organization that provides comprehensive services to refugee and immigrant women and families in the Puget Sound area of Washington state. Its clients include Muslims.

    Contact: 206-721-0243.
  • University Muslim Medical Association Community Clinic

    The University Muslim Medical Association Community Clinic provides health services to Muslims and others, regardless of ability to pay, in South Central Los Angeles. It opened in 1996.

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