article

08.11.10

America's Muslim Capitals

While the Ground Zero mosque generates nationwide debate, America has become a country of thousands of mosques, cultural institutions and halal restaurants. VIEW OUR RANKING of America’s 30 Muslim centers.

While the Ground Zero mosque generates nationwide debate, America has become a country of thousands of mosques, cultural institutions, and halal restaurants. VIEW OUR RANKING of America’s 30 Muslim centers.

Today, millions of Muslims across the U.S. will commence a month of prayer, fasting, and reflection. The start of Ramadan marks the ninth month on the Islamic calendar, but this year it’s also marked by a season of contention: A proposed mosque and community center near Ground Zero has attracted significant protest and media attention.

VIEW OUR RANKING OF AMERICA'S 30 MUSLIM CAPITALS

Muslims comprise a small but growing faction of the U.S. religious landscape, though definitive data on the total population does not exist. In 2007, the Pew Research Center projected there were 1.4 million adult Muslims in the U.S., representing 0.6 percent of the country’s population, plus 850,000 under age 18.

Asra Q. Nomani on why Muslims like her questions the Ground Zero mosque“I think Muslims view the U.S. as a beacon of freedom,” says Farhana Khera, president and executive director of Muslim Advocates, an advocacy organization. According to Pew, two-thirds of the Muslim population was born outside the U.S., and nearly 40 percent immigrated since 1990.

“A lot changed after 9/11. A lot of Muslims re-embraced their identity,” adds Shahed Amanullah, the founder and CEO of Halalfire media, which operates six Muslim-centric Web properties. “A lot of people who didn’t embrace a Muslim identity before felt the need to embrace it to protect it.”

Of course, increased population and fervor has come with problems. “I think undoubtedly it’s becoming more challenging to be a practicing Muslim in the U.S.,” says Khera, citing increased government investigations and monitoring, public sentiment and laws that restrict international charitable contributions.

So which metro areas serve as capitals for the Muslim-American community? To determine this, The Daily Beast measured total Muslim population, the number of mosques per capita, and the availability of traditional halal cuisine in major cities across the U.S. We considered only metro areas with Muslim populations that comprise at least 0.5 percent of the total population.

From there, we weighted each metro area’s Muslim population, as a percentage of total local population, as 40 percent. The Muslim population figures are based on metro area data from “Religious Congregation and Membership in the United States,” the most recent report on nationwide religious affiliation collected, in lockstep with the last Census, by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, or ASARB, and distributed by the Association of Religion Data Archives.

The number of mosques was also weighted 40 percent: We considered both the number of Muslim congregations included in ASARB report for each metro area and the number of mosques listed on Citysearch.com, in order to include statistically relevant data as well as an up-to-date, if imperfect, reflection of the relative number of mosques in each city. (While Citysearch’s data is incomplete, it serves as a metric of relative volume of mosques as well as an indication of the Muslim community’s public presence.) The ASARB and Citysearch data were ranked against the 2000 Census population for metro areas and the 2009 population survey for cities, respectively.

Finally, the number of Halal restaurants in each city, according to zabihah.com, were given a statistical weight of 2 percent. Though zabihah is not an exhaustive listing, it’s the most complete available and provides an interesting, cultural indicator of the strength of the Muslim community in each city.