Mosque History & Demographics
LIKE MOST AMERICAN MOSQUES, the Islamic Center of Morgantown is composed largely of immigrants and is ethnically diverse, although it has fewer converts than many mosques. It also includes little representation of African American Muslims, who account for up to a third of the overall American Muslim population. Reflective of national trends, most attendees are male and, as in a majority of mosques, the ICM provides a separate prayer area for women.
According ICM research, the first Muslims began to arrive in Morgantown in the 1960s. Most were professors or students at West Virginia University. Led by Muslims including Asra's father, Zafar Nomani, the burgeoning community held its first prayer services in the basement of a local Methodist church. It soon moved to the WVU campus center and eventually rented its own building downtown. In the early 1990s it purchased and renovated a house on Harding Avenue to serve as a mosque that could accommodate about 100 worshippers. The facility was soon overflowing. The community raised funds to build a new mosque across the street, and the new building opened its doors in October 2003.
The Morgantown Muslim community is now more than 500 strong. The Islamic Center is home to Muslims from some 36 different countries — including India, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Bosnia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the United States and several African nations. Arabs and South Asians comprise its two dominant ethnic groups. Much of the mosque’s membership is drawn from the student population of West Virginia University. Professors, business owners and physicians also have a significant presence.
Muslim Americans: A National Portrait (2009), conducted by Gallup’s Center for Muslim Studies, which calls it the “first-ever nationally representative study of a randomly selected sample of Muslim Americans.” Findings include:
- African Americans represent the largest racial group (35%) within the national Muslim population.
- Nearly one in five Muslim Americans identify themselves as “Asian.”
Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream (2007), conducted jointly by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Findings include:
- Pew estimates an overall American Muslim population of 2.35 million.
- 64 percent of American Muslims were born overseas, with 24 percent from the Arab world and 18 percent from South Asia.
- 34 percent of American Muslims are native-born, 20 percent of whom are African American.
- By nearly two-to-one (63%-32%) American Muslims do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.
Muslims in the American Public Square (2004), a poll of American Muslims conducted by Zogby International on behalf of Project MAPS, a research project at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (CMCU) at Georgetown University. Findings include:
- The three major ethnic groups in the Muslim community are South Asians (32 percent), Arabs (26 percent) and African Americans (20 percent). Muslims from various African countries constitute seven percent of the community. More Muslims (17 percent) came from Pakistan than from any other country.
- 49 percent of mosques have no clear-cut ethnic majority and 21 percent are split largely between two or three ethnic groups.
- 36 percent of American Muslims were born in the United States, while 64 percent were born in 80 different countries around the world. (Another study puts the number of Muslims born overseas at 70 percent.)
Mosque in America: A National Portrait (2001), a study coordinated by the Hartford Seminary as part of a larger study of American congregations called “Faith Communities Today” and co-sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, the Ministry of Imam W. Deen Muhammed and the Islamic Circle of North America. Findings include:
- 30 percent of U.S. mosque participants are converts.
- 75 percent of regular mosque participants are male.
- In 1994, 52 percent of mosques reported that women pray behind a partition or in another room. By 2000, that practice had spread to 66 percent of mosques.
- Two-thirds of Muslims said they agreed or somewhat agreed that America is an immoral, corrupt society.