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Immigration is driving the founding of new mosques

Retrospective on Mosque City NY, Part 7

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Africans gather at the clock for prayers at Masjid Noor Islam in Highbridge, Bronx, NY. Photo: Tony Carnes/A Journey through NYC religions

Immigrants from North African gather at the clock for prayers in Masjid Noor Islam in Highbridge, Bronx, NY. Photo: Tony Carnes/A Journey through NYC religions

People watching in New York City can be like reading an encyclopedia of world history, especially at those moments when the book is being re-written.

Immigration from Muslim lands is changing American and European history. In New York City the rise of the postsecular city is being ensured of a long-time growth. The same may well be true for European cities.

As the number of immigrants from Muslim lands to New York City increases, the number of mosques rises in rough proportion. If we graph the 2011 figures of Muslim growth in the northeast United States and run them along the growth line of mosques, the lines show a remarkable similarity and some differences that raise intriguing questions.

Immigration Mosque Founding

 

The proportion of the mosques established in New York City before 1979 outruns the arrival of immigrants from foreign lands. There is good reason for this difference.

The largest growth of Islam among African Americans took place mainly before 1979. Starting in 1970, another growth rate factor for mosque creation, immigration, started to kick into gear. So, even while the rate of African American mosque establishment started to drop in the late 1970s, the net result was that the number of mosques being established in those years was increasing, which lead to a peak of mosque establishment in the 1990s.

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Since 2000, the rate of mosque establishment in New York City averages out to be roughly equivalent to the immigration rate of Muslims reaching the northeast United States. This average, however, masks some interesting variations.

After 9/11 in 2001 and again after the economic collapse in 2008, immigration from Muslim lands slowed down. However this immigration picked up each time after the crisis event. Also, the establishment of mosques by African American Muslims is continuing though at a slower pace. In 2011 the Mosque study found that 26% of the mosques in New York City were established in the previous ten years.

Based on the above average rate of immigration of peoples into New York City from predominately Muslim lands, we can surmise that the rate of mosque planting will continue for a while.

Combined with the growth in the number of religious worship centers of other religious immigrants, conversions and the continued low level of “nonreligious (the “Nones”) in New York City as compared to the rest of the country, the result is that New York City is strengthening its character as a postsecular city. Will this era of New York City be a forerunner of the rise of the postsecular era in world history? There are too many contrary trends at work to tell.

For example, there is a trend of Muslim immigrants entering the country to settle outside the traditional Muslim settlement areas like New York City. (This is true for other immigrants too.) They are more often going directly to the suburbs and states like Texas which had 166 mosques in 2011, attracting more people for the Eid celebration than in any other state. So, maybe the land of Rick Perry may become known as the Mosque State with Sunbelt Muslims arising in competition with their northeastern brethren.

Henna patterns kit at a boutique for Yemeni Muslims in the Bronx, New York. Photo: Pauline Dolle/A Journey through NYC religions

Henna tatoo kit at a boutique for Yemeni Muslims in the Bronx, New York. Photo: Pauline Dolle/A Journey through NYC religions

 

Next: Mosque City NY, Part 8. How many Muslims are in the NYC metro area?

 

Read previous article on Mosque City NY:

Kitchens of Faith for Ramadan, Part 6

 


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