Between 400,000 and 800,000 in the metro NYC area identify their religion as Islam, according to a Journey Data Center analysis.
There are three sources for estimates of the Muslim population. First, the recently released American Values Atlas survey found that 2% of the adults in the New York City metropolitan area identify their religion as Islam in 2014. With a NYC metro area population of 20,092,883, this would mean that there are about 402,000 Muslims.
The telephone surveys, conducted in English and Spanish during 2014 by the Public Religion Research Institute of 3,383 adults of 18 years of age or older, covers the 20,092,883 million people in the U.S. Census’ definition of the New York Metropolitan Statistical Area. The census determines the boundary, which range from parts of northern New Jersey to parts of Connecticut, according a formula that indicates a high degree of economic integration with New York City proper.
Second, the just released PEW U.S. Religious Landscape study identifies Muslims as making up 3% of the population in the metropolitan area. This percentage would yield a higher estimate of the number of Muslims in the metro area, 603,000. The PEW U.S. Religious Landscape Study includes a telephone survey in English and English of 1786 adults in the New York Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Of course, there may be somewhat more Muslims than these surveys pick up. Muslims, many of whom are new immigrants, may have any number of reasons not to respond to a telephone survey in English and Spanish.
The third estimate is based on an extrapolation by the Journey Data Center utilizing stats from the Journey mosque census, the 2011 Mosque Study and the 2011 Pew survey of Muslim Americans. Journey’s estimate would put the number of Muslims in the metropolitan area somewhat higher, about 770,777 Muslims including some children, 3.8% of the population of the metropolitan New York City area.
On the other hand, immigration of Muslims to the United States has picked up pace. In our analysis of data from the 2011 study of Muslims by the Pew Research Center, we found that 28% of all Muslims in the northeastern United States came to this country between 2000 and 2011. In the future the formation and natural increase of Muslim families is likely to pick up the pace of Muslim population growth. Muslim immigrants are more likely to be single and younger than the general population. 44% of the Muslim Americans in the northeast United States are between 18-29 years of age. The 2011 Mosque Study found that every year each mosque also added about 15 converts.
New York City Muslims: 500,000-600,000
Neither the American Values Atlas nor the PEW US Religion Landscape Study break down the results for New York City proper. However, using data from the Journey Data Center Muslim Site Census and attendance extrapolations from the American Mosque Study, we estimate that as many as 564,056 residents of NYC identified themselves in 2014 as Muslim. This is about 6.6% of the city.
The 2011 American Mosque study compiled mosque attendance figures to the big annual celebration of Eid, which marks the end of Ramadan. This religious event is similar to Passover for many Jews in attracting even people who are only nominally religious. Consequently, the Eid attendance figures, adjusted for NYC population growth since 2011, seem like a good place to estimate the number of Muslims.
However, Ihsan Bagby, the researcher in charge of the 2011 Mosque Study, reminds us that perhaps a large unknown number of Muslims don’t even attend the Eid celebrations. Some people claim that two-three times more people are Muslim than attend the Eid. It is like asking how many Catholics miss Easter services, or how many Jews miss a Passover dinner.
The 2011 PEW study of Muslim Americans gives us a firmer estimate of the number of Muslims who don’t attend Eid. Its study indicates that 21% of self-identified Muslims in the northeast United States seldom or never attend religious services in a mosque or Islamic Center. We can reasonably infer from this fact to our analysis of Muslims in New York City.
On the whole Muslim New Yorkers are pretty observant about their faith. Yet, we can see that a good portion are nominal Muslims who seldom go to collective worship services. How observant and what is the content of Muslim beliefs will be taken up in a future Journey article.
Read previous article on Mosque City NY:
Immigration is driving the founding of new mosques. Retrospective on Mosque City NY, Part 7