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Islam Expert: Numbers Don’t Add Up in CAIR Survey of US Mosques, Islamic Radicalism

CAIR-sponsored survey is seeking to downgrade view of Muslim radicalism.

CAIR-sponsored survey is seeking to downgrade view of Muslim radicalism.
Photo Credit: Rahim Khatib / Flash90

A survey released two weeks ago, sponsored in part by CAIR and titled “The American Mosque 2011,” revealed a tremendous growth in the number of mosques across the US in the ten years since 9/11. The primary researcher of the study claims that the conditions of public and government pressure and suspicion have contributed to – rather than deterred – this increase.

The survey’s researchers counted 2,106 mosques in the United States, mostly in or around big cities, with 503 mosques in New York state and California. While many mosques have historically been established by South Asian immigrants, the study found that newer immigrant groups such as Somalis, Iraqis, West Africans, and Bosnians have begun to erect their own mosques since 2000.

Ihsan Bagby, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky who was the primary researcher for the study, told Jaweed Kaleem of the Huffington Post that “the continued growth of the community is amazing.” Bagby, a Muslim, conducted similar surveys of mosques in 1994 and 2000. “It’s remarkable the amount of mosques that have been built in the last 10 years. It’s kind of counter-intuitive to factors working against them.”

David Yerushalmi, an expert on Islamic law and its intersection with Islamic terrorism and national security, provided some insight on the survey. “Indeed, Bagby’s references to the ‘factors working against’ Muslims in America since 9/11 is a not-so-veiled reference to the Muslim Brotherhood’s campaign to claim that Muslims are discriminated against in the US by what they term ‘Islamophobes,’ and that Muslim Americans are prevented from practicing their religion and from building mosques,” says Yerushalmi.

Yerushalmi, who co-authored the book “Sharia: The Threat To America, An Exercise in Competitive Analysis” and has been instrumental in drafting and enacting legislation to insulate state courts from the growing tendency to embrace constitutionally offensive foreign laws (including Sharia – Islamic law), says that the so-called Islamophobe campaign was initiated and funded in large part by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in coordination with Muslim Brotherhood groups in the US – with the lion’s share of the funding coming from wealthy Gulf Arabs. This campaign condemns anyone with a public profile who says anything critical about ‘Islamism’. ‘Islamism’ is the political movement manifest in the Arab Spring, he explains, especially in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists control 70 percent of the parliament, and seeks to apply Sharia as the law, not only of Muslim countries, but also of western countries with substantial Muslim populations.

One of the features of Sharia is capital punishment for apostasy (in other words, curtailing freedom of religion) and blasphemy (contradicting freedom of speech).

The survey reports that more than 98 percent of mosque leaders surveyed said that Muslims should be involved in American society, and 91 percent said that Muslims should be involved in American politics. 87 percent of mosque leaders disagree with the assertion that radicalism is increasing among young Muslims. Only six percent agreed that it was increasing.

In support of the last finding, which suggests that US Muslims are different from their brethren everywhere else, Haaretz published a story in early February about Imam Muhammad Shamsi who immigrated to New York from Indonesia, and emphatically condemned the pronouncement by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem that killing Jews is a “religious Islamic goal.”

“The Mufti presented a corrupted interpretation of the verse of the Koran and wholly misconstrued its meaning,” said Imam Ali. “[The Mufti] has adhered to the literal translation of the verse and completely ignored the necessary interpretation that is given to that passage,” he explained, adding: “This is a total error and his words are libelous because Islam is completely opposed to encouraging hatred between fellow men.”

Yerushalmi is quick to point out that, in effect, Imam Shamsi is saying there are two completely different kinds of Islam, one – in America – is rational and mature, while the other permeates the rest of the Muslim world – where 98 percent of the 1.2 billion Muslims live. There, survey after survey show that 50-70 percent desire a Sharia-based political order. Moreover, he points out, the same percentages of Muslims in those countries reject nationalism in favor of a revived transnational Caliphate (Muslim empire).

“But this survey, which was conducted in cooperation with Muslim Brotherhood groups in the US, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization the US Department of Justice named as an unindicted co-conspirator with the Hamas-tied Holy Land Foundation,” says Yerushalmi, “contradicts a more empirical peer-reviewed study published in two leading academic and professional journals in the Summer and Fall of 2011, respectively.”

Contradictory Results

That other study, often referred to as the Mapping Sharia study, was conducted and released by Yerushalmi himself, who serves as general counsel to the Center for Security Policy, a national security think tank in Washington, D.C., and Mordechai Kedar, assistant professor in the department of Arabic and Middle East studies and a research associate with the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies, both at Bar Ilan University.

The Mapping Sharia study took a representative sampling of all US mosques from 2008-2010 and measured adherence to Sharia (via observable examples of manifest religiosity, such as Islamic garb, enforced prayer lines, and gender separation) and the presence of violent Jihadist literature, much of which is the work of leading Muslim Brotherhood figures, and whether the imam of each mosque promoted such violent literature.

The results of that study show that 80 percent of the mosques in the US contain violent Jihadist literature and the imams in most of those mosques promote the violent literature. Moreover, there was a statistically relevant correlation between Sharia adherence in the mosques and the promotion of the violent Jihadist literature.

“But, obviously,” says Yerushalmi, “this newest survey, even if taken at face value, seems at odds with multiple reports on vehement anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic rallies and conferences on US campuses, fueled mostly by Muslim Brotherhood groups, along with Palestinian students and academics. Most recently, we’ve been treated to a story about Israeli Apartheid Week on the Brandeis University campus, of all places.”

But, of course, points out Yerushalmi, “the deeper problem with this new survey is that it only tells us what Muslim religious leaders were willing to tell surveyors. This says nothing about US Muslims, only about what must be viewed as a public relations effort by the Muslim Brotherhood groups who conducted the survey,”

Here are a few of the more interesting claims of of “The American Mosque 2011: Basic Characteristics of the American Mosque, Attitudes of Mosque Leaders.” The survey can be downloaded free online. (The list was delineated by Jaweed Kaleem)

- The average number membership of an American mosque was 1,248 in 2011, which counts Muslims who at least pray for Eid-al-Fitr, one of two major holidays, at the mosque. That’s down from 1,625 in 2000, and is likely because of a growth in the number of mosques.

- The total number of mosque participants or “Mosqued Muslims” has increased from 2 million in 2000 to over 2.6 million Muslims in 2011. In his study, Bagby writes that “if there are 2.6 million Muslims who pray the Eid prayer, then the total Muslim population should be closer to estimates of up to 7 million.”

“This number of Eid prayer worships is suspect,” says David Yerushalmi, whose Mapping Sharia study counted the number of regular mosque attendees. “Mosque attendance in the US is like other religious groups; less than half attend with any regularity. And, while mosque attendance at the Eid prayer is at its peak, if this number were correct, there would actually be an average attendance across 2100 mosques of 1,240 worshipers. That number is a gross inflation, because there is simply insufficient room for such crowds in most of the US mosques.”

Yerushalmi also explains that this finding of “Mosqued Muslims” is another indication of the lack of a sound methodology used by this new survey. “The claim that there are 2.6 million ‘Mosqued Muslims’ in the U.S. contradicts most other reputable surveys, such as a 2010 one by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which said there were only 2.6 million Muslims in the entire country.” A Pew report from last year said there were 2.75 million Muslims.

The Pew study also found that American Muslims are generally more assimilated and less religiously observant than Muslims in Muslim countries and most experts say that less than half of American Muslims attend a mosque regularly—a number in line with other religious groups in the US. While the Mapping Sharia study found that it is the Muslims who regularly attend mosques in the US who show the same level of Sharia adherence and tendency toward the violent literature as one finds in the global Muslim population.

- Seventy-six percent of existing mosques were established after 1980.

- Shiite mosques are growing. Around 44 percent of all Shiite mosques were established in the 1990s. Approximately 7 percent of mosques identified themselves as Shiite and 37 percent of those are in the West, especially California. Most Shiites at American mosques are South Asians, Arabs, and Iranians.

- A minority of mosques (3 percent) have just one ethnic group that attends. South Asians, Arab-Americans, and African-Americans are dominant ethnic groups among mosque members, but significant numbers of Somalis, West Africans, and Iraqis now worship at mosques nationwide.

- The number of mosques in urban areas is decreasing, while the number of mosques in suburban areas is increasing. In 2011, 28 percent of mosques were located in suburbs, up from 16 percent in 2000.

- The conversion rate per mosque has remained steady over the past two decades. In 2011, the average number of converts per mosque was 15.3. In 2000 the average was 16.3 converts per mosque.

Yerushalmi also takes issue with the self-reporting of the imams surveyed. “This number is patently an exaggeration and an attempt to claim greater success at ‘Dawa’ or proselytizing than the empirical evidence suggests.”

As Yerushalmi puts it, if this number were correct, one would expect 34,328 converts annually in the U.S. (2,106 mosques times 16.3 converts/year). This would represent a 1.3 percent US Muslim growth rate attributable just to conversion. “Yet, we do not see this reflected in the Muslim population increases over the years, especially when one factors in other variables such as higher than average birth rates and immigration, less deaths and drop-outs. The numbers don’t add up and what is most intriguing is that the researches simply ignored these anomalies.”

The survey also touts the the claim that 56% of imans follow the more flexible (modern) approach to Islam. What the data mentions, but the survey report ignores, is that in 2000, 71% of imams claimed to follow the more moderate path, indicating a 15% drop in moderation since the previous study.

And finally, the survey does not ask the one pertinent question that might possibly have given a more accurate insight into the actual degree of radicalism of the imams and their beliefs, if answered truthfully. That question being: “Do you support the application of Sharia law in the US?”

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3 Responses to “Islam Expert: Numbers Don’t Add Up in CAIR Survey of US Mosques, Islamic Radicalism”

  1. pedro holguion says:

    Great article. I really appreciate Yerushalmi’s critical review of the recent CAIR-sponsored study. I also noticed the large discrepancy between this study’s 7 million and Pew’s 2.6 million. Other studies find about the same as Pew. What amazes me is that not one of the mainstream media articles that reported on this study (that I read) ever questioned the inflated numbers (the exception of Slate.com).

  2. gma215 says:

    There may very well be moderate Muslims. If they were Christians, we would call them liberal or even backslidden, picking and choosing the parts of the religion they like and abandoning the stuff that is embarrassing, inconvenient, or politically incorrect. BUT…there is NO moderate Islam. Islam is Islam:evil, barbaric, violent, ignorant, and desperately in need of a Martin Luther and a reformation.

  3. Aref Assaf says:

    Yes, I support the application of Sharia law in the US. There is no contradiction between our US Constitution and the holy Koran. Anyhow, American Muslims want the supremacy of the US Constitution. And American judges have applied sharia laws so long they did not conflict with our laws. Bigots like Yeroushalmi cannot hide their racism and absurd suggestions. We defeated you in New Jersey.

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