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American Muslim Population Lower than Originally Thought

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Contrary to earlier claims by American Islamic organizations that the number of American Muslims totaled 7 million, two new studies indicate the numbers are actually much lower.

One study, The American Religious Identification Study, was done by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. The second was commissioned by the American Jewish Committee and conducted by Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago. Both found the number of American Muslims to be between 1.1 and 1.8 million.

Though mosques are now more numerous in American religious life and U.S. Muslims have drawn sympathetic attention from non-Muslims after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the recent research affirms earlier beliefs by sociologists that the U.S. Muslim population was greatly overstated, wrote RNS.

Smith said in his study, released Oct. 23 by the AJC, that earlier estimates provided by Islamic organizations including the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Student Association, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the American Muslim Council and the Harvard Islamic Society were not based on a scientifically sound or explicit methodology.

The best, adjusted, survey-based estimates put the adult Muslim population in 2000 at 0.67 percent or 1,401,000, and the total Muslim population at 1,886,000, Smith wrote in the study. Even if high-sided estimates based on local surveys, figures from mosques, and ancestry and immigration statistics are given more weight than the survey-based numbers, it is hard to accept estimates that Muslims are greater than 1 percent of the population [2.8 million].

The American Religious Identification Survey 2001 estimated the Muslim population at 1.1 million adults (or, 0.5 percent of the population) and 650,000 children. The survey was conducted by drawing from a random sampling of 50,000 people by telephone.

Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.