In the years immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001, I attended several seminars for journalists designed to help us cover Muslims in America in fair and thorough ways.
One of the questions that seemed then difficult to answer was how many Muslims there were in the United States. There were several reasons for that difficulty. One was that the U.S. Census Bureau doesn't ask about religious affiliation (and shouldn't). The other is that Muslims are difficult to count because they don't "belong" to mosques in quite the same way that Christians or Jews, say, are members of this or that congregation.
But in the early 2000s, I heard estimates ranging from 2 million to 10 or 12 million Muslims in the U.S. Quite a range.
More recently, the Pew Research Center, using various methods, has been trying to get a more accurate estimate not just of the number of Muslims here now but also the rate at which that number is growing.
The latest Pew estimate suggests that in 2017 there were 3.45 million Muslims of all ages in the U.S. That is up from 2.35 million in 2007.
"Muslims in the U.S.," the Pew report says, "are not as numerous as the number of Americans who identify as Jewish by religion, according to our estimate. At the same time, our projections suggest that the U.S. Muslim population will grow much faster than the country’s Jewish population. By 2040, Muslims will replace Jews as the nation’s second-largest religious group after Christians. And by 2050, the U.S. Muslim population is projected to reach 8.1 million, or 2.1% of the nation’s total population — nearly twice the share of today."
Having reasonable, scholarly estimates like this is helpful for many reasons, but one of those reasons is that it defangs some of the atrocious scare rhetoric one still can hear about how Muslims are taking over the U.S. and plan to turn it into an Islamic republic based on Shari'a, or Islamic law.
I haven't bothered to do a silly projection to try to figure out when Muslims might become a majority of Americans and, thus, in a potential political position to dominate the country, but if they'll be only 2.1 percent of the total population in 2050, I'm thinking that majority status won't be even theoretically possible for a long, long, long time, if ever.
Beyond that, as I've noted before (most recently in the second item in this blog post from a few days ago), most Muslims in America are busy trying to be good citizens and trying to create an Islam that works best in this country.
I know it's a radical idea these days to base opinions on facts, but some of us are sort of stuck in that old tradition.
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THE REV. JARED KUSHNER?
President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, has been ordained by the online Universal Life Church so he can perform weddings. If any of you uses him for that purpose, I want to be the second to know, please.