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American mosques building interfaith relations: Report

In a recent report authored by Ihsan Bagby, the American mosque has evolved to become more American, inclusive, and in reviving positions for women within the mosque, a practice that got lost in the tides of time.

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Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) issued its decadal report on the American Mosque in 2020 highlighting basic characteristics and evolutions over time.

The report shows that the American mosque has become a melting pot, where a myriad of other religions and Islamic jurisprudences including other traditions come into a blend of unity in diversity. The study was operationalised with surveys and interviews conducted with hundreds of Imaams and religious figures to amass data.

In other countries, a single religion or tradition dominates, while the American mosque caters to congregates entering it from different walks of life, thus it becomes more inclusive to appeal to people of immigrant backgrounds.

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The survey shared that the number of mosques continues to grow, “ In 2020, the US Mosque Survey counted 2769 mosques, which is a 31% increase from the 2010 count of 2106 mosques.” This increase is affiliated with the increasing Muslim population in America.

The report shared that the participants in 2020 increased up to 16 per cent while back in 2010, only about 355 people would enter. The report also showed that about  “one-fourth (24%) of mosque participants are aged 18-34, roughly the ages of Generation Z and young Millennials.”

In other countries, mosques tend to adhere to their strict guidelines, but the American Mosque, due to its specific environmental conditions accumulates multiple ideas and practices. The primary language spoken at these mosques is English, and in recent years more American-born Imaams are leading these mosques.

Mosques in recent times have also engaged more politically than the Christain Church has as noted that 51 per cent of the mosques hosted a politician at some point. “The American mosque is more integrated from a gender perspective than mosques elsewhere,” Bagby notes as women are finding their position back into these institutions.

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There is also progress in the number of paid Imaams, although the percentage is still below when compared to other religious institutions, it is gaining a headstart from 2020 onwards.

Despite considerable ‘good’ changes, there remain issues to address. Up to 35 per cent of mosques face resistance from development boards, given the anti-Muslim sentiment that has persisted post 9/11.

ISPU’s Muslim Poll in 2020 gathered results that shed light upon the institutional, structural and interpersonal discrimination that Muslims face every day, more than any other religious group within America.

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Although the youth is participatory to Mosque practices, it is still alarming as much more remain beyond the influence of mosques, meaning that the mosques are not reaching out enough or looking into problems of the young adults to develop a communal trust.

The study indicated that Mosque governance is an evolving mechanism and overall on a positive note it is highlighting a distinct American feature to it. On top of that these practices, especially with regards to efforts in interfaith communication and trust-building, will become an integral aspect of creating tolerance in society.

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