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The Muslim Population of North America

There is no consensus among experts as to the exact number of Muslims in North America. The Muslim population of Canada is estimated at about a million people, made up of Sunnis, Shi`ites and Isma`ilis. The Twelver Shi`ites mostly hail from Iran, India and Pakistan. The Isma`ili population is consisted of immigrants of Indian descent who had resided in eastern Africa for a period of some two hundred years and who were expelled from the countries of the region, in the 1950s, by such rulers as Idi Amin. The determination of the number of Muslims in the USA is more of a formidable challenge, given the diversity of existing views, especially considering the political ramifications of the issue. Some put the number of Muslims in the USA at eight million, while others reduce this estimate to five or, even, four and a half million. In the opinion of the author of these lines, it is unlikely for the figure to be less than six million, or even slightly higher. Whatever the exact figure, the statistics indicate the Muslims as comprising the second largest religious community in the USA, after Christians. The number of Muslims in the USA is higher than that of the Jews, who stand at some five and a half million, though their influence is in no way comparable to the tremendous power wielded by the Jewish community. 

Blacks make up around a third of the Muslim community of the USA, the vast majority of whom reside in major cities, such as New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit. Whites comprise the smallest demographic group of all US Muslims, whose number stands at two to three hundred thousand, though it is on the rise. The majority of the US Muslim community is made up of immigrants from the Islamic countries. Up until 1980, the balk of these Muslims consisted of Arabs, however, in the past twenty years, a great number of Iranians have immigrated to the USA, most of whom are Shi`ites who, after a period of disorientation, are increasingly turning to Islamic activities. They are concentrated in major US cities, such as New York, Washington, San Francisco and Los Angles, in particular, and have established Islamic centers of Shi`ite and Iranian orientation in many of these cities. The same period has witnessed the migration to the USA of a large number of people from Pakistan, India and eastern Africa, a great number of whom are Shi`ites. The number of immigrants from Southeast Asia, Africa and those of Turkish origin is smaller in comparison to the latter group. Naturally, the majority of the Muslim immigrants and their black coreligionists are adherents of Sunni Islam. In comparison, the Iranians and a considerable number of the Indians, Pakistanis, Lebanese and Iraqi Arabs, and eastern African Muslims are followers of Ja`fari Shi`ism. It is estimated that there are close to a million Shi`ites in the USA and Canada.

* source: Nasr , Seied Hossein "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 , pp.586 - 587

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