The Ever-Expanding Reach of Islam
Thus, have We made of you an Ummah [Muslim community] justly balanced, that ye might be witnesses over yourselves (Qur’ an, Surah 2:143; Yusuf Ali trans.).
From its inception, Islam has been committed to being a witness to the world. And that commitment has yielded phenomenal results. Today Islam is the second largest religion on the planet. With 1.2 billion followers, it comprises one-fifth of the world’s population. With a 2.1 percent per annum increase (68,000 new adherents every 24 hours), Islam is only slightly behind Baha’i as the world’s fastest growing religion.
At its current rate of growth, there will be 2.2 billion Muslims on Earth by 2050, encompassing one-fourth of the world’s population.1 In fewer than 200 years, Islam could surpass Christianity as the predominant religion on the planet.
Islam is found in 204 of the 238 countries of the world, including the United States where, according to one Islamic study, there are approximately 1,209 mosques or Islamic centers.2 Muslim populations in the United States are difficult to determine because census records do not include religious identifications. Islamic sources claim upwards of 7 million Muslims in the United States,3 but other sources consider this figure inflated.
In 2001, an extensive survey of American adults found only 1.1 million were Muslims (counting children, 2.8 million maximum).4 A mediate estimate is 4.1 million, a 400-fold increase in only a century.5
There are three reasons for this dramatic rise in the American Muslim population: (1) increased immigration in the last 40 years; (2) a high birth rate; and (3) conversions, said to average almost 20,000 per year.6
Conversion to Islam is comparatively easy. All one must do is confess Allah as the one true God and Muhammad as his messenger. But the same Islamic study that reported the average number of annual converts also showed that more than 58 percent of those new converts did not continue going to mosque, dropping the actual annual rate of lasting conversions to around 81 000.7
Concentrated effort at Muslim proselytization is known as dawah (call). Numerous Islamic organizations, many with money from Saudi Arabia, have spent thousands of dollars for outreach programs to non Muslims that include personal contact, television and radio programs, and distribution of free Islamic literature to hundreds of public libraries and schools. One organization passed a resolution naming dawah its number one priority for 2003-2004.8
Another organization has a goal of proselytizing every non-Muslim American family by the year 2013, a program it refers to as “one family per month.” It lays out the strategy, including the cost:
We must embark upon a plan to mobilize one million Muslims towards reaching out with the message of Islam to the American population of 280 million over a period of ten years. This number converts into reaching out to 28 persons per year or twelve families in a year, this is, one family or three persons (a couple and a child) per month for a Muslim worker.
When you invite one family or 3-6 persons you talk to them. If you invite too many people, say more than six, they talk to each other and you defeat the purpose. Inviting to your home is important because you open your home to them. . . . You may invite two to three families together as follow up meetings to reinforce their neutralization about Islam and pull them closer. You may want to meet some of them repeatedly and develop closer relationships with them….It costs approximately 3-10 dollars to reach one person depending upon our approach.9
A spokesman for an Islamic advocacy group once commented in a newspaper interview, “I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic some time in the future…. But I’m not going to do anything violent to promote that. I’m going to do it through education.”10
Aside from proselytizing families, a number of Islamic groups target prisoners in the American correctional system. According to Media Guide to Islam, “The National Islamic Prison Foundation claims to convert an average of 135,000 prisoners a year and federal prison statistics estimate that 10 to 20 percent of prisoners in America are Muslims.”11 That percentage roughly translates to 200,000 to 340,000 Muslim prisoners nation wide.12 Wrote Paul M. Barrett in The Wall Street Journal,
For about 20 years until he retired in 2000, Imam Umar [born Wallace Gene Marks] … helped run New York’s growing Islamic prison program, recruiting and training dozens of chaplains and ministering to thousands of inmates himself With help from the Saudi government, he traveled to Saudi Arabia and brought that country’s harsh form of Islam to New York’s expanding ranks of Muslim prisoners.
“Even Muslims who say they are against terrorism secretly admire and applaud” the hijackers [of 9/11], he wrote in an unpublished memoir. The Qur’ an, he said, does not condemn terrorism against oppressors of Muslims, even if innocent people die. “This is the sort of teaching they don’t want in prison,” he said. “But this is what I’m doing.”13
Umar called prison “the perfect recruitment and training grounds for radicalism and the Islamic religion.”14
Islam’s rapid growth and conversion efforts cause some to wonder if seeds for future terrorism are now being sown, especially when some American Muslims consider their opponents to be “the American government, led by the Zionists, Christian Fundamentalists and Secular Fundamentalists.”15
Recent documented cases of activities and arrests of American Muslim leaders indicate these concerns are legitimate. In an article in the The Wall Street Journal in 2002, Prison Fellowship Ministries founder and spokesman, Chuck Colson, said terror experts fear “angry young recruits will become the next wave of terrorists. As U.S. citizens, they will combine a desire for ‘payback’ with an ability to blend easily into American culture.” Wrote Colson,
America has always been a place where victims of oppression came “yearning to breathe free,” as the Statue of Liberty reminds us. But if we do not stop them, radical Islamists will use prisons, packed with angry and resentful men, to put an evil twist on this message: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses – yearning to get even.16
Still, the proper Christian response to Muslim expansion should be one of renewed commitment to spreading the true gospel of Jesus the Messiah.
As Colson said, “When the gospel is preached, and men embrace Christ, they eschew violence. The prisons we run prove it. In Texas, Kansas, Iowa and now Minnesota, our prisons are filled with once-dangerous men who now love Jesus and live new lives.”17
- David B. Barrett, ed., “World Summary,” World Christian Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 1:4-5, 7.
- Ihsan Bagby, Paul M. Perl, and Bryan T. Froehle,The Mosque in America: A National Portrait, (Washington, DC: Council on American-Islamic Relations, 2001), 2.
- Ibid., 3.
- Barry A. Kosmin, Egon Mayer, and Ariela Keysar, “American Religious Identification Survey 2001, Report No. 2: Profile of the US Muslim Population” (New York: The Graduate Center of The City University of New York, 2001), available from [www.gc.cuny.edu/studies/aris_part_two.htm].
- Barrett, “United States of America,” 1:772.
- Bagby et al., 22.
- “Resolution Passed by the Members of General Assembly of ICNA [Islamic Circle of North America]: ICNA’s Priority # 1 for 2003-2004,” [www.icna.org/pr_resolution.htm].
- M. Amir Ali, “One Family a Month,” The Institute of Islamic Information and Education, 1998 [www.iiie.net/Brochures/Brochure-M08.html].
- Lou Gelfand, “Reader Says Use of ‘Fundamentalist’ Hurting Muslims,” Star Tribune, April 4, 1993, sec. NEWS, 31A.
- “Converts: Conversions in U.S.Prisons,” Media Guide to Islam [http:// mediaguidetoislam.sfsu.edu/intheus/06c_converts.htm].
- Paul M. Barrett, “Captive Audience: How a Chaplain Spread Extremism to an Inmate Flock,” The Wall Street Journal, February 5, 2003, A13.
- Chuck Colson, “Evangelizing for Evil in Our Prisons,” The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2002, available at [www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/index.jsp?section=static&page=colson624].