SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) — A new census has found that Islam is the fastest growing in the second-most-populous county in California, an increase that has brought new challenges to the Muslim minority in the United States.
“Of course, as we say there is no gain without pain,” Abdel Jalil Mezgouri, imam of the Islamic Center of San Diego, told U-T San Diego newspaper.
“The culture is becoming very, very diverse and also some of them have the challenge of adapting with the new place and the language, especially.”
A new census for religious groups in the United States has found that Islam is the fastest-growing faith in San Diego County, the second-most-populous county in California.
It found that the number of Muslims in San Diego County grew by 179 percent from 7,878 followers to 21,994 from 2000 to 2010, putting Islam as the seventh-largest religion in the county.
The census, by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, was based on count for all houses of worship across California’s largest county.
The survey also found that the county’s Mormon community grew by 25,227 followers, an increase of 55 percent, making it the third largest church in the county.
Nationally, Islam grew by 1 million followers between 2000 and 2010, according to the census, behind Mormonism, which saw an increase of 1.9 million adherents.
Islam grew by 67 percent, whereas Mormonism grew by 46 percent.
The growth of Muslim population was attributed to immigration, especially among Somali, Iraqi, Afghani and Bosnian refugees, and to an increase in births and Muslim conversions.
San Diego is home to the second-largest refugee population from East African in the US.
“They have a lot of challenges, and our organizations help them a lot,” said Hussein Nuur, economic development director of Horn of Africa at the San Diego-based African refugee assistance organization.
Oumar Ba, 48, came to San Diego County in 2006 after fleeing violence in his home country of Mauritania in northwest Africa.
“When I came, I didn’t even speak English,” Ba said.
“So, it was difficult. If you don’t speak the language, you don’t have a job. You need lots of support, which is available but it is not enough.”
The growth of the Muslim population in San Diego County has posed new challenges for Muslims to create a better understanding of their faith.
“We are promoting education and people are coming to the mosque to learn about Islam,” Mezgouri said.
“I think there is huge progress in that regard.”
Due to the increase in the number of mosques, Muslim immigrants in San Diego are now finding it easier to integrate into American society.
“The sense of being an outsider and totally foreign is kind of alleviated somewhat, because their co-religious have gone through that process of becoming part of the American society,” said University of Kentucky Islamic Studies Professor Ihsan Bagby.
“They see that it can be done, and it is something that a Muslim can embrace.”
Mirroring a national trend, the growth has brought new challenges to the Count’s Muslim community.
San Diego imam Mezgouri said the high unemployment rate has made integration difficult for recent immigrants.
Discrimination that intensified after the 9/11 attacks is also still a challenge for Muslims, he said.
“In general, San Diego County is a wonderful place, and it is diverse and people are open to that idea,” Hanif Mohebi, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)’s San Diego Chapter, said.
“But there is also Islamophobia and hate crimes that have been recorded by our organization.”
Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Anti-Muslim frenzy has grown sharply in the US in recent months over plans to build a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property.— www.shafaqna.com/english/