Washington Week

Friday Nights on PBS

By the numbers: Muslims in America


By Dan Cooney

Much of the rhetoric during the 2016 campaign has centered around the role of Muslims in American life. Some Republican candidates have policy platforms that call for law enforcement to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” or an end to all Muslim immigration to the United States. Other candidates have denounced these proposals, calling them dangerous or only leading to more polarization.

In light of these comments, we decided to take a look at how Muslims contribute to everyday American life. How many live in the United States? Serve in the Armed Forces? Here are some numbers:


Estimated 3.3 million Muslims living in the U.S.

(Pew Research Center, population in 2015)


Muslims make up an estimated 1 percent of the total U.S. population; by 2050, that will double

(Pew Research Center, population in 2015)


Hamtramck, Michigan is likely the first Muslim-majority city in America

(Washington Post: 11/21/2015, 11/5/2015; The Guardian)


2 members of Congress are followers of Islam: Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.)

(Pew Research Center, New York Times)


Nearly 5,900 active-duty members of U.S. armed forces identify as Muslim

(ABC News via Department of Defense, as of December 2015)


900 New York City police officers are Muslim

(Reuters, Associated Press)


81 Muslim-Americans were involved in “violent extremist plots” in 2015 

(Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security)


18 percent of American Muslims report regular religious discrimination 

(Institute for Social Policy and Understanding’s American Muslim Poll)




For more information:

·         While the U.S. Census Bureau does not count religion in its surveys, the Pew Research Center has developed an estimation of the number of Muslims living in the U.S.

·         Key findings about Muslims in the U.S. and around the world, from the Pew Research Center

·         Here’s a recent poll of American Muslims by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, via the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University


Photo: The Islamic Center of Washington D.C. [Flickr / Anjum Malkana]