The Bay Area Muslim Study: Establishing Identity and Community
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The San Francisco Bay Area has one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States: nearly 250,000 Muslims live in the six counties surrounding the city of San Francisco. It is home to a large number of immigrants who sought economic and educational opportunities, as well as refugees and their American-born children who fled strife, violence, and economic hardship. Many work in Silicon Valley, but survey results show the existence of clear regional socioeconomic disparities. This region is also attractive to immigrants because its diverse and inclusive atmosphere allows religious and cultural diversity to flourish. It also hosts a significant African American Muslim community and a growing number of converts.
Over the past thirty years, the Bay Area in general, and the Muslim population in particular, has experienced significant growth brought on by the region’s economic transformation and the emergence of an information technology industry that required a massive infusion of educated and skilled labor. This growth has resulted in the proliferation of mosques as well as community institutions.
In 2009, the One Nation Foundation announced an initiative to partner with community foundations in cities across the United States to support increased understanding between American Muslims and non-Muslims in their local communities. This foundation and its Bay Area project partners (Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the Marin Community Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation and Asian American/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy) commissioned the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (IS PU) to conduct original research and provide demographic information and analysis about this specific community. In particular, there was a desire to identify its needs and assess the challenges it faces. Even though Muslims are an integral part of the area, their relatively small size often means that they are not included within the region’s more general needs assessments.
This benchmark study, the first of its kind on the Bay Area’s Muslim community, serves many purposes including providing groundbreaking data on its demographics, sense of identity, economic wellbeing, political and civic engagement, and the challenges that it faces. The resulting data is useful for academics and practitioners wishing to pursue further research, as well as for the community and its leaders, philanthropists and foundations, policymakers, and the general public. As a source of information, it will serve as an important tool for advocacy and media purposes, given that data about the community has often been misrepresented. Finally, the report will add to and complement the growing body of empirical data on local Muslim communities and the national portrait.
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