- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2008

It’s Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, and time to remember some of the wild assumptions many folks were making just after Sept. 11, 2001.

One assumption was that Islam was the country’s fastest-growing religion and spreading like wildfire. I began looking into this. Being that no one can agree on how many Muslims live in the United States, it was hard to come up with a rate of growth for more than 2 million believers.

Was it 3 percent, as Ihsan Bagby, Islamic studies professor at the University of Kentucky, was saying? Or more like 1.7 percent or 1.8 percent, the growth rate of the Assemblies of God and the Mormons, who - according to the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches - are verifiably America’s fastest growing religious groups?

If Islamic growth was that huge, I reasoned, I would see signs of it near where I lived in Northern Virginia, close to numerous mosques and Muslim-related businesses. I found little other than the Friday afternoon traffic jams on Route 7 outside the region’s largest mosque. I visited introductory classes to Islam at two mosques and can’t say those sessions were spilling over with converts.

“Muslims do little to nothing as to reaching out to non-Muslims in terms of inviting them to their mosques,” Mr. Bagby told me. “The theology is that God makes Muslims, so Muslims just don’t do hardly anything when it comes to evangelizing.”

Even if they do, I found that mosques are not set up to receive visitors. They are not like churches with free car washes, evangelistic dinners and convenient spaces for visitors or mothers of small children. Instead, there are head coverings for women, prayers only in Arabic, and the separation of male and female into different prayer rooms.

Up against a competitive religious marketplace of evangelical Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Jews for Jesus and Hare Krishnas, Muslims wait for you to come to them.

I looked into university campuses where proselytization into all sorts of belief systems is high. Even there, leaders of national Christian and Jewish campus ministries told me there is no competition from the Muslims. Representatives from the Muslim Student Association, a nationwide collegiate group, were vague on numbers.

Islamic apologist Yahiya Emerick criticizes the inability of the average mosque to attract converts at www.islamfortoday.com.

“If your [mosque] is like most, it is disorganized, has no real full-time secretary, is dirty with papers and things lying around,” he wrote, “and, perhaps, there are people living in it and sleeping around here and there, or hordes of unsupervised children are all over the place, running amok.”

Mosques are filled with immigrants but they, he added, end up leaving for a more welcoming church or drop out of religious adherence altogether.

“We’re hardly making any concerted or intelligent efforts at bringing others to the faith,” he mourned.

And immigrants, some insiders told me, are only here for schooling or training. Many were not interested in making America their home, much less converting Americans to Islam.

This is hardly a religion that, alarmist essays predicted seven years ago, is taking over the country.

Julia Duin’s Stairway to Heaven column runs Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]

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