Number of US mosques grows 74 percent since 2000, despite post-9/11 anti-Muslim sentiment

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Muslim devotees leave after taking part in a special morning prayer to mark the start of Eid-al-Adha festival at mosque in Silver Spring, Maryland, on November 6, 2011.

A new study reports Southern California is home to a growing number of mosques, catering to a diverse group of both foreign and native-born Muslims.

The University of Kentucky study asked mosque leaders nationwide whether Muslims should be involved in American institutions—81 percent of the respondents said yes.

With 246 mosques in California—120 of them in the southern part of the state—this region is an important center for a new wave of American Islam that’s politically-engaged, ethnically diverse, and made up largely of professionals.

Fatima Dadabhoy is a civil rights attorney with C.A.I.R., the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles.

“The Southern California community is I think very at the forefront of being more engaged with the community, within politics," said Dadabhoy. "I would definitely say that as a whole there's a professional atmosphere about the Southern California Muslim community.”

There are an estimated 1 million people who identify as Muslims living in Southern California, compared to about 6 million nationwide. As one of the most diverse religious communities in America, the report says South Asians, Arabs, and African-Americans make up the majority of Muslims in the region.

There are a couple of reasons for the increase in new mosques.

“One is definitely a growth in the Muslim population," says Dadabhoy. "You have this financial stability now amongst the American-Muslim population, where they’re able to finance the building and construction of mosques.”

Another reason, says Dadabhoy, is driven by convenience. As the Muslim population grows here, families want to attend prayers close to home.

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