Catholic and Protestant denominations remain the dominant worship groups in the Twin Cities, and churches still greatly outnumber mosques. But Muslims appear to be gaining on some prominent faiths when it comes to worship attendance, according to the Rev. John Mayer, executive director of the nonprofit group City Vision, which tracks religious data for the metro area.
Catholics have the highest total average number of attendees in the metro area with 278,226. Muslims are second with 150,000, Mayer reports. Non-denominational/independent churches are third with 93,394. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ranks fourth with 86,305.
The numbers look different if attendance isn’t factored in. At the statewide level, a Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life study in 2008 found that 32 percent of Minnesotans were mainline Protestants, 28 percent were Catholic, 21 percent were evangelical Protestants. One percent were Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and of black Protestant traditions, with smaller amounts for other faiths. Thirteen percent were unaffiliated.
Mayer said the Muslim population in the Twin Cities began to increase during the 1990s, when refugees from Somalia and other African countries arrived. In 1995, there were at least four mosques and about 20,000 Muslims in the metro area, Mayer said. Now he estimates there are 118 mosques, community centers and other venues where worship services are held.
That second to last paragraph doesn’t make sense. If 150,000 people regularly attend masjid services, that means there are at least 150,000 muslims in Minnesota. The total population of the state is 5,266,214. That means we’re roughly 2.8% of of the population at least.
The Twin Cities is attractive to refugees because it has six resettlement agencies, Mayer said. The agencies help refugees find housing, jobs and other necessities in their new homeland.
“Part of it is the ‘Minnesota Nice’ culture that supports it,” Mayer said. “People volunteer here more. You also have jobs here, a good education system.”
“On the surface, it’s very welcoming, but there’s covert racism, behind-your-back kind of racism or antagonism,” he said. “But it’s easier sometimes to navigate that than open racism. Some places aren’t welcoming at all, so it’s hard to get started. Here, you can at least get started.”
AbuS came to the same realization about Minnesota after being here a year. He was friends with a white guy from New York who made the observation that Minnesota was about smiling in your face, while (occasionally) stabbing you in the back. At least in New York, he said, if people didn’t like you, they were honest about it.
But, in any case, Metro Area Minnesota (aka the twin cities) isn’t a bad place to be a muslim. I see at least a dozen other hijabis every day, and we always exchange salaams, or at the very least, smile broadly at each other from across the street. Zabiha meat is easy to get, and there are a growing number of local, sustainable farmers who are offering to slaughter zabiha style. With so many masjids, you have a lot of choices on where to live. We are currently 2 miles from the closest masjid, and within 5 miles of half a dozen more.
Alhamdulilah, all in all, pretty darn good.