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The religious nature of the U.S. and Canada is continually changing. Both countries are becoming more religiously diverse. Consider:


The percentage of American adults who identify themselves as Christians is in decline. The number was 76% in 2001 and is dropping by about 0.9% each year.


About 2005 or 2006, Protestants may have lost their majority position in the U.S.


Those who do not identify with any religion has doubled since 1990.


Wicca is doubling in size about every 30 months.

As religious diversity increases, we can expect more conflicts between laws, bylaws, customs, traditions, etc. and the requirements of various religions.

Estimates on the number of Muslims in the U.S. vary greatly, from 1.5 million to 7 million. However, there is general agreement that their total number is increasing rapidly. Occasionally, this causes conflicts between Islamic teachings and North American customs, which are often based on a Judeo-Christian-secular beliefs.

A common point of conflict involves prayers which observant Muslims are expected make five times a day. Others involve such diverse topics as attire and house loans. We will attempt to list some of the latter below.

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2006-SEP-04: MI: County changed its pool policy to accommodate Muslim women: Jumanah Saadeh, 14, an Ann Arbor girl, is a Muslim. She follows the teachings of Islam which include  covering her hair and the rest of her body when in public. During a field trip to the Rolling Hills Water Park in Ypsilanti, she wore nylon pants, a full-sleeve collared shirt, and her hijab -- a head scarf. She was ordered out of the pool for violating swimsuit policies. With support from her teacher, Muslim leaders and a civil rights attorney, she persuaded Washtenaw County to change its pool policy to accommodate Muslim women who want to cover themselves while swimming. Jumanah said:

"I felt humiliated and disappointed because I was denied an opportunity to have fun with my friends just because I'm Muslim. ... When a girl reaches a certain age, you have to treat your body like a jewel. You don't show it off."

According to Muslim leaders, this is the first case of its kind in Michigan, and perhaps the first in the U.S. 1


2006-SEP-04: NY: Banks offer novel house purchasing plans to accommodate Muslims: Many observant Muslims have difficulty purchasing homes, because the Qur'an prohibits its followers from taking out a conventional mortgage. Paying back an interest-bearing loan of any type is normally not permitted. Now, Muslims have three options in some areas of the U.S.:


If the person feels that they have no other option available, Sharia laws allows them to violate the prohibition. But followers of Islam are reluctant to take this option.


In 2002, HSBC Bank USA was the first bank to offer a plan in New York state by which an observant Muslim could purchase a house without having to by it outright. They offer a program is known as "murabaha" or "cost-plus." The bank actually purchases the house, and sells it to their client at an elevated price. The client then makes a series of payments over many years, based on the increased price. No interest is included.


A second program is called "diminishing musharaka" or "partnership." The bank and the client become co-owners of the house, and the client pays the bank rent on a monthly basis. This rent payment decreases over time and the client gradually acquires a larger share of the house's value, until they eventually own the home.

Several other banks are now offering these plans. 2

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Reference used:

  1. Niraj Warikoo, "Policy lets Muslims cover up in pools. Washtenaw County's change helps women to take plunge," Detroit Free Press, 2006-SEP-04, at:
  2. Katie Thomas, "Muslims can buy homes without breaking Quran’s rules," Newsday, 2006-SEP-04, at:

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Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2006-SEP-05
Latest update: 2006-SEP-05
Compiler: B.A. Robinson

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