Accommodations for & by
Muslims in North America
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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:
Katie Thomas, "Muslims can buy homes without breaking Quran’s rules,"
Newsday, 2006-SEP-04, at:
Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2006-SEP-05
Latest update: 2006-SEP-05
Compiler: B.A. Robinson