The Bay Area Muslim Study, conducted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, estimates the population of Bay Area Muslims to be around 250,000, which makes it one of the largest Muslim communities in the nation. Of all the Bay Area counties, Alameda is home to the largest percentage (37%). The Bay Area Muslim population is made up of “a diverse mix of racial and ethnic groups who maintain their own cultures: South Asians (30%), Arabs (23%), Afghans (17%), African Americans (9%), Asian/Pacific Islanders (7%), Whites (6%), and Iranians (2%)…South Asian and Arab Muslims tend to cluster in the South Bay, Afghans are dominant in the East Bay, and African/African American Muslims mostly reside in Oakland. Overall, the bulk of the community lives along the ‘880 and 101 corridor,’ the primary throughways to Silicon Valley and the East Bay.”
Muslims have come to the Bay Area largely for economic and educational opportunities, as well as to flee strife, violence, and economic hardship. The study also notes that the growth in the information technology (IT) sector over the past thirty years and the corresponding rise in the demand of educated and skilled labor has led to a “meteoric” growth in the area’s Muslim population. Bay Area Muslims are significantly more likely to volunteer than other Americans; more Bay Area Muslims speak two or three languages than one alone. (See more stats in the first link below.) “Since the 1960s,” the study summarizes, “the Bay Area has been a major destination for Muslim immigrants due to the presence of such high quality and internationally recognized academic institutions as the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and Stanford, its economic dynamism, its tolerance and over-all acceptance of diversity, and, just as important, the climate and geography that has made California the top destination for many people.”
The Oakland Islamic Center, established in 1990 and located at Telegraph and 31st in Oakland, is the largest Masjid (Arabic for “mosque”) in the East Bay. Sunnis practice here, mostly of Arab (Egyptian, Palestinian, and largely Yemeni) descent, with a small east African presence, as well. According to their website, “Wa'al-hamdulillah,” their Masjid, has become “one of the most famous and most visited Masajid [plural of Masjid] in the bay area,” and has brought many non-Muslims into Islam through their Da’wah program. The masjid leads five prayers daily, lectures every Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday, special lectures on Monday and Thursday, Arabic classes, and school for children ages 8-13 on Saturdays and Sundays. Fasting is encouraged on Mondays and Thursdays.