Allahu Akbar, the Muslim call for prayer, rings out on a recent Friday and a group of black men and women gather to celebrate the Islamic day of rest.
The wooden house in Pittsburgh’s rundown Homewood neighborhood looks like any other on the block. But the sign at the door, Masjid Mumin, and the rows of shoes lined up inside on gray, plastic shelves hint of the brand of Sunni Islam its members practice.
The mosque is one of seven in Pittsburgh, home to a vibrant community of about 8,000 to 10,000 Sunni Muslims — some 30 percent of them black.
Following what appears to be a trend in cities nationwide, religious leaders in Pittsburgh say there has been a rise in black conversions to Sunni Islam since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
No national surveys have been taken to confirm the increase, but Islamic religious leaders in Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit have also reported growth, said Lawrence Mamiya, a professor of religion and Africana studies at New York’s Vassar College. Experts estimate that 30 percent of the 6 to 7 million Muslims in the U.S. are black, with only South Asians making up a larger number at 33 percent.
The Sept. 11 attacks have “cut both ways, positively and negatively,” Mamiya said.
Richard Turner, coordinator of the African-American studies program and an expert on Islam among blacks at the University of Iowa, said since Sept. 11, Muslims have been attempting to “disseminate positive information about the religion, so the obvious outcome of that would be more conversions.”