Raymond Shakir has been in Tulsa for more than 40 years. He’s been a part of the Muslim community here almost as long.
“I stopped through Tulsa by accident,” said Shakir, 68.
In 1970, Shakir left his hometown right outside of Oklahoma City, where his great-grandfather had claimed land during the Land Rush, and came to Tulsa to see his sister. He landed a temporary job and planned to move on afterward.
But one thing led to another and he eventually made Tulsa a permanent home, working as a union carpenter and later at the Ford Glass Plant.
During his early years here, Shakir heard about and entered the Nation of Islam, an African-American movement founded in Michigan in the 1930s that combines elements of traditional Islam with black nationalist ideas. He was among a group of black Muslims in Tulsa that later split from the Nation of Islam and entered traditional Islam.
He remembers the Muslim community when it was small enough to fit its congregants in a home garage near the University of Tulsa.
“Then it got to the point where the garage was no longer large enough, so we moved to the two-story house that was in front of that that the brothers used as a dormitory, and we started meeting in the living room,” Shakir said. “Then that got too small, and we tore out walls and made it bigger to use the dining room and living room.”
A few years later the mosque moved to a structure at Fourth Street and Birmingham Avenue, which was the immediate predecessor to the Islamic Society of Tulsa’s current mosque at 46th Street and Irvington Avenue.
“That was the start of the Masjid Al-Salam,” Shakir said.
The Al-Salam mosque now has an average weekly attendance of about 1,300.
During Muslim holidays, the building is not large enough to house the more than 4,000 worshipers who come to pray. In recent years the Islamic Society has rented space at Expo Square and the Cox Business Center for holiday services.
This year, the group bought 15 acres of land in south Broken Arrow for a possible future mosque. But it will likely be years before a mosque is built there.
Estimates based on a survey conducted by the Islamic Council of Oklahoma show that about 32,000 Muslims live in the state, served by a dozen mosques.
According to estimates from the Pew Research Center, about 2.6 million Muslims were in the U.S. in 2010. Projections show that by 2030, about 6.2 million Muslims will be in the U.S., making them about 1.7 percent of the population. That would make Muslims “roughly as numerous as Jews or Episcopalians are in the United States today,” according to the Pew report.
Also according to the report, about 65 percent of Muslims in the U.S. in 2010 were first-generation immigrants, with 36 percent born in the U.S. In 2030, about 45 percent of Muslims in the U.S. are expected to be native-born.
The 2010 global Muslim population was estimated as 1.6 billion. The Pew report says the Muslim population is expected to grow by 35 percent by 2030, to about 2.2 billion. The Muslim population is forecast to grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population over the next two decades, the report states.