Muslims Begin to Copy the Megachurch Multi-Site Model

July 22, 2008

Author: Mallika Rao

Source: Religion News Service

Mosques across the country are beginning to use a model similar to the one used by some suburban and downtown megachurches, operating multiple sites to serve a large and dispersed congregation.

Many of these "mosque chains" brand themselves as progressive, and sometimes feature gymnasiums and mixed-gender prayer areas for men and women. Some groups even host weekly services at churches or synagogues with the expressed goal of fostering interfaith goodwill.

"If they weren't Muslim, they'd look like one of the biggest Catholic churches you'd ever seen, from an organizational standpoint," said Marshall Medaf, president of the Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation in Ashburn, Va., which last month agreed to rent prayer space to the All-Dulles Area Muslim Society.

The Society's main mosque is in neighboring Sterling, Va., near Dulles International Airport, but the mosque runs activities in seven branch locations. Full- and part-time staff and a host of activities are supported by $30 annual dues or $1,000 lifetime memberships.

"They have adult education classes, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts," Medaf said. "I think they're even working on their first Eagle Scout."

The high level of organization reflects a shift among U.S. Muslims from the "immigrant uncles" who once held sway in American mosques to younger native-born Muslims, said Muqtedar Khan, associate professor of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware.