Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam in the United States (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course US: Religious Records - Part 2  by Beverly Whitaker, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam Compared

Buddhism and Hinduism began in about the same region. Hinduism originated in India so long ago that most historians do not attempt to date it. Buddhism began about 2,500 years ago and spread throughout Asia. Most religious historians view Islam as having been founded in 622 CE [Common Era], originating in Mecca.

The followers of these religions in America have some shared concerns. With exposure to persons of the same religion but from different regions, they discover different forms of cultural expression. They are challenged with the transfer of their native heritage to their offspring who know nothing first-hand of their family’s place of origin and the associated culture and traditions. And in America, they differ both racially and religiously from the majority population of the United States.

World Religions: General Overview Websites

Religious Tolerance - Non-Christian Faith Groups

Religious Tolerance - World Religion

Membership Statistics

Buddhist Churches of America 60 houses of worship 15,750 members
Hindus 285,000 members
Islam 2,800,000 members

The 2001 edition of David Barrett’s World Christian Encyclopedia shows the largest non-Christian organized religious groups in the United States are:

Jews 5.6 million
Muslims 4.1 million
Buddhists 2.4 million
Hindus 1.0 million

The Religious Tolerance website of lists these among the religious faith groups in the United States, noting that estimates vary greatly:

Judaism 4,300,000
Islam 5,100,000
Buddhist Churches of America 780,000
Hindu 910,000

The same web site provides statistics from a poll in which poll subjects were asked what religion they considered themselves to be, rather than what religion they were actually affiliated with. This poll was conducted during 2001 by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS).

Jewish 1.3%
Muslim 0.5%
Buddhist 0.5%
Hindu 0.4%


1840s Buddhist immigrants began arriving in the United States. Chinese were the first to arrive, followed by Japanese.
1849 In 1849, only 55 Chinese were living in California; the number grew to more than 40,000 within five years. Early Chinese immigrants were men who came over without wives and families, expecting to work in the gold mines and then on the transcontinental railway in the 1860s.
1853 The first Chinese temple in America (Kong Chow Temple) opened in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
1860s In Oroville, northeast of San Francisco, the Chinese replaced their 1850s wooden structure which had burned with a temple compound of brick buildings.
1868 Beginning in 1868, Japanese immigrants began coming to the United States and other lands. By 1920, there were more than 100,000 Japanese in the United States.
1875 About 1875 marks the beginning of Muslim immigration, primarily from Syria.
1882 Anti-Asian immigration sentiment peaked in 1882 when the U.S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act. It was extended in 1892 and made permanent in 1902.
1883 The first Hindu guru to visit the United States was Protap Chunder Mazoomdar, who spoke to a group gathered in Massachusetts. Ten years later he returned in the company of Swami Vivekananda, founder of the Ramakrishna Mission to attend the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago.

World's Parliament of Religions in Chacago
1885 The period from 1885 to about 1907 is characterized by Japanese immigration to the United States following the pattern of dekasegi immigration. The idea of dekasegi was to leave one’s native place to find work elsewhere and return with accumulated wages.
1893 Popular interest in non-Western religions could be seen at the World’s Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago as part of the Columbian Exposition.
1894 Swami Vivekananda established a Vedanta Society in New York. (Hindu)
1899 Japanese immigrants sent a petition to the Honganji-ha mother temple (Honganji) for permission to establish a temple in San Francisco and requested that a priest be sent. The petition was approved by the Honganji and two missionary priests were sent to San Francisco. They arrived on September 1, 1899. This is the date officially recognized as the beginning of the Baptist Churches of America (BCA).
1899 An organization called the Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA) was established in San Francisco.
1900 In the early 1900s, some Muslim communities formed in the Midwest.
1907 The American Mohammedan Society was founded in New York City.
1910 From 1910 until 1927 Hazrat Inayat Khan taught Sufi doctrines across America.
1910 The Immigration Act of 1917 cut the immigration of Asian laborers.
1914 The Buddhist’s YMBA changed its name to the Buddhist Mission of North America (BMNA).
1918 This year marked the beginning of the second major wave of Muslim immigrants.
1920 The first Ahmadi missionary, Mufti Muhammad Sadiq, came to America.
1920s Laws were passed which established a system permitting entry into the United States by only a set number of immigrants from a given country. Anti-Asian sentiment ran high during this period.
1920s 1920s Beginning in the 1920s, the Ford Motor Plant in Dearborn, Michigan, attracted Muslim workers.
1923 The U. S. Supreme Court denied South Asians the opportunity to become citizens, no longer including them in the white (Caucasian) race.
1924 The Immigration Act of 1924 excluded immigrants from China, Japan, Korea, and India from entering the United States.
1925 Between 1925 and 1965, fewer people immigrated to the United States than before or since.
1925 Swami Yogananda founded the Self-Realization Fellowship. (Hindu)
1930 A third wave of Muslim immigration appeared during the 1930s. The Nation of Islam (NOI) began in the period of 1930-1933.
1930 By 1930, there were more than 30 BMNA Buddhist temples in the continental United States. The most historically significant was the Buddhist Church of San Francisco, the first Japanese Buddhist temple and headquarters for the BMNA (Buddhist Mission of North America).
1931 The Buddhist Society of America was founded in New York City.
1932 One of the earliest Mosques was built in Dearborn, Michigan, in 1932. Perhaps this is an acceptable date to mark the arrival of Islam in America.
1932 Elijah Muhammad moved the Nation of Islam (NOI) headquarters to Chicago.
1934 The “Mother Mosque of America” was completed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
1935 The Arab American Banner Society was established in Boston.
1947 Between 1947 and 1960, there was greatly increased Muslim immigration from India and Pakistan and Eastern Europe.
1950 The Ahmadiyya headquarters moved to American Fazl Mosque in Washington, D.C.
1952 Malcolm X was released from prison and began preaching NOI doctrines. He had joined the NOI five years earlier while in prison.
1952 This year marked the formation of the Federation of Islamic Organizations.
1957 The Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. was completed.
1960s Pir Vilayat Khan emerged as leader of the Sufi Order in the West.
1964 Boxer Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali. In that same year, Allah’s Nation of the Five Percenters was founded in Harlem
1965 Malcolm (then known as El Hajj Malik el-Shabazz) was assassinated.
1965 The majority of America’s Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims are in the United States today as a result of relaxed changes in immigration law via the Immigration Act of 1965—either as new immigrants or as offspring of those who recently immigrated.
1968 The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) was founded.
1970s The Nimatullahi Order of Sufis in America (Shi’ite) was founded in San Francisco.
1971 The Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship was founded in Philadelphia.
1975 Isa Muhammad changed Nubian Islamic Hebrews to Ansaru Allah movement.
1975 The Muslim Student Association set up headquarters in Plainfield, Indiana.
1977 The Chan Meditation Center (Buddhist), located in Queens, New York, was founded by Ven Sheng-yen.
1977 Between 1977 and 1985, Wallace Muhammad of the NOI brought his followers to orthodox Islam. In 1978, Louis Farrakhan broke with Wallace and began to rebuild the NOI.
1980s The 1980s and 1990s brought Worldwide Muslim immigration, for reasons that were political, social, and economic. During this same period a number of Muslim political action committees emerged.
1981 The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) was formed.
1985 Warith Deen declared his followers to be members of Sunni Islam. At about the same time, the PIEDAD Latino Community and Alianza Islamica were founded in New York City.
1990 In Washington, D.C. the American Muslim Council (AMC) organized.
1993 The Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA) was founded.
1994 In Washington, D.C., the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) was established.
1997 A Muslim symbol was displayed on the White House ellipse.
1998 The Pentagon hosted Muslims for a Ramadan meal.

Additional Information About These Religions

For additional information, including finding records, see:


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses US: Religious Records - Part 2 offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.