A Muslim is a follower of the religion of Islam. Islam belongs to the family of Western monotheistic religions, those who worship one God, which also include Judaism and Christianity. The Muslim communities of West Virginia are of relatively recent origin. Prior to the 1960s, there were scattered Muslim families in West Virginia, primarily of Middle Eastern extraction. They arrived with other immigrants from that part of the world in the early 1900s. These were mostly from merchant classes and engaged in various businesses. They were too few and too scattered to establish a community of Muslims in any organized fashion. However, they were successful in their own lives and integrated themselves well into their communities. Many continued to observe Islam individually.
The major influx of Muslim families into West Virginia occurred in the 1960s and 1970s when the expanding U.S. economy encouraged the immigration of qualified professionals and other technical personnel. The government initiated an examination for medical doctors from foreign countries that would make them eligible for graduate training in the United States. This opened the doors for qualified foreign doctors to enter this country. At the same time American schools started aggressively enrolling foreign students for graduate education. In that era most of the immigrants from these countries were professionals, primarily doctors, engineers, pharmacists, veterinarians, teachers, and so forth. West Virginia received its share.
Muslims remain a small minority among 1.8 million West Virginians, numbering a few thousand. However, they have settled in well-defined communities in major cities and around educational institutions. Charleston, Huntington, Beckley, Morgantown, and Princeton boast a significant Muslim presence, with second-generation Muslim West Virginians now growing up in their parents’ adopted homeland. Montgomery, Logan, Parkersburg, and other smaller cities have a few Muslim families and students who participate in community activities of the Islamic Center in Charleston. Muslims in West Virginia represent countries of South Asia, Southeast Asia, Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and North America.
The first religious and cultural center, the Islamic Center of West Virginia, was built and opened in Charleston in 1988. Mosques, or Muslim worship houses, opened in Princeton, Beckley, Morgantown, and Huntington rapidly thereafter. All of these are managed and supported by community members on a voluntary basis since Islam has neither an organized church nor ordained clergy. However, Charleston now has a full-time Imam, a prayer leader and teacher, who is also responsible for overseeing the Islamic Center and for community liaison.
This Article was written by Imam Mohammad Jamal Daoudi
Last Revised on October 20, 2010