This category is one of Muslims living in rural areas, in the west, or in Midwestern and southern cities with very dead Muslim communities. Many immigrant Muslims may not need to live in a vibrant community. Their Islamic values were reinforced by their upbringing and education. They do not need new Muslim friends because they have Muslim family. When they are in desperate need of seeing Muslims they can go home on vacation and see nothing but Muslims. The American-Muslim, especially the convert, needs to be in a place where they can grow.
If you convert to Islam and there are no Muslims at your school, none at your work, none in your family and you see no Muslims in your everyday life you may feel lonely. You may very well eventually quit being Muslim (and I have seen this happen maybe hundreds of times in St. Louis).
The convert needs to go to a masjid where he is welcomed and there are other Muslims like him. He needs brothers he can talk about fiqh with and discuss the NFL with, a brother he can tell about how much fitnah it is being celibate for this first time since he was a young teen and not feel he is a bad Muslim, a brother he can go to an aqeedah class with and then watch a PPV boxing match with over pizza.
If a brother has this, just this, he has a good chance of survival in the Muslim community. Having Muslims friends who you can relate with is so crucial to our experience. Friends can give you advice and tell you to say no when you want to say yes. When you are tempted to “make dawah” to or marry a non-Muslim girl that brother can tell you no. The immigrant may not tell you no. He may be married to a non-Muslim or have been married to one at one time; but his deen may also not be as fragile as yours.
Sadly most brothers in thee types of small communities end up either going to ISNA-style masjids that, for the most part, are not youthful or vibrant. They have little to offer the new Muslim and offer very little in terms of Islamic education. American-Muslims who want to advance in their knowledge of the deen will often be shut out at these masjids. This is not out of malice from the immigrant Muslim. The immigrant Muslims for the most part are warm and friendly to the convert; but simply do not know what to do, or do not have the spare resources, to accommodate them. This often drives indigenous Muslims in small communities to small, and usually fledgling and cash-strapped, African-American masjids in the inner-city. These masjids may be very small but they do teach Islamic knowledge, are strict in their observance, and offer a place for socialization.
For the working-class indigenous Muslim family you are between a rock and a hard place in these communities like St. Louis. You do not feel comfortable at the suburban immigrant masjid and you cannot afford to send your children to the Muslim school attached to the masjid and even if you can afford it your children will be poor kids going to a school full of wealthier kids not of their ethnic group which is often a recipe for problems. There is also the issue that most of these ISNA-style schools tend to be too liberal for a lot of indigenous Muslims, especially those schools in the smaller communities that may be under a greater pressure to assimilate. (If there is a MAS school in the area the situation is a little better for indigenous families as MAS tends to be more religiously conservative; but the ethnic problems remain).
The inner-city African-American masjid more than likely does not have a school. Indeed, in a recent conversation with Tariq Nelson, we were both hard-pressed to name African-American operated Muslim schools (that are not a part of the Sister Clara Muhammad system) outside of the Northeast (and even there there are only a few).
In these small communities you really don’t have an option to send your kids to public schools. You are already a small and isolated community and struggling to raise your children Muslim and then sending your kids to public schools will all but negate what little Islam they have. If you cannot afford or do not desire the immigrant school and the indigenous masjid either does not have a school or it is of poor quality then that leads Muslim families with two choices; moving to where there are better Muslim communities or making “hijrah” to a Muslim land.