While there were a small number of Muslims already living in what became Northern Ireland in 1921, the bulk of Muslims in Northern Ireland today come from families who immigrated during the late 20th century. At the time of the 2001 Census there were 1,943 living in Northern Ireland, though the Belfast Islamic Centre claims that as of January 2009, this number had increased to over 4,000. The Muslims in Northern Ireland come from over 40 countries of origin, from Western Europe all the way through to the Far East.
The Belfast Islamic Centre was established in 1978 by a group of Muslims from the local community. The centre is located near Queens University in south Belfast. Today, the centre acts not only as a place of worship, but as a community centre, social-cultural centre, resource centre, advice centre and a day centre.
According to The Economist, "Many of the 4,000 or so Muslims...are doctors, academics, entrepreneurs and property developers. Only in the past few years have they been joined by a poorer group of asylum-seekers from Somalia. They tend to inhabit leafy, cosmopolitan districts in south Belfast, near Queen’s University where many have taught or studied."