The idea of establishing an institute for the studies of Muslim communities living in non-Muslim states surfaced among some young fresh researchers in 2001. This was the time when this group of researchers started doing research on Muslim communities living in territories where they form a majority but are deprived of their right of self determination. The regions of Southern Thailand (Pattani Darussalam), Southern Philippines (Mindanao), Cyprus, and Western Burma (Arakan) were selected for research. Initially the idea of giving the name of Institute for Research and Studies of Occupied Muslim Territories was floated among the group in 2002. But this idea was not encouraged and did not last long. The researchers were of the view that putting the term of Occupied Territories was setting limits to the work on Muslim Minorities and was also focusing only on a small portion of the Muslim community living outside the 57 Muslim member states of the Organization of Islamic Conference. It was not until 2004 that at last the name of Institute for Research and Studies of Muslim Minorities (IRSMM) was agreed upon.
The main reasons for the establishment of IRSMM were that because of the rapid changes brought to the world by advancements in means of communications and also opening of its doors by United States, Canada and European nations to people from the rest of the world for immigration, higher studies and employments, a huge number of people started traveling, permanently settling or temporarily living in these countries. Some very visible changes took place in demography of these countries and almost all over the world. This movement of people also resulted in movement of different faiths and ideologies. Obviously among them were Muslims from the heart of the traditional Muslim World moving to places where the population has never heard of Islam. This resulted in introduction of Islam to far away areas of the world giving rise to many opportunities, but also challenges. The coming of Muslim people to new areas has resulted in different scenarios. Islam started growing at one hand, but at the other many Muslims started becoming secular. New Mosques and places of worship were established in many countries and today only few countries are found where there is no official mosque. Such places of worship were welcomed in some cases but were opposed in the other. Muslims in some of these cases integrated into the local population, but others insisted to keep their own cultural and social values alive. This type of situation resulted in a scenario of co-existence in some places but has become the main reason of conflict in others.
All these changes taking place in the Muslim communities of these non-Muslim states and the reaction of the non-Muslim majorities of these countries has added to the need and importance of researches on such issues involving the Muslim Minorities. The importance of the said subject was never denied nor neglected until now. There are many individuals, institutions and governmental and non-governmental bodies who have been working on such issues in different parts of the world. In most of the cases the scope of such activities was very limited as it was conducted by individual researchers who themselves took some interest in a group of Muslims living in any non-Muslim country. In cases of institutes, the scope of the work was limited to the country of origin of that institute or to a specific region. And when it came to governmental bodies, we find that their work was limited to some issues arising in that very country and the research was only meant to address that issue properly. Some non-governmental bodies have also been involved in researches on Muslim Minorities but again their scope was limited to the aims and objectives of that NGO. Some NGOs took interest in these issues because they involved some political, gender, cultural or social problems or some sort of humanitarian issues. Having all this said, there still was a need for some umbrella body which takes the whole of Muslim population living as minority into its scope of activities.