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What Events and Figures Have Shaped the Development of Islam in the United States?

[Summary]Islam & the United States This time on BackStory, we look at the longer history of America's relationship with Islam, from the Barbary Wars and the narratives of Muslim slaves in the New World, to the Nation of Islam and the Black Power movement of t

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Islam & the United States

What Events and Figures Have Shaped the Development of Islam in the United States?

This time on BackStory, we look at the longer history of America’s relationship with Islam, from the Barbary Wars and the narratives of Muslim slaves in the New World, to the Nation of Islam and the Black Power movement of the 1960s. What has it meant to be Muslim in America — and how has the idea of Islam in the U.S. changed over time?

Muslim Histories & Cultures -- Islam

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The onset of European imperialism created a crisis of monumental proportions in the Muslim world. For Muslim intellectuals and religious scholars, it became abundantly clear that the nations of Europe had been able to conquer and subdue Muslim societies due to superior weaponry and machinery. The crisis, however, was not simply political or technological. It was also economic, social and cultural, as the structures and institutions introduced by the colonial powers brought with them a range of challenges to traditional Muslim world-views and perspectives on a wide range of issues. For instance, with European colonialism came the idea of secularism and the notion that sovereignty, the ability to make laws, and to determine right from wrong, rested neither with God nor with religious institutions claiming to interpret God’s will, but with the consensus of the people as expressed in the institutions of the state. Colonialism also brought it with Christian missionaries who were anxious to take advantage of the opportunities to spread their religion under the benevolent protection of the colonial state. These missionaries, along with early western scholars who studied Islam under colonial patronage, promoted the view that Islamic doctrines, practices and concepts, such as jihad, polygamy, the veil, and the shari’a, were evidence that Islam was a “backward” religion, incompatible with progress and development. Hence, it was their duty to embark on a mission that was to simultaneously “Christianize” and to civilize colonial subjects and show them the way to progress. In the civilizing mission of European imperialism, Muslim communities were confronted with a force that was powerful enough to transform them into its own image, using brute military might, if necessary.

Islam in America: From African Slaves to Malcolm X, The Twentieth Century, Divining America: Religion in American History, TeacherServe, National Humanities Center

When students think of Islam—if they do at all—they might summon an image of Denzel Washington playing a stern and passionate Malcolm X in Spike Lee's 1992 film, or maybe they imagine Louis Farrakhan on the speaker's platform at the Million Man March in 1995. Some might have encountered Middle Eastern Muslims on the nightly news, mostly as "fundamentalists" and "terrorists." A few have met immigrant Muslims in their neighborhood. Muslim students might be among their classmates. But Muslims are more diverse than popular images allow, and American Muslim history is longer than most might think, extending back to the day that the first slave ship landed on Virginia's coast in 1619. It encorporates two groups—Muslims from other countries who migrated to America by force or by choice, and African Americans who created Muslim sects in the twentieth century. Thus, a consideration of the Islamic presence in America provides a new perspective on several important (and familiar) issues that will be used to organize this essay:

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What Events and Figures Have Shaped the Development of Islam in the United States?

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Islam in America: Origins & Later Developments

The African-American Islamic Community In The United States: Historical Development

Muhammed Abdullah Ahari

Introduction:

The purpose of the following historical survey is to present the basic realities of the Muslim Experience in the West. I have chosen several methods of looking at these present realities and past experiences. Some of these are case studies and still others are from readings in history. Today as a community we are at a point where we can either succeed or fail to a much greater extent than in the past. We have schools, professionals, Islamic centers and well-read Muslims. What we lack is a core of brothers and sisters willing to try to organize Muslims into cohesive voting blocks and into strong neighborhoods and communities where the Muslims are visible and have a voice in the destiny of the greater society and to some degree in the foreign policy of America.

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