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Islam in America

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One of the active “survivors” of practiced faiths in America is Islam. Before and even after the incident of September 11th, more and more disappointment, frustration and curiosity towards Islam and Muslims have aroused amongst Americans. The Reason behind those mixed feelings is that it is said that a group of Muslim “terrorists” were behind the tragedy that occurred to the Trade Center in New York. That has resulted in the lost of many innocent lives and corruption of the nation. Afterwards, Americans were intimidated by this religion, and what it brings to the world, so they sought to learn about it. Surprisingly, studies by Brendan Bernhard in his book White Muslim show that the number of converts after September 11th had risen in America more than ever before (Bernhard p.14).

One may wonder how Islam attracted the American public despite the tragedy that has occurred and said to be done by the Muslims. The Book White Muslim gives an overview on different converts after September 11th. In addition, the articles Muslims in America After 9-11 and As the Smoke Began to clear give a closer look on the Muslim and non-Muslim American reactions after September 11th. Moreover, September 11th drew eyes on Afghanistan (Muslim nation that is run by the Taliban movement, the accused leader of the attack of September 11). Therefore, Muslim women of Afghanistan were discussed numerously in America; through the topic on the unjust treatment they face living as Muslim woman. Afterwards, the controversial issue on American Muslim woman arose in America about their way of life as Muslims. To get a clearer idea on this particular issue, in Muslim Women in America what is previewed is the Muslim woman’s role and her place in Islam and American society in general. The book also discusses the difficulties Muslim woman face living in America as well as the reason behind American woman converting in Islam. The article Living a Muslim in American Society also addresses the difficulties faced by Muslims in general living in America. A closer look at Muslim woman converts may be previewed as well through the articles Islam Our Choice-Portraits of Modern American Muslim Woman, and The American Harlot.

Accordingly, one may wonder how and when Islam approached America, as it seems after September 11th Muslims are noticed to have a fairly large number of followers that are spread in some states of America. Going back in history when America was discovered and it was then called the New World, enslavement came about.

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By force, individuals were taken from their homeland to be slaves. In the articles Servant of Allah and Glimpses of Seventy-Five African Muslims in Antebellum North America, it is explained how Islam was introduced to America. Then in the articles African American Islam, chapter one and two, it is explained in depth how Islam was passed on and “promoted” through different cultural tribes. Eventually, one may get a better idea on how Islam was presented in America, but neglected in the past, and how it has risen and formed in the present, despite all the complications faced.

Many Africans came to America with their faith and have strived to keep their faith through the brutal conditions of enslavement. The article Servant of Allah emphasizes on how Africans American Muslims expressed their ideas and Islamic faith in various ways, as in biographies, autobiographies, articles and letters, but were neglected and ignored in America but has its marks on the African-American descendents. “…, African Islam did not survive in the Americas in its orthodox form. Yet its mark can be found in certain religions, traditions, and artistic creations of the people’s of African descendents” (Diouf p. 3). The article Glimpses of Seventy-Five African Muslims in Antebellum North America, prevails in depth the difficulties Africans faced during that period for which to keep their faith. Some individuals in the article show a series of signs that they were practicing Islam and the rest that were mentioned have had signs of Islam through their acts or writing but not truly followed the rules of Islam, for they had difficult conditions that forced them not to. As Ar-Rahman, Kebe, and Baquaqua whom were said that they had promised to preach Christianity, if they can go back to their homelands (p. 46). Despite their actions against Islam’s conventions, they all had faith in their hearts, but were in conditions that were against their will. The next two chapters in the article, African American Islam, gives a history of the different forms Islam was introduced by Africans to the to the United States from 1900 to 1960’s. These articles list the different shapes Islam is introduced with the African-Americans and other descendants afterwards. The first African-American Muslim sect was the Moorish Science Temple; established by Noble Drew Ali. After that came different Islamic movements like the Ahmadiyyah Movement, The Islamic Mission of America and which the most popular in America is The Nation of Islam. Other Movements as Darul Islam, Sufism, Naqshabandiyyah, which came through immigration to the United States all have different forms of Islam. There are Shiite Communities who are mostly in Iran and a number of them are in America as well as Sunni Communities who are similar to Shiite in some ways but have differed in the some beliefs and practices. Each Movement had different goals and different practices. They all represent Islam in different ways and in some movements they do not abide but all Islam’s commandments but actually take what they feel in a need for as individuality or spirituality.

The book White Muslim shows that Islam over the years has become an attraction to the American public, especially after September 11th. People become more curiose to know about Islam and its beliefs. “…English translations of the Koran is American best-selling list…” (Bernhard p. 14). After September 11, President Bush gave a speech stating that Islam is a peaceful religion and memorial services have been conducted with the presence of Muslim Imam’s, and invitations to Muslim-Americans of respected occupations for attending sermons to speak about Islam( Bernhard p.13). Bernhard introduces the narrator Charles who is a convert in Islam, and what seems is that the main reason for his conversion was to find meaning for his life. However Charles is one of the converts that are said to have “convertisis”, meaning that he did not “transition” into Islam (which is not a religion, but a way of life); he actually turns his life around, by changing his name, attire, even way of speech(Bernhard p. 19). Then the book proceeds with other different Islamic converts. What Bernhard actually perceives is that, yes there are many converts, but each has different reasons for converting into Islam, for some coverts as Charles strive for change and meaning to their life, or some may only want rebel and so become what are called Islamic extremist. As the convert Gadahn, who was a fan of “death metal” bands, that ended up threatening to “run with blood” the streets of America (Bernhard p. 57). There are more likes of Gadahn as John Walker Lindh, Richard Reid, Jose’ Padilla and Ali Shah Gilani, who is implicated that they are a Wahhabi group (Bernhard p. 115). This is said to be a strict version of Islam that originated in Saud Arabia (Bernhard p.118). Bernhard also mentions the different sects of Islam including Sunni and Shiite and Sufi in his book stating that there are a few of Shiites and Sufi’s in America but most are Sunni.

Moreover, articles Muslims in America After 9-11 and As the Smoke Began to clear give a closer look on the Muslim and non-Muslim American reactions after September 11th. Both articles address the issue that the people behind the tragedy of September 11th, they are not a religious group but a political one (Wolfe p. 175). Despite there use of Islam and the Prophets saying in their threatening remarks to America.” Ben Laden tries to validate his bid for power by expressing it in the style of the Prophet Muhammad’s life” (Wolfe, p.170). Right after September 11th many Muslims as Tamim Ansary sprung to defend Islam and state their unity with America and disagreement and disappoint to the corruption and loss that had happened in New York (Wolfe p. 169). In addition, the article Muslims in America After 9-11, it is mentioned that Muslims after September 11th all had the feeling of responsibility of unity within America especially that after the attacks were linked to them (Nimer p 1). Many Islamic organizations as ICNA, CAIR, MAS, and ISNA condemned the attacks through writings in journals or through speeches, and even financial and individual support was given as well. For example, the Muslim Charity Mercy-USA gave $65,000 cash grants to relief organizations (Nimer p.8).

Muslim women were and are a controversial issue in America. Many non-Muslim Americans tend to speculate that Muslim woman are oppressed, especially if they cover their heads with a scarf; even though it is not true. In the book Muslim Woman in America, It is noted that Mrs. Bush have implied to liberate oppressed Muslim woman, whom she said are predators of the “violent nature” of Islam (Haddad, Moore, Smith p. 3). In fact, many Muslim woman state that there is nothing more liberating than dressing modestly (wearing the head scarf) in the American society (Haddad, Moore, Smith p.38). Muslim woman play a big part in the Islamic society and they are not repressed at all. For the most part, Muslim woman have engaged in the Islamic practices equally to men, as in praying, attending mosques, raising charity da’awa and performance of Hajj (as mentioned in the chapter keeping the faith). Despite harassments and obstacles, Muslim woman face for their practice and devotion to Islam, they are still faithful to their religion to this day in America, and their work have increased as well to be part and a voice of Islam. Muslim woman are not only involved in Islamic practices but also in societal practices as well, such as work or schooling. For example, it is confirmed that Chinese Muslims are very entrepreneur (Mccloud, lecture notes). That is also previewed through the article Islam Our Choice-Portraits of Modern American Muslim Woman on the Muslim convert Carema. Who takes us to her long journey of searching for a fulfillment for her soul, until she finds Islam, and then she is faced with many obstacles to adapt to this new of life in the American society. Carema succeeded in keeping the faith of Islam by believing in Qadar; she explains is” the combination of providence and free will” (Carema p.43). Carema had a strong part in society, even after becoming a Muslim; she practiced Islam, worked, studied and raised her children successfully. Also in the article The American Harlot, one may examine the difficulties the convert woman may face when transitioning into a new life that acquires different races and ethnicities to approach, but what keeps them together is their common faith, Islam.

It is very hard to imagine how difficult a Muslim’s life is in America. For years Muslims have combated many obstacles as in prejudice crimes or unfair trials, or just try to practice their “different” faith in a society that is mostly Christian. Living a Muslim Life in American Society gives a brief idea on how Muslims live their life in the context of Education, economics and in a society that embraces different rituals and holidays. The article addresses issues on how Muslims may deal with these obstacles, and how many Muslims differ in dealing with different situations and acts in Islam, as if they can only eat “Halal” meat, or if they cannot deal with banks because of interest dealings. However, in the end Muslims have reached a level of assistance from the mosque or any Islamic organization that will help them reach a decision on how to deal with the difficulties they face.

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