United States, Islam in
UNITED STATES, ISLAM IN
Many scholars believe that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States. While debates continue about how many Muslims actually live in the country—estimates range from 2 to 8 million persons—there is no dispute over the fact that, due both to conversion and immigration, the number is on the rise. In addition, over twelve hundred mosques now operate across the United States in small towns, suburban locations, and inner cities. American Muslims are like a microcosm of the Islamic world; they are diverse by race, class, ethnicity, linguistic group, and national origin. African Americans, perhaps the largest racial or ethnic group of Muslims in America, may account for 25 to 40 percent of the total population. South Asian Muslims, who trace their roots to India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, represent approximately 30 percent. The third largest ethnic group of Muslims in the United States traces its roots to the Arab world, including countries in both the Middle East and North Africa. This group may total approximately 25 percent of all Muslims in the United States. The United States is also home to thousands of Turkish, Iranian, Central Asian, Southeast Asian (especially Malaysian and Indonesian), southeastern European (especially Bosnian), West African, and white and Latino American Muslims.
In addition to possessing great racial and ethnic diversity, Muslims in the United States can be characterized as a religiously diverse population as well. Muslims in the United States engage in a wide array of Islamic practices and adhere to differing schools of Islamic thought and interpretation. The vast majority of Muslims, including African Americans, identify themselves as Sunni, those who follow the sunna, or the traditions of the prophet Muhammad. Some American Muslims also call themselves Sufis, meaning that they seek intimate and closer ties to God by traveling one of the mystical paths of Islam. Still others are Shi˓ite Muslims, persons whose Islamic practice pays special attention to the role of the prophet Muhammad's family in leading the community of believers. Finally, there are Muslims that do not fit easily under any of these labels, choosing to follow interpretations of Islam that are considered unorthodox, if not heretical by most Muslims—one famous example is the Nation of Islam led by Minister Louis Farrakhan.
From the 1600s until the abolition of legal slavery in 1865, West African Muslims were brought as slaves to the British North American colonies and later the United States. Perhaps 10 percent or more of all slaves in the Americas were Muslim, depending on what times and places are being considered. The number of Muslim slaves in the Americas may have increased even more during the early 1800s, after the West African Muslim leader ˓Uthman dan Fadio (c. 1754–1817) successfully waged a campaign to Islamize much of the region. Though the importation of foreign slaves to the United States was officially banned in 1808, many U.S. residents violated the law, continuing to import slaves, including Muslims.
Despite the documented presence of Muslim slaves in the United States, however, there is little direct evidence that the practice of Islam was widespread among slaves in North America. In many cases, slave owners attempted to control slaves more easily by separating families and others who shared ethnic and linguistic ties. Though this assault did not translate into the elimination of African culture, including Islam, it did often lead to the recasting of certain customs, beliefs, and practices into different and often synthetic cultural forms. Some slaves adapted certain Muslim traditions, like facing toward Mecca in prayer, to their practice of Christianity. A few others, like the famous ˓Umar ibn Sayyid (1770–1864), a North Carolina slave who was literate in Arabic, eventually relinquished key elements of their Muslim identities, publicly converting to Christianity. Tellingly, the Muslims about whom the most is known generally lived in parts of the American South that had relatively large, isolated slave communities—places like the Sea Islands of Georgia where African Islamic traditions stood a better chance of being preserved and passed on.
Thus, by the end of the Civil War, there seem to have been very few practicing Muslims in the United States. Beginning in the 1870s, however, large numbers of Muslims once again came to the shores of the New World. From 1875 until the First World War, and then again from the 1920s until the Second World War, tens of thousands of Muslims from the Ottoman Empire, especially Arabs from greater Syria, traveled to the United States seeking economic opportunity. These Muslims made their homes in places as far flung as Quincy, Massachusetts, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, whose Muslim community eventually established the Mother Mosque of North America, one of the oldest continuously operating Muslim communities in the United States. By 1920, hundreds of Muslims from both Anatolia and the Balkans had also created their own chapter of the Red Crescent (the Muslim equivalent of the Red Cross) in Detroit, Michigan, and had obtained a cemetery where fellow Muslims could be buried according to Islamic law. Many of these Muslims became peddlers, grocers, and unskilled laborers. Some eventually found jobs as farmers and factory workers, especially in the burgeoning automobile industry in Detroit. These Muslims also practiced various forms of Islam. They not only identified themselves as Sunnis and Shi˓a, but also as Druze, a Syrian and Lebanese group that had long ago separated from the Shi˓a; as Bektashi Sufis, a community made up mainly of Albanians; and as Mevlevis, the so-called whirling dervishes.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the number of Muslims in the United States also grew as hundreds, if not thousands, of African Americans converted, or as some African-American Muslims would put it, reverted to Islam. These conversions occurred in the context of the Great Migration, the movement of over a million and a half persons from the rural South to the more industrialized, urban North throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Attempting to escape racism and economic oppression, black migrants often worked and lived near immigrant Muslims who were also in search of new opportunities in cities like Detroit; St. Louis, Missouri; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Newark, New Jersey; and Chicago, Illinois. African Americans became part of a dynamic cultural milieu, where people from every part of the globe were coming in contact with each other, confronting each other's differences and exchanging both goods and ideas.
This period also witnessed one of the first serious Muslim attempts to convert Americans to Islam. The Ahmadiyya movement, considered heretical by many other Muslims, was the first Muslim group to mass-distribute English translations of the Qur˒an, hoping to make the holy book more accessible to those who could not read it in Arabic. Beginning in the 1920s, they also published the Muslim Sunrise, a newspaper that contained information about the movement and the rudimentary practices of Sunni Islam, especially daily prayer, almsgiving, and fasting during the month of Ramadan. The Ahmadiyya focused many of their missionary efforts on African Americans. The head missionary, Muhammad Sadiq, promoted Islam as a religion of freedom and equality, often criticizing white Christianity's links with slavery and the destruction of African culture. This was an attractive message and hundreds of African Americans, like P. Nathaniel Johnson of St. Louis, Missouri, converted to Islam. By the mid-1920s, Johnson had become Shaykh Ahmad Din and was leading a multiracial community of Ahmadiyya Muslims in the Gateway City.
African Americans also formed their own Islamic groups during the 1920s and 1930s. Some of these groups, like the Moorish Science Temple, merely adopted certain Islamic names and symbols to create new African-American Islamic traditions. While many scholars have dated the origins of this movement to 1913, the Federal Bureau of Investigation believed that it began sometime in the 1920s, probably in Chicago, Illinois. Adapting certain Islamic symbols from the black Shriners (an African American fraternal organization that stressed racial cooperation and self-improvement), movement founder Noble Drew Ali (1886–1929) taught that American blacks were actually members of the Moorish nation whose original religion was Islam. His Holy Koran of the Moorish Science Temple (1927), a sacred text that had no direct connection to the Qur˒an revealed to Muhammad in the seventh century C.E., stressed the importance of morality, industry, and group solidarity, and promised that the practice of Moorish Science was the key to both earthly and divine salvation for persons of African descent.
Some other groups established by African-American Muslims, however, embraced more traditional Islamic practices, placing greater emphasis on the five pillars of Islam and on the Qur˒an. Among these communities, many of which can trace their origins to the 1930s, were the First Cleveland Mosque, led by African-American convert Wali Akram (d. 1994); the Adenu Allahe Universal Arabic Association in Buffalo, New York; and Jabul Arabiyya, a Muslim communal farm also located in upstate New York. Most historians have tended to ignore these Sunni African-American Muslim groups, largely because their scholarly gaze has focused on the more controversial Nation of Islam.
In the early 1930s, W. D. Fard, a mysterious immigrant peddler probably of Turkish or Iranian origin, founded the Nation of Islam in the Detroit metropolitan area. By 1934, he had disappeared, leaving Elijah Poole (1897–1975), an African-American migrant from Georgia, to continue his legacy. Poole, who had since become Elijah Muhammad, echoed the claims of Noble Drew Ali, arguing that Islam was the original religion of the "Blackman." He said that Fard was God in the flesh and that he, Elijah Muhammad, was God's Messenger, sent to resurrect black people from the dead—a teaching that violated many of the most basic tenets of Sunni Islamic traditions. An advocate of black separatism, Elijah Muhammad also emphasized black economic and political independence from whites, the building of moral character, and the practice of his unique Islam as solutions to the social and economic challenges facing black America. It was not until after the Second World War, however, that his teachings garnered national attention, due largely to the successful missionary work of the articulate, fiery, and handsome Malcolm X (1925–1965), who had become a follower of Elijah Muhammad while in prison.
During the postwar period, the face of American Islam was also transformed by a new wave of Muslim immigration from overseas. These Muslims included Palestinians who had become refugees after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and Egyptian citizens who had been dispossessed after Jamal ˓Abd al-Nasser's revolution in 1952. Sometimes, they made contact with older generations of Muslim immigrants, who by this time were beginning to organize national networks like the Federation of Islamic Associations in the United States and Canada, a group of more than twenty mosques that began operations in 1952. Other times, however, these new immigrants challenged what they saw as the unhealthy assimilation of Muslims into American culture. The most active critics of such behavior were often foreign students in American universities. They had arrived from newly independent countries in Africa and Asia where Islamic activists arose to challenge political regimes that stressed nationalist and socialist rather than Islamic identities. In 1963, some of these students formed the Muslim Student Association, which would eventually become one of the largest Muslim organizations in the United States.
In fact, it is clear that by the 1960s, a global Islamic revival was underway, and Islam in the United States was deeply affected by it. Many Islamic revivalists stressed the universality of Islam, arguing that Muslims should reject divisions along lines of race, language, or nationality and work toward more unity in the Muslim umma, or worldwide community of believers. The revival, which also called for a return to strict interpretation of the Qur˒an and the hadith, attracted African American Muslims, as well. In places like the Islamic Mission to America in Brooklyn, New York, for example, one could find a multiethnic and multiracial crowd of Muslims engaging the ideas of Egyptian activist Sayyid Qutb (1906–1966), whose writings were being circulated all over the globe. During the same period, some African American Muslim revivalists, like members of the Darul Islam movement, intentionally separated themselves from mainstream society, hoping to recalibrate the rhythms of their lives in accordance with Islamic law. Others, like Malcolm X, embraced Sunni religious practices, but insisted on the need to struggle simultaneously for black political liberation.
In the meantime, more and more Muslim immigrants were making their homes in the United States. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a new immigration law, inviting large numbers of non-Europeans, including Asians and Africans, to join the American nation. Many of the Muslim immigrants were professionals with South Asian roots and became successful doctors, engineers, and academicians in cities and towns throughout the United States. Others were from Africa, Europe, other parts of Asia, and even Central and South America; they represented over sixty different countries in all. Like Muslim immigrants before them, they subscribed to a variety of Islamic practices. Among just the Shi˓ite immigrants, for example, there were many Twelvers (the largest group of Shi˓ite Muslims in the world) and Isma˓ilis, a smaller community that is itself divided into subgroups.
Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, also grew during this period. While there had been Sufis in the United States for some time, a larger number of white Americans began to join various Sufi groups or to follow various Sufi masters in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of these Sufi converts did not call themselves Muslims and did not practice the five pillars of Islam. Others, however, insisted on adherence to foundational Islamic practices. By the beginning of the new millennium, Sufi Islam in the United States was a multiethnic and cross-class phenomenon. And American Muslims were members of a number of different Sufi groups, including the Tijaniyya, Naqshbandiyya, Qadiriyya, Bektashis, Shadhiliyya, Ishraqiyya, Sufi Order International, and numerous independent Sufi communities in cities and even small college towns like Carbondale, Illinois. In addition, there were pan-Sufi organizations, like the Sufi Women Organization, which encouraged female Sufis to organize for social change among Muslims and society in general.
The post-1965 period of American Islamic history was also shaped by important transformations in African-American Islam. The number of independent African-American Muslim groups continued to increase as did the number of individual converts—especially in prisons, where Muslim individuals and groups, of all ethnic and religious stripes, reached out to male inmates. But perhaps the most important event of this period was the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975. After inheriting the leadership of the Nation of Islam, Wallace D. Muhammad (b. 1933, a.k.a. Warith Deen Muhammad), one of Elijah's sons, dramatically altered the religious nature of the movement. Rejecting the most controversial elements of his father's teachings, including those about the divinity of W. D. Fard and the inherent evil of the white race, Wallace D. Muhammad (now known as W. D. Mohammed) emphasized the importance of Sunni Islamic practices, including daily prayer, the pilgrimage to Mecca, and fasting during Ramadan. He even changed the name of the organization from the Nation of Islam to the World Community of al-Islam in the West, and eventually, the American Muslim Mission. Though thousands of members followed the leader through what he called the "Second Resurrection," Minister Louis Farrakhan (b. 1933) criticized these deviations from Elijah Muhammad's teachings. By the late 1970s, he had reconstituted a version of the old Nation of Islam, which he still leads as of the time of this writing.
Discrimination and Prejudice
From the beginning of Islamic history in North America, Muslims have lived in an environment often dominated by curiosity, suspicion, fear, and even hatred of Islam and Muslims. Anti-Muslim prejudice has several roots, including a thousand-year-old European Christian bias against Islam and nineteenth-century American racism and xenophobia. In the last half of the twentieth century, however, these prejudices have been amplified by several events, many of which involve the foreign policy of the U.S. government. During the cold war against the Soviet Union, for example, the United States generally sided with Israel in its disputes with Soviet-backed Arab Muslim neighbors, prompting many Americans to believe that Arabs and Muslims were the "enemy." During the 1973 oil embargo of the United States by OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) nations, who were protesting U.S. military support of Israel, many Americans became resentful of Arabs and Muslims more generally. Political cartoonists regularly drew racist images of the stupid, but dangerous, "Arab shaykhs" who controlled the world's oil supplies. In 1979, American-Islamic relations were further strained when revolutionaries overthrew the U.S.-backed shah of Iran and then held dozens of Americans hostage for over a year. Direct American military involvement in the Lebanese Civil War (1982), the Persian Gulf War (1991), and the War in Iraq (2003) only added to these tensions.
In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, however, some Americans began to question the deeply embedded prejudices against Muslims in American culture. Americans of many faiths offered support to their Muslim neighbors, visited a mosque for the first time, and attended large interfaith prayer services. Many understood that though the terrorists may have been Muslim, they did not act on behalf of Islam. Other Americans, however, continued to argue that Islam itself was a threat. Muslims faced discrimination on airplanes and in employment. And in some instances, Muslim property and Muslim persons were physically attacked. In addition, negative portrayals of Muslims continued to appear in the popular media and in books written by a few academic critics. Muslim organizations in the United States responded quickly to the events of 11 September 2001 by unequivocally condemning the attacks, offering support for victims, increasing their outreach efforts, and working to protect Muslims in the United States against any further backlash.
Of all issues discussed in the American media regarding Muslims, gender is one of the most popular. The status of women in Islam is a symbol of particular importance for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, often used as a poetic stand-in for larger arguments about society, politics, economics, and religion. Muslim women in the United States face a variety of challenges, including discrimination from several sources: non-Muslims who regard them as the "oppressed women of Islam"; male family members and religious leaders who act in sexist ways; and a society that has not delivered on its promises of equality of economic and educational opportunity to women in general, especially women of color.
American Muslim women themselves disagree about how to face these challenges, but virtually no practicing Muslim woman would argue that Islam is an inherently sexist religion. Echoing what other conservative Americans would call "family values," some Muslim women maintain that the Qur˒an directs men and women to operate in separate spheres—the man in the public world of the workplace and the woman in the private world of the home. Men and women are equal, they say, but they are also fundamentally different. Others, like African American Muslim and Qur˒anic scholar Amina Wadud (b. 1952), argue that while there may be differences between men and women, women's roles should not be restricted to the private sphere. The Qur˒an guarantees equality between the sexes, Wadud argues, and it does not prescribe one right way of being a man or a woman.
Regarding the controversial issue of the hijab, or the headscarf, some Muslim women claim that wearing the veil is unnecessary and that modesty of the heart is what matters. Some cover their heads only when making their prayers. Some say that they would like to cover, but are afraid of the discrimination that they would face from non-Muslims. Still others consistently cover whenever outside their homes or in the presence of men who are not relatives. Likewise, Muslim women disagree over the issue of polygyny. Some argue that having up to four wives is a Qur˒anic right given to men, as long as these wives are treated equally; others say the practice was meant to be temporary or that the Qur˒an itself virtually bans polygyny when it warns against treating one's wives unjustly (4:3).
Several factors influence Muslims' views of gender, including their ethnic, racial, class, linguistic, and generational identities. Children of first-generation immigrants, for example, sometimes challenge what they regard as the sexist views of their parents and grandparents. In so doing, they often make a distinction between the patriarchal culture of the old country and what they say is the true, egalitarian Islam of the Qur˒an and the hadith. On the contrary, some female converts to Islam, including white Christian women who marry Muslim men, defend what they identify as the traditional relationship between husbands and wives in Islam, arguing that Islam is liberating precisely because it elevates their status as wives and mothers.
There are dozens of political, religious, economic, and cultural organizations that focus on issues of interest to Muslims in the United States. The largest is the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an umbrella organization formed by members of the Muslim Student Association in 1982. Over three hundred mosques are associated with ISNA, whose headquarters are located in Plainfield, Indiana. The organization holds a popular annual conference during the first weekend in September in which Muslims network, discuss concerns of the day, and even meet future mates. In addition, it publishes the magazine Islamic Horizons, offers workshops on Islam for teachers, and maintains an active website. Perhaps the second largest Muslim organization in the country is the American Society of Muslims (ASM), a loose configuration of predominately African American mosques that recognize W. D. Mohammed as their leader. Publisher of the Muslim Journal, the ASM also offers an annual conference, oversees the broadcast of Imam Mohammed over the radio, and encourages followers to attend his many public addresses, which often draw thousands of listeners.
Many smaller Muslim organizations focus their energies on more specific concerns. For example, the Council for American-Islamic Relations defends the civil rights of Muslims, educates other Americans about Islam, and encourages Muslim participation in national politics. The Association of Muslim Social Scientists helps Muslim professionals, educators, and academics develop and share Islamic perspectives on contemporary issues. And the Fiqh Council of North America, a group of Muslim legal scholars, regularly offers counsel to Muslim individuals and local communities regarding everything from business contracts to haircuts. New groups continue to be formed every day—one recent example is al-Fatiha, an organization that offers support to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Muslims.
Education and Outreach
There are probably more than two hundred full-time Islamic schools for children in the United States, and most mosques offer some sort of weekend school for both children and adults. The full-time schools are located mainly in cities and suburbs with large Muslim populations. Most of them offer primary education programs. Their curricula include state-mandated subjects like reading and math in addition to Islamic studies and Arabic classes. Perhaps one-quarter of these, called Sister Clara Muhammad Schools, are associated with the community of W. D. Mohammed. Originally part of Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam, these now-Sunni Islamic African American schools are named in honor of the wife of Elijah Muhammad, who played a key role in the Nation of Islam's survival during the early years of the movement. Located mainly in inner cities, these schools offer an alternative to African American parents, both Muslim and non-Muslim, who view their public schools as troubled, if not failing.
Many Muslim parents argue that the public school system has too many drawbacks, including the dangers of drugs, dating, and an unhealthy consumerist culture. They hope that Islamic schools will help their children develop Islamic values and behaviors. Interestingly, what is defined as "Islamic" is itself a subject of debate within Muslim schools. While some schools attempt to enforce gender segregation among their students, others actively defend the practice of encouraging responsible interaction among boys and girls, not only during class but also during social activities. In addition, some Muslim parents fear that the creation of Islamic schools will only make the integration of Muslims into mainstream American culture more difficult. Muslim children have been known to argue that their absence from the public schools is a missed opportunity to explain their Islamic religious convictions to their non-Muslim classmates.
Most mosques in the United States also engage in a number of outreach activities. Members share their faith experiences with non-Muslims, visit a school or church to talk about Islam, contact the media, and welcome visitors to the mosque. Though their activities have gone largely unnoticed by major media outlets, many Muslim leaders have also played prominent roles in interfaith dialogue in the United States. W. D. Mohammed, for example, has become well known among some Roman Catholics for his work with the Focolare movement. Maher Hathout (b. 1936), a leader of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in southern California, has held interfaith dialogues with both Jewish and Christian leaders. And Imam Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn, Michigan, has even organized an interfaith celebration of Thanksgiving Day.
It is often said that there is no pope in Islam. Indeed, since the death of the prophet Muhammad, Muslims have never agreed on one central authority in religious or secular matters. In the United States, Islamic leadership is arguably even more fluid, due to the diversity of American Muslim communities, their relatively short history in North America, and constitutional guarantees of religious freedom. Furthermore, there are many different kinds of Muslim religious leaders in the United States, including Sufi masters, Muslim academics and educators, Islamic legal advisers, the heads of various Muslim organizations and movements, and the imams or presidents of local mosques.
In many parts of the Islamic world, an imam is simply a male who leads the communal prayers on Friday. In the United States, however, an imam can play several different roles in the community. In most African American mosques, the imam operates in both spiritual and administrative capacities, like many Protestant ministers. In predominantly immigrant mosques, however, the imam is more likely to be a spiritual leader who answers to an executive committee or board of directors that is composed of men and women from the local community. Furthermore, many mosque leaders, whether called president or imam, work on a volunteer or part-time basis, requiring them to seek employment outside the mosque. While most of them have completed studies at the college level or above, less than half have any kind of formal Islamic education. Muslim women are generally barred from serving as imams, although some do become mosque presidents—for instance, when rifle fire pierced the stain-glassed windows of her Toledo, Ohio, mosque after 11 September 2001, Chereffe Kadri led two thousand people, both Muslim and non-Muslim, in prayer as they literally joined hands around the building, asking for God's protection.
Muslims in the United States constantly debate the issue of identity, engaging the question of what it means to be a Muslim from a number of different angles. One of these is the relationship between Muslims and the state. For decades, some Muslims have proudly embraced their identity as American citizens, even patriots. Others, however, have sought to distance themselves from American culture and especially American foreign policy. During the Gulf War, for example, W. D. Mohammed supported the coalition against Iraq, arguing that it was desirable, from an Islamic point of view, to expel the Iraqi army from Kuwait; but Minister Louis Farrakhan joined some prominent Sunni Muslim figures in denouncing the presence of American troops on Islamic lands.
There have been similar divisions in the attempt to find an answer to the question of how Muslims should function in a non-Islamic country, a nation that sometimes seems quite hostile to Muslims themselves. Should Muslims run for political office? Should they serve in the military? How much should Muslims interact with non-Muslims and in what capacities? The need for answers only increased in the wake of 11 September 2001and the war in Iraq as many American Muslims attempted to show support for America while simultaneously questioning American foreign policy toward various Muslim countries. Some Muslim organizations in the United States, like the Tabligh Jama˓at, worry that Muslims will become corrupted by participating more fully in American culture, which they see as un-Islamic. Similarly, Hizb Tahrir, or the Liberation Party, argues that the United States is dar al-kufr (the realm of disbelief), advising Muslims to work for the reconstitution of the Islamic caliphate, which was abolished in 1924 by Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Most Muslim groups, however, advocate full participation in American public life. These include both the Islamic Society of North America and W. D. Mohammed's Muslim American Society in addition to the American Muslim Council and the Council for American-Islamic Relations.
Muslims in the United States also continue to debate the place of racial and ethnic difference within their own communities. Most Muslims, including African American Muslims, affirm the idea that Islam is a creed or way of life universally applicable to all, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, class, or any other sociological category. Most also espouse Islamic notions of racial equality and categorically denounce racism. Many African American Muslims argue, however, that the reality of racial divisions in American Islam contradicts these ideals. They complain that immigrants often take condescending attitudes toward them, especially in deciding who gets to determine what the "real" Islam is. There are also serious linguistic, ethnic, class, and religious differences among Muslim immigrants themselves. These differences often come to the fore when immigrants form cultural centers along linguistic lines, separating themselves into groups, respectively, of Urdu, Persian, or Arabic speakers. Some Muslims defend such activity by arguing that the Qur˒an encourages ethnic and racial diversity (49:13). Some African American Muslims also assert that cultural autonomy and a sense of racial pride are especially important in their struggles for black liberation. But other groups, like the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC), work actively to create inter-ethnic and interracial American Muslim communities, often linking the future growth of American Islam to the diminution of racial divisions among American Muslims.
There is, in the end, little unity over the question of Islamic identity and many other issues of concern to Muslims in the United States. Such disagreements, while sometimes seen as problematic by Muslims themselves, reflect the diversity of American Islam. That diversity—the many faces and voices and manifestations of Islam in the United States—is an inextricable part of its growth.
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Edward E. Curtis IV