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    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Lahore, Pakistan
    Blog Entries

    Muslims in America

    Islam is among the largest faiths in America, coming in at number three after Christianity and Judaism. Interesting to note is the number of unaffiliated Americans whose numbers are much less than Christians’ but which dwarf the percentage of the population represented by Jews and Muslims.

    Muslims in America arrived on these shores from various places. Native-born American Muslims are by and large African Americans, a group that comprises a full quarter of the total population of Muslims in the United States. Many of these African American Muslims converted to Islam during the latter half of the Twentieth Century. Also, conversion rates for Islam are higher in urban areas than rural ones in America.

    It is reported that roughly one tenth of the slaves brought to America from Africa during the colonial era comprised Muslims. Like many aspects of their African heritage, Islam was actively expunged from plantations.

    Towards the end of the Nineteenth Century and the beginning of the Twentieth, many Muslims emigrated from the Ottoman Empire and India, both regions having seen their glory days of world power wane because of colonialism and the impact of new technologies on wealth and military might. The fledgling population of Muslims in America grew rapidly through the Twentieth Century because of the high birth rate in these immigrant communities, especially among those of Arab and South Asian heritage. Contemporary evidence suggests more than two thirds of Muslims in the United States are immigrants.

    There is mention of Muslims in American legal documents from the 1600s; farther back, a Moroccan slave named Estevanico by his Spanish lords was shipwrecked with a quartet of fellows near what is now Galveston Texas.

    There is a letter by George Washington to Mohammed ben Abdallah, the ruler of Morocco, signed 1787. The letter expresses appreciation for Morocco’s decision to enter into the Treaty of Peace and Friendship with the United States. Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States of America as a nation among nations.

    A few weeks before Christmas in 1805, President Thomas Jefferson held an “Iftar” dinner at the White House; a traditional dinner held during the month of daylight fasting in the holy month of Ramadan. His guest was Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, an ambassador from Tunis.

    There is also the Bilali Document, housed today in the library of the University of Georgia in Athens. This 13-page Arabic treatise covers the basics of Islamic beliefs, rules for ablution, the Morning Prayer known as “Fajr”, and the call to prayer known as “Azaan”. Bilali was a Muslim from present-day Guinea-Conakry who arrived in America as a slave to work on the plantations. He eventually led a plantation of 80 Muslim slaves on that plantation and provided leadership during the War of 1812 to thwart an attack on the master’s property by the British.

    In confronting piracy around Morocco that endangered American sailors, Presidents Jefferson and Madison sent the US navy to end hostilities. During negotiation of the treaty of peace that concluded the conflict, US ambassadors underscored that America had no ill will toward any Muslim nation.

    In the US Civil War, it is estimated that nearly three hundred Muslims fought. The highest-ranking member of this group was Captain Moses Osman. Nicholas Said enlisted in the Massachusetts Colored Regiment in the US Army and eventually became a sergeant. He later served in a military hospital, serving patients.

    Throughout the 1900s, the presence of Muslims in America could be observed: Bosnian Muslims in Chicago establish a social service to helm new immigrants; the first Muslim organization in New York City is made as early as 1907; the Ross Masjid in North Dakota is built in 1929.

    Construction of mosques around the United States has risen in recent decades. California has the most number of mosques of any state in America.

    Culturally, notable Muslims include Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, as well as contemporary celebrities such as Mos Def and Dave Chappelle.

    The poet Coleman Barks is not Muslim, but the influence of the Sufi Sheikh Bawa Muhaiyadeen on his poetry has been profound; Barks’s translation of Rumi since the early ‘90s has made some proclaim Rumi “the most popular poet in America.” Culturally, that statement would have to challenge Walt Whitman’s place at the center of American literary achievement. But Whitman’s friend and academic counterpart, Ralph Waldo Emerson, holds a Persian-equivalent of Rumi—the Sufi poet Saadi—as the prototype for the Romantic, American poet.

    The owner of one of the 32 professional football teams in the National Football League is Muslim: Shahid Khan, the Pakistani-American billionaire tycoon who owns the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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