I have been in America for the last 37 years.
Initially when people learned I’m Muslim it would trigger curiosity about Islam and eastern cultures. Sometimes I would encounter misinformation in the mainstream media, but mostly Muslims in America were under the radar.
Since 9/11, I’ve found more interest in learning about Islam and at the same time seen spike in misinformation and hate groups. Myths are behind the misunderstanding. I’d like to tackle a few of those here:
Myth: Muslims are relatively newcomers in America. • Historians trace first Muslims in America towards the end of 15th century. African-American Muslims, who have been here for centuries, make about quarter of the total U.S. Muslim population. A recent estimate in 2016 placed the nation’s Muslim population at over 3.3 million.
Most of the American Muslims who immigrated in last century probably came from
South Asia, Middle East, and Africa in 1960s, when The Hart-Celler Act of 1965 was enacted. This law changed the immigration policies from being nation-based formula to one that lifted restrictions against immigrants from Asia and Africa. It gave priority for relatives of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.
It also gave preference to professionals and other skilled workers. Most of Muslims came here for the same reason that brought the majority of non-Muslim Americans: opportunity.