Enslaved African Muslims Helped Build America

8cd605f0-814b-4ca7-92ba-d6f9fd9b5856_cx0_cy19_cw0_w1023_r1_sIn the year 1807, a wealthy scholar was captured in West Africa, brought to the United States and sold into slavery. His name was Omar Ibn Said. He was 37 years old at the time, and he spent the rest of his life enslaved.

Said was one of many enslaved Muslims in early U.S. history. Up to 40 percent of Africans captured and brought to the U.S. were from mostly Muslim countries in West Africa.

Said’s story might have been forgotten, but he wrote about it in a book called The Life of Omar Ibn Said. The U.S. Library of Congress recently received the book, which was written in Arabic.

The book is one of only a few personal stories written by a slave in America. It is also one of the first intimate reports of the early history of Muslims in the United States.

The book challenges the idea that the U.S. is a Christian nation, says Zaheer Ali. He is a historian at the Brooklyn Historical Society in New York. Ali adds: the book “opens us up to the understanding” that people who were not Christian helped build the United States.

What records did enslaved Muslims leave?

Most enslaved African Muslims did not leave written records. But we can learn about their lives from public evidence and the memories of their families.

How long Muslim slaves practiced their faith is unknown. Some became Christians. Others acted as if they did to better deal with their captors.

But there is evidence that some remained Muslim.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VOA 

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WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE ALLEGED PLOT TO BOMB THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY OF ISLAMBERG

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A high school student at Odyssey Academy in Greece, New York, just eight miles from Rochester, overheard a troubling conversation in the school’s cafeteria last Friday. Another student was showing a photo to his peers and said something to the effect of “He looks like the next school shooter, doesn’t he?”

The student told school administrators, who passed the tip along to the Greece Police Department.

The tip rapidly expanded into a full-blown investigation that involved the FBI, state police, and local law enforcement from other towns. The next day, after executing search warrants, police arrested the student who’d shown the photo, along with three men between the ages of 18 and 20. They’d stockpiled weapons and explosives, allegedly as part of a plan to bomb Islamberg, a small Muslim community near New York City.

“If they had carried out this plot, which every indication is that they were going to, people would have died,” Greece Police Chief Patrick Phelan told reporters Tuesday. “I don’t know how many and who, but people would have died.”

Phelan also told VICE News that the U.S. Attorney’s office is looking into whether the government should pursue federal charges against the suspects but added that the investigation is still in its early stages.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VICE 

Black Muslims account for a fifth of all U.S. Muslims, and about half are converts to Islam

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This is one of an occasional series of posts on black Americans and religion.

Even in the early 20th century, when Islam had little presence in most parts of the United States, the religion had a foothold in many black urban communities. Today, black people (not including those of Hispanic descent or mixed race) make up 20% of the country’s overall Muslim population, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey.

Still, Muslims make up only a small portion of the overall black population in the United States. The vast majority of black Americans are either Christian (79%) or religiously unaffiliated (18%), while about 2% of black Americans are Muslim.ft_19.01.09_blackmuslims_converts

About half of black Muslims (49%) are converts to Islam, a relatively high level of conversion. By contrast, only 15% of nonblack Muslims are converts to Islam, and just 6% of black Christians are converts to Christianity.

Black Muslims are like black Americans overall in that they have high levels of religious commitment. For instance, large majorities of both black Muslims and black Christians say religion is very important to them (75% and 84% respectively). This is a higher level of commitment than for nonblack Muslims (62%). Black Muslims are also more likely than other Muslims in the U.S. to perform the five daily prayers (55% vs. 39%).

FULL ARTICLE FROM PEW RESEARCH 

Attacking Muslims is wrong path for Republicans. Be like Bush, celebrate religious liberty

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If you feel the need to attack Muslims to to win an election, you’re not worthy of a seat in office. Both Bush presidents modeled better values.

During this election cycle that felt never-ending, too many conservative candidates steered their campaigns in a dangerous anti-Muslim direction. They spewed nasty rhetoric on the campaign trail, damaging the image of the Republican Party and alienating voters.

Muslim Advocates released a report in October detailing the increased amount of anti-Muslim rhetoric in campaign messaging. It found at least 80 campaigns this cycle used shameless anti-Muslim rhetoric. Of 73 races where a candidate’s party affiliation could be positively identified, 71 of the campaign messaging supported Republican candidates. Half of the candidates were running for Congress, and 37 competed in the general election.

This isn’t a new development. There have been anti-Muslim conspiracies looming on the fringes for years. Some candidates across the country keep taking the bait. By doing so, they alienate faith-friendly voters who value diversity and cherish their neighbors who follow Islam.

Take GOP Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Dave Brat of Virginia.

To distract voters from his indictments, Hunter used anti-Muslim messaging to portray his Democratic opponent as a threat. Ammar Campa-Najjar is a former Obama official of Mexican and Palestinian descent. Hunter accused Campa-Najjar of being receptive to sharia law and looking to “infiltrate” Congress. And Hunter won — even though Campa-Najjar is a devout Christian who denounces extremist beliefs.

FULL ARTICLE FROM USA TODAY

The forgotten Muslim soldiers who fought in First World War trenches for the Allies

gettyimages-83513318-e1541956064157They rarely get mentioned during Remembrance Day and Armistice Day tributes, but hundreds of thousands of Muslim soldiers fought for the Allied cause during the First World War — around 885,000, according to the British Royal Legion.

Some 400,000 of them hailed from the British Indian Army, whose 1.5 million troops comprised the largest volunteer force in history.

The idea is to give overdue appreciation for the Muslim contribution to the war effort and use the stories of Muslim soldiers to counter Islamophobic and anti-immigrant narratives in Europe and North America.

FULL ARTICLE FROM GLOBAL NEWS (CANADA)

The Real Midterm Elections Wave Wasn’t Blue—It Was Muslim

first-muslim-womenThe Muslims are no longer coming—they are here!

Well, in reality Muslims have been in America and contributing to it even before the nation was formed, since approximately 15 percent of the slaves from Africa were Muslim.

But now Muslim Americans are “here” in a whole new way as a record number won their elections last Tuesday. And ironically many of these candidates were inspired to run in response to the most openly anti-Muslim president our nation has ever seen, Donald Trump.

This “Muslim wave” was led by the first Muslim American women ever elected to Congress in our nation’s history: Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib.

Omar’s story is especially inspiring given that Trump would have banned her from the country if he was in office when she was trying to immigrate here because she’s from Somalia, one of the nations listed in Trump’s Muslim ban. Now Trump will have to deal with her as a new Democratic member of Congress.

Other big winners among Muslim candidates included Keith Ellison, who became the first Muslim ever to win statewide office with his victory as Minnesota’s attorney general. In North Carolina, we saw the first Muslim American ever elected to the state Senate with the victory of 32-year-old lawyer, Mujtaba Mohammed, who is Indian-American. And there were also numerous other Muslim Americans winning elections in local races, including five Muslim American women who were elected in California’s Bay Area, from City Council to Board of Education. As the Council on American Islamic Relations noted, all told a record 55 Muslims won election last week from federal to local offices.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DAILY BEAST 

Synagogue shooting prompts Muslims to act charitably—and humbly

muslim pittsburgh(RNS) — The hook was too appealing, as a news item and as an act of interfaith unity so many Americans were desperate to see: After 11 congregants of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh were killed in a horrific spray of bullets, Muslims raised more than $300,000 in support of their Jewish brethren.

The money was collected by Wasi Mohamed of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh and Tarek El-Messidi of Celebrate Mercy, an organization dedicated to honoring and educating others about the Prophet Muhammad (saw)*. These two remarkable men appreciate that one of the most immediate ways to help in a catastrophe is to cover the costs of those affected.

Mohamed and his fellow Pittsburgh Muslims raised more than $70,000 for the Tree of Life synagogue and its worshippers. Celebrate Mercy partnered with the Muslim political action organization MPower Change to come up with almost $240,000 more via a LaunchGood-hosted fundraising campaign. Their beautiful act of solidarity was heralded on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and on FOX News.

Fundraising efforts and other charitable acts like these can serve multiple purposes: Help those in need, provide anguished onlookers with opportunities to give back and change perceptions about marginalized groups. But they also live and die by publicity. How can money (or volunteers) be raised for any charitable cause if people don’t know what others are doing?

So we have hashtags, photos posted on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media sites. Often there is a coordinated media campaign to draw attention to the plight of a particular tragedy or perhaps uplift a downtrodden group. How can we fund any charitable project or support our fellow humans if we don’t get the word out?

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE