In 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
By Anna Sutterer
A delegation of Christian leaders delivered a welcome message to the first Muslim-American Congresswomen, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), today at Longworth House Office Building.
Led by an online Christian organizing group called Faithful America, this message was signed by 7,400 Christians nationwide, and given to the congresswomen’s staffs after their swearing in this afternoon.
Faithful America as well as other organizations and individuals that signed the letter saw it as a necessary action because of the Islamophobic rhetoric exhibited by some far right Christians, including far-right pastors like E.W. Jackson, who was recorded saying that, “the floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic republic. We are a Judeo-Christian country. We are a nation rooted and grounded in Christianity and that’s that. … Don’t try to change our country into some sort of Islamic republic or try to base our country on Sharia law,” on his radio program last month.
“The assumption should be that Christian Americans, along with Americans of all faiths and backgrounds, would of course welcome new members of Congress regardless of their religious affiliations,” said Dr. Catherine Orsborn, campaign director at Shoulder to Shoulder, an interfaith organization working to end anti-Muslim sentiment. She helped deliver the welcome message to Omar and Tlaib.
“By being themselves and doing their best in their elected capacities, these incredible women will live out what it means to be American and Muslim without any contradiction,” Orsborn said.
FULL ARTICLE FROM SOJOURNERS MAGAZINE
The 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.
She Might Become the First Muslim-American Woman in Congress
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
On a recent Saturday afternoon in an office in St. Paul, Minn., a flurry of calls went out to Native American and Latinos voters reminding them to vote Nov. 6. And there was a new group added to the list: Muslims.
Until last year, ISAIAH, a multi-racial coalition of faith communities in Minnesota, was mostly made up of churches. Now, 24 mosques have joined the voter turnout effort. The group is focused on getting communities of color to vote this year in reaction to what it describes as politics of fear and a rise of white nationalism.
With Muslims and immigrants used as boogeymen in political rhetoric, Imam Asad Zaman, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, said, getting his community to the ballot box is vital. Zaman is leading the local Muslim effort to get out the vote and has been a leader on political engagement in the community for more than 15 years.
And there are more Muslims now running for office, hoping to be part of a “blue wave.” In Minnesota, nine Muslims are on the ballot for state, federal and local offices.
FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR
It’s the hate directed toward Islam that has motivated so many to enter the political arena.
For some Americans — those who support a travel ban, a wall along the Mexican border and increased restrictions on refugees, all while holding on to the ridiculous belief that the world’s 1.8 billion Muslim hate America, despite the fact that it’s home to nearly 3.5 million of us — that statement probably inspires fear.
But it’s true: Nearly 100 Muslim political hopefuls have filed to run for elected office this year. Only a dozen or so ran in 2016.
In July, The Associated Press interviewed Muslim candidates about this record number. The reporting revealed that it’s precisely the bigotry and hate that has been directed toward Islam — including in remarks and tweets by President Trump — that has motivated so many Muslims to enter the political arena, where they now stand poised to advance policies that directly reflect their faith and also benefit all of their constituents.
Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, a former state representative and a daughter of Palestinian immigrants, would be the nation’s first Muslim woman in Congress. Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American and refugee from Kenya, is predicted to win in November, replacing Representative Keith Ellison in Minnesota.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
Anti-Muslim sentiments in the United States have been on the rise for some time, fueled largely by misunderstandings, fear of the unknown, and, of course, active demagoguery. Yet, it bears keeping in mind that Islam has been part of the U.S. from its beginnings.
Muslims came to these shores in large numbers with the transatlantic slave trade. It’s estimated that up to 20 percent of all African slaves may have been Muslim. Their fate was grim. As El-Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz, formerly known as Malcolm X, aptly observed: “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock; the Rock was landed on us.” Nevertheless, they helped building America in so many ways. And, as historical evidence (names on the military muster rolls) suggests, Muslims even participated in the Revolutionary War, fighting alongside colonists for freedom and liberty.
Many Muslims who were forcefully brought were highly educated. Omar ibn Said, from present-day Senegal, was a slave in the Carolinas. Although he’s said to have converted to Christianity, Omar’s autobiography evidences his continuing reverence toward the Prophet Muhammad. His handwritten copy of various verses of the Qur’an, which still can be seen at UNC in Chapel Hill, demonstrates that he had memorized major parts of Islam’s sacred scripture.
FULL ARTICLE FROM GREENVILLE NEWS