49:13 “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” (Y. Ali translation)
Surveys vary, but between 24-40 percent of American Muslims are American born African-Americans. Islam is not only recognized as the fastest growing religion in the world, the same holds true for its growth in America and also in the African-American community.
In Indianapolis there are many third generation African-American Muslim families.
The recent CNN special, “Unwelcome Muslims Next Door,” totally misses – maybe intentionally – the large, long established, African-American Muslim community. Oddly, when most major media outlets report on Islam in America, repeatedly they omit the largest single racial/ethnic group; African-American Muslims.
The African-American Muslim represents an integral American-Islamic link with roots that extend back almost 100 years into America’s history. Islam, properly called “Al-Islam” is well entrenched into the African-American psyche. Adding to this the undeniable fact that Islam and African-Americans have a strong pre-slavery connection only strengthens our American-Islamic bond.
Another factor that explains why many African-Americans are well grounded in Islam is because they learned that many of our pre-slavery parents in Africa also were well grounded in Islam.
For many African-Americans, converting (or returning) to Islam is their way of reconnecting the Islamic link that was broken by slavery. As early as the 1900s many efforts, some quite unorthodox, were implemented in the ghettos of America to reconnect African-Americans with a “lost Islamic heritage.”
Due to these early efforts, today around America there are many budding and thriving Islamic African-American communities, mosques and schools.
Today, many Muslim African-Americans, in addition to reconnecting with an Islamic past they have also reconciled their Islamic life with a full American life.
Using an Indianapolis paradigm we’ll see a similar pattern of African-American Islamic development that is common in all major cities around America.
As in any major cities, the African-Americans of Indianapolis who settled upon Al-Islam as a way of life, by and large are everyday, common individuals who opted for a faith they believed to be a lost or stolen heritage – plain old folks from Indy who as children were either boy or girl scouts. People, who as teens skated at Schofield, Roller Land or United Skates of America. We attended Indianapolis’ public and parochial schools before entering the workforce, college or joined the military; thus one of America’s many veterans from the Korean, Viet Nam or Iraq wars.
For some African-American Muslims our pre-Islamic lifestyles carried us through the unfavorable side of the legal system. We were, and remain ordinary citizens of America seeking to live our Islamic life to the fullest within the laws of the land.
It is impossible for African-American Muslims to fit into the description “Unwelcome Muslims Next Door.” Totally impossible.
Most African-American Muslims often are more American than the average. Not only have African-American Muslims served in every major war, including the U.S. Civil War and the Korean War. For the majority of the 20th century, the African-American return to Islam was a liberating escape from the inhumane treatment of racism. Islam, in the minds of these African-Americans, was the long awaited refuge from the many social evils that were regularly heaped upon the descendants of slaves.
The regular news reports against Islam and Muslims are often hyped with charged words designed to evoke fear and apprehension. The same tactics have been – and sometimes still used against African-Americans in general when the media wants to instill fear in people against African-Americans.
As the media often wrongly depicts African-Americans as being largely uneducated, violent and wanting a handout; the same applies for how the major media reports errantly on the topics of “shariah” law, jihad, terrorism and Islam’s treatment of women.
We, African-American Muslims challenge anyone to bring such biased arguments to our attention. Maybe the Muslims who are new to America feel a burden to apologize for being Muslim, whereas, African-American Muslims feel no obligation to apologize for being Muslim. Nor do we feel a need to apologize for being American. In fact many African-American Muslims, particularly whose who follow the leadership of the late-Imam Wallace D. Mohammed, we feel that the laws of Islam and the U.S. Constitution are extremely compatible. I repeat, African-American Muslims can never fit into the description, “Unwelcome Muslims Next Door.”
In fact no Muslim, Christian, Jew or a believer of any faith should ever be confronted with such challenges if our Constitution is to remain true in our lives.
The African-American Muslims of Indianapolis and every other major city in America are generationally established as productive citizens. African-American Muslims proudly serve Indianapolis in the courts as lawyers and judges. We are public safety servants as police and firefighters. We educate our community’s children as principals and teachers and custodians. We have served in both major political parties in the halls of Congress, City-County Council, as ward chairs and precinct committee persons. We are more than your “neighbor.” If fact we are your brothers and sisters – if not genetically, surely we are mentally and oftentimes spiritually we are related.
Please forward your questions and comments to Al-Islam in America, c/o Imam Mikal Saahir, Nur-Allah Islamic Center, 2040 E. 46th St. Indianapolis, IN 46205; or e-mail us at: email@example.com.