Islam in America, 18th-21st Century

Islam in America, 18th-21st Century


>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington, D.C.>>Carolyn Brown: Well,
good morning.>>Good morning.>>Carolyn Brown: I’m Carolyn Brown, Director for Area Studies
Collections at the Library of Congress which means the
Foreign Language Collections here. And I’m delighted to
welcome you this morning to our Symposium on
Islam in America. Over the last two years, I think the
first one was maybe April in 2000, we have been doing a series of
programs on Muslim societies. Most of our focus has been abroad. I guess there have
been seven of these. We’ve looked at the things,
Globalization in Muslim Societies, who looked at issues of identity
of women, minority communities, civil society, et cetera. Some of these were funded by
the Rockefeller Foundation. Others were variously funded. So we’ve had a long, relatively long
conversation about Muslim societies. This morning’s program,
instead of looking outwards, we’re now taking a look
at Islam in America. But it’s part of really that
ongoing thinking and concern really which began with our
perception two years ago that Americans didn’t understand
very much about the Muslim world and that we needed to do
sort of our part in trying to bring that greater awareness. I think we thought we had
greater time than it turns out. The imperative has
increased but the problem is, or the issue is not a new one. It’s one, a long-standing one. Why at the Library of Congress? A number of reasons for this series. We collect materials
in over 460 languages of the world and in all scripts. So we have a long-standing
collection whereby readers can study all parts of the world where
Muslims are a significant percentage of the populations, whether
you’re talking about Africa, the Middle East, Asia,
Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Central Asia, even Europe. We have materials from
all parts of the world, so actually theoretically
your limitations in terms of research are only those of
the languages that you read. Also another point here
is that when you collect that broadly you’re also
assembling multiple perspectives. It’s not one view;
it’s multiple views. And there’s an opportunity
then to get broad thinking. As we’ve looked at current
events, most recent ones, but more long-standing, it’s
clear that you can only understand so much, and some people
might say not much, if you don’t have a rich background
in the culture and histories in the particularities of
individual places and peoples. And, as I said, the
collections support all of that. But it’s also recognition
that, although we’re sitting across the street from the U.S.
Congress which is very focused as it needs to be on the
current moment, we need to bring to the Capitol a deeper historical
cultural understanding rooted in the languages and perceptions
of the peoples in the areas of the world that we’re
thinking about. And that includes our
own United States which is what we’re
focused on today. As we look to the future, this is
not the last of several programs. We also have fellowships for
the study of Globalization in Muslim Societies and there will
be other programs coming along. So if you enjoy this morning’s
program, keep your eyes open. There’ll be more programs. This morning’s program is
being recorded for Webcasting, and you’ll find some of our
earlier symposium are on the Web. So there’s a reach and an opportunity beyond just
what you receive in this room. I did want to take a moment to
thank all of you for coming today. A special thanks to our
panelists who are joining us, to the also Scholarly Programs,
especially its Director, Pross Gifford, over there at the
back of the room, the African and Middle Eastern Division
and all of the staff involved, and especially to our World
Area Specialist Mary-Jane Deeb who has been the, I’ll say the
brains, really, behind all of these. We may have the idea but
in terms of executing it with intellectual integrity and
wisdom we’ve relied on Mary-Jane. So she’s kind of the
silent one around here. Although if you have
a chance to talk to her you’ll find she’s
anything but silent — a great store of knowledge
and wisdom. And with that said, why don’t
we move on to the first panel. The panelists are here and Rita
Harper is going to be the Chair of that panel, [inaudible] with the
African Middle Eastern Division. Thank you.>>Marieta Harper: Good
morning, ladies and gentlemen. You are welcome to our symposium
this morning on Islam in America. My name is Marieta Harper,
Area Specialist for Africa, in particular the francophone
countries. I have the distinct honor of being
the Chair for today’s first panel, Historical Roots of Muslim
Immigration to the United States. Each panelist will
speak for 15 minutes. At the end of the panel we
will have time for questions. Our first speaker will
be Derrick J. Beard. He’s widely recognized to be a
preeminent collector of 18th, 19th, and early 20th century African
American decorative arts, photography, rare books,
and one-of-a-kind documents. He owns over 10,000 items of
African American material culture that includes furniture, books,
paintings, and memorabilia. Chief among his achievements
has been the reconstruction over the last decade
of the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection
of African American art. He was responsible for the
Institute’s acquisition of Horace Pippin’s Cabin
in the Cotton done in 1935, the most important 20th century
painting by an African American. He studied at the Art Institute of
Chicago, the Crane Hook Arts Academy in Michigan, and graduated with
a degree in Urban Economics from the University of Illinois. He and his family are
the current owners of the unique African manuscript
in Arabic of Omar ibn Said, which you’ll get chance
to see later. Derrick Beard.>>Derrick J. Beard: I think first I
think I would like to give a moment of silence for all of the
victims of 911 and all the victims of terrorism throughout the world. So that we can at least
give a moment of silence. And I would like to thank the staff of the African Middle Eastern
Division here at the Library of Congress, the staff of
the Scholarly Programs, and our government for offering the
first Symposium on Islam in America. After 911 I was thinking that
there was a very important Arabic manuscript which could
help us as Americans to have a better understanding
of Islam and our American Islamic heritage. So, therefore, I felt that it was my
duty as an American to come forward with the manuscript of
the life of Amar ibn Said. And what we’ll find with the life
of Omar will help to shatter many of the stereotypes and
prejudices about Islam in general, and Muslims in particular. I believe one important question
has kind of recently arisen. Can Islam be synonymous
with patriotism? And I say absolutely because Islam
represents a critical consciousness which personifies itself
in high moral character. It starts with the
individual, then to the family and the community, and
then to the nation. In fact, if we look across the
Pacific, particularly to China, we’ll find many of the Chinese
Muslims who are minorities in China were great citizens and
they had contributed immensely to the development of
Chinese civilization over the last 1000 years. And here in America we have
many patriotic acts of Muslims, particularly such as an
African Muslim by the name of [foreign words] who was at
Sapelo Island in Georgia where he and his fellow Muslims
prevented the British from invading the coast of Georgia. And then we have Nicholas
Said who was from the famous 54th Massachusetts
Regiment, and as we know in the movieGlory, which turned
the tide of the whole Civil War. And, of course, we have Muslims
who have contributed militarily, to science, to medicine,
and many areas which helped to develop our great country. So which brings me today to bring
my presentation, which is the story of Omar ibn Said, a Muslim slave and
evidence of early Islam in America. And I guess I should
greet you in the words of Omar would have greeted
you, Assalamu-Alaikum.>>Assalamu-Alaikum.>>Derrick J. Beard: Al-Islam in the Americas is not a
20th century phenomenon. Many people have been led to believe that it did not have
many followers here, until the large-scale
movement spearheaded largely by Malcolm X in the 1960s. It is true that during this time
Islam gained prominence in America in a way that it had not
previously done before. However, it did exist,
and in some cases, thrived in the Western Hemisphere. In the past, scholars have ignored or simply failed to
mention this fact. This is probably because many of them did not have sufficient
enough understanding of or interest in Islam to accurately document and
access its New World’s presence. This is beginning to change. The legend of Abubakari
II of Mali was reported in [foreign words] places
his journey to the Americas in the year 1312 according to Professor Ivar van
Surderman [assumed spelling] at Rutgers University. And because of the explosion,
the expulsion I should say, of Muslims from Spain, and Jews,
during the years of 1609 to 1614, a large number of them
fled to Spanish Americas which Spanish Americas included
here in the United States Florida, South Alabama, and parts
of Louisiana depending on, you know, dates and time. This resulted because many
Muslims living in Spain at this time were forced
to convert to Christianity which Muslims would call it Moriscos
and Jews would call it Marranos, but continued to practice, covertly
practice their Islamic faith. Islam intolerance persisted even
after those people were identified as Muslim had been
banished from Spain. The southern part of this
country for a long time required that its citizens keep
its doors open on Friday prevent possible
Jumu’ah congregations. There are numerous other clues
that would alert the observant to the existence of Muslim
communities in early America, from the Spanish Inquisition
into the Transatlantic and the Transpacific slave
trade which is very interesting. A Transpacific slave trade. There’s a book called theHistoryof the Manila Acapulco Slave
Trade
by Father Jose Maria Luengo which this Transpacific slave
trade which spanded [sic] about three centuries included the
shipment of Filipinos, Indonesians, and South Asians to the Americas. These bits of evidences, material
evidences, that we find — the presence of foods and spices
such as dates, sate, cumin, cunderdin; architecture such as
the corbel technique and the use of interior courtyards; and
the documentations of names such as Bolelli, Belau, Mamadu,
Abdel, Fatima, Omar, Mecca, Medina. These are quite common names, particularly in the Caribbean
and in Latin America. One of the most important remaining
articles of Islamic material culture from early America is a manuscript
written by Omar ibn Said. So this is a frontage
slide of the manuscript which you can take a look
at after the conference. It’s in this display case here. It was written in 1831 and it is
the only existing autobiographical manuscript that is known
to exist in the Americas. Omar was born in Futa Tooro. And this, of course — this is the
Arabic writing of the front page of the manuscript by Omar. So Omar was born in area of Futa. This is — actually I was in Futa
in May, so I took some photographs. So just give a the viewer — give
us a little visuals of the landscape of what Omar came from
and his environment. Futa is an area in —
along the Senegal River which encompasses Senegal,
Mauritania, and Mali. It’s an area where
Islam actually thrives and existed for over 1000 years. He was born in Futa
in the year of 1770. He was a devout Muslim and a member
of a family of impressive wealth who represented from the
— who were represented from their strict adherence
to the laws of Islam. Omar ibn Said had made Hajj
and he was also a trader who probably spoke many languages
as was the case with most people of similar social standings. During the 18th and
19th century Islam in Africa was undergoing
a series of changes. There was simultaneously
expansions, jihad of the faith, throughout the regions
of Senegal, Gambia, and the Gulf of Guinea
alongside the collapse of older, some established Islamic empires because of European military
expansions and the development of the Atlantic slave trade. The fall of these communities
resulted in the capture of many Muslims as well as
non-Muslims for the sale of chattel in the Western Hemisphere. Omar was captured around 1807. This was a result of a battle that
took place about the same time, which we pretty much believe
is a result of his capture, the Battle of [foreign words],
who was defeated by his cousin, [foreign words] who was — with
the aid of the French was able to defeat [foreign words] and he
controlled that area of Senegal and Omar describes this in his
manuscript, that he was captured as a result of a big battle,
that many people had died. So we largely believe
that this, in fact, is the Battle of [foreign words] that resulted in the
capture of Omar. And he was brought to
Charleston, South Carolina. Upon his arrival in North
America his name was contorted to such various pronunciations
and spellings such as [speaking foreign language]. Despite his shift in status, being
removed from his native land, Omar remained an individual noted
for his — I should say, quote, whole person and gaunt bearing marks
of considerable refinement according to Reverend William S. Plummer, a
Presbyterian pastor or professor in the Western Theological
Seminary from 1854 to 1862. The following is a brief
account by Omar, written by Omar, to a man by the name
of Shake Hunter. In fact, this manuscript was
written and given to Shake Hunter, but also known as Layman
Kaaba [assumed spelling]. He was another fellow Muslim
from that area of Africa, Mbundu, who was living in New York City. And it was given to him around 1836
and then subsequently it was given to Theodore de White
who was the brother of the President of Yale University. And I’ll read — this
is the Introduction of the actual manuscript itself. It says, “In the name of God, the
Grace, the Glorious, the Merciful, thanks be to God, supreme
and goodness and kindness and who’s worthy of all honor, who
created all things for his service, even man’s power of
action and speech. You asked me to write my life. My name is Omar ibn Said. My birthplace was Futa
Tooro, between two rivers, the land between two rivers. I sought knowledge
under the instruction of a sheik called Muhammad
Said, my own brother, and Sheik Solomon Kaaba,
and Sheik Gabriel Abdel. I continued by studies 25
years,” which was the tradition, “and returned to my home
where I remained six years. Then came to our place a large army
which killed many men and took me and brought me to the great
sea, and sold me into the hands of the Christians who bound
me and sent me onboard. We sailed upon the great sea a
month-and-a-half when we came to a place called Charleston
in the Christian language. Before I came to the Christian
country, my religion was one of Muhammad’s, the Apostle of God. May God have peace upon
him and give him peace. [Foreign word] have mercy
upon him and give him peace. We walked to the mosque before
daybreak, washed my hand and face and head and feet, prayed at
noon, prayed in the afternoon, prayed at sunset, and
prayed in the evening.” Throughout the course
of Omar’s life, Omar’s Dean was relentlessly
challenged by the insistence that all slaves imported to the
Americas were to accept Christianity or face dire consequences. And I’d like to quote from the
late Reverend Howard Thurman, which is one of our great African
American theologians who was, in fact, the mentor
to Martin Luther King when he was a student at Morehouse. And this is what the
Reverend Howard Thurman says. “The slave was cut off from his
religion, whatever kind it was. It is quite beside the point to
say that he was given Christianity, an infinitely better religion
than anything he had known before when the Master gave to
the slave his Master God. For a long time it had
meant it was difficult to disentangle religious
experience from slavery sanction.” Thus, Omar was forced to replace
the writings of the Koran with those of the Bible, and eventually
began to go regularly to the Presbyterian Church. Soon Omar did not publicly
acknowledge that Islam was a faith that he had been born into. He began to hide it and thereby
making Christians observe [Inaudible] assume that he
had — his soul had been won. In fact, Omar’s Christian
studies ended up being a bridge that reinforced what was being
challenged, his Islamic faith. And I’ll mention this from — there’s this quote
from Omar’s manuscript. Jim Owens, who was his — General
Jim Owens, who was his owner, and the wife used to read in
jail the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “They read to me — did very
much allow Lord I create a King who regulates all circumstances,
our health and wealth, who bestows His bounty willingly without constraints exceeding
according to His powers. Open my heart to the
way of guidance. All praises are due
to allow the Lord of the World with abundant praise. He is putting us in his blessings
and abundant in His goodness. For this reason the laws of
Moses, one most act further. The blessings and trust by
made by the Jesus the Messiah. First and foremost is Muhammad.” And then he opens up with “[foreign
words], praises due to Allah, the Lord of the World’s
munificent to most of the king of the dear judgment. And it is that you worship and you
alone that we see for assistance, guide us to the straightway,
the straight path, those of the path upon
whom have blessed, not those who have earned anger. Know those who have go astray. Amen.” And then he goes
into the words of — and now in the words
of Jesus, the Messiah. And this is quote again
from Omar’s manuscript. “Our Father who art in Heaven, holy
be your name, your kingdom come, you will be done on
Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us our daily bread, forgive
us as we have forgotten those who have done harm, done us harm. Do not enter us into
temptation but redeem from evils. To you belong the kingdom, the
power, the majesty forever. Amen.” So, again, at the
time of Omar’s death, he had fully rededicated
himself to Islam and as a Muslim. It is undoubtedly the countless
numerous other followers of Islam shared a religious
experience similar to Omar in Islamic communities
throughout the Americas. It was tolerated to
a much lesser degree than some other non-Islamic religion
such as Voodon and certain parts in particular, Santeria, and Candomble in certain
parts of the Americas. In some rare instances it
was absorbed into practices such as Voodon and Candomble. In Northwest Haiti there presently
exists, according to a friend of mine who’s a professor there, a
Voodon ceremony performed in Arabic. And there are also
Voodon Santeristas or ceremonies in Cuba
and Puerto Rico. Also performed in Arabic. Such is an example found
in Salvador, Brazil. The architect, Manual
Ferandez [assumed spelling], and African Muslim of [inaudible]
descent build a church what looks very Christian on the
outside and an interior which transforms into a mosque. The interior walls were molded
with prayers from the Koran and also the great [foreign
word] and Muslim [foreign word] from Haiti wrote and spoke Arabic
along with many other languages. He organized the slave
insurrections of the 1740s. And through his fluency in
many languages were able to mobilize the enslaved Africans
to fight the oppression of slavery. Many other Muslims sought to
return to their native homelands. For example, Jonas Mohammad Bathe, a
Mandingo Muslim leader in Trinidad, asked the Queen of England to
provide him and his community with a ship so that
they could return. His request was denied. And there are other Muslims
who were able to return. Prince Abdul-Rahman of Mississippi,
Joe bin Solomon here in Maryland, Mohammad [foreign word] who took
their jihadists upon landing on the African Continent
despite the fact that they had converted
to Christianity. It was their so-called conversion that provided a means
to return to home. Al-Islam had faced many
challenges in the Americas, but it has endured those challenges. We may learn from the history of
these early Muslims who help us to understand the illustrious
nature of our multicultural, multi-religious American heritage. And I would like to end this with
the words of Reverend Howard Thurman from his book,Deep River. And this is quote from
Reverend Thurman. “At the moment” — in fact, this was
written in 1945 right during the — end of the climax of World War II. And he writes, “At the moment we
stand as the graphic masters of much of the Earth, particularly America, by virtue of our vast
resourcefulness and material resources. The techniques by which we have
reduced great conglomerates of nature to simple units
of control and utility. It is a terrifying truth that
life in its own restraint and that the moral laws that
bind in judgment the life of the individual by insinuation. No amount of power, wealth, or
prestige can stay this judgment. If we would be love, we must share
that kind of spirit of expression of the true genius of our
democratic government.” Thank you and God bless.>>Marieta Harper: Thank you Derrick for that informative
discussion on Omar ibn Said. And later we’ll have opportunities to actually see the
manuscript over in the case. Our next speaker will
be Dr. John Hunwick, Professor of African History and
Religion at Northwestern University. He holds a PhD in Islamic Studies
from the School of Oriental and African Studies at
the University of London, and is a world-renowned expert on
Arabic manuscripts from Africa. He began his work in the 1960s at
the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, and later helped with the
establishment of the Center for Documentation in Timbuktu. He was a Director of the Fontes
Historiae Africanae project of the International Academic Union. He has published extensively in
the field including West Africa and the Arab World, Arabic
Literature of Africa, and the writings of
Central Sudan, Africa, and edited a two-volume
catalog of Arabic manuscripts of the Nigerian National Archives for the Furqan Islamic
Heritage Foundation. Dr. Hunwick.>>John O. Hunwick: In Islam
there is no parallel as we onto the Prophet Muhammad. He is rather the messenger of God. For the message he brought to
mankind, the Koran, may be regarded as the word of God made book. The Koran, which is often referred to in Arabic religious
writings simply as The Book [foreign words]
is considered by Muslims to be literally the word of God and,
hence, portions of its text are used as a protection against evil
and as a cure for sickness. This is generally in
the form of talismans, verses of the Koran written out
in the original Arabic, folded up, encased, and attached to the
body while hung up in a home. In some societies,
especially in Africa, the word of God made book
may be treated rather like communion wine in Christianity. Appropriate healing verses of the
Koran are written on a special board and washed off and then drunk
by the afflicted person. Just as communion wine is
considered the blood of Jesus Christ so the swallowing of Koranic words
in water is effectively an imbibing of divine blessing and power. The Koran then is terrestrial
manifestation of the divine. As such, it may not be touched by a Muslim unless he has
undertaken ritual washing to cleanse himself
physically and spiritually. Also as the word of God, it must be
recited and written in the language in which it was downloaded from
God to the Prophet Muhammad. That is, Arabic. Not only is the Koran then the core
of and key to all things Islamic, but acquaintance with the Arabic
language is an essential task for believers. Literacy and then learning
have forever been hallmarks of Muslim societies. When Islam was introduced to West
Africa through the activities of North African merchants it
brought with it a system of literacy and the basis for a
system of education. Arabic played a role similar to that
played by Latin in Medieval Europe. And just as the Roman script
was used in Europe for people to write their own languages, so in West Africa the Arabic
script was eventually used for writing some African
languages spoken by Muslims, most notably Fulfulde, the
language of the Fulani people, while widely disseminated
over West Africa from Senegal and Guinea to the Cameroon. Hence, through Islam, much of West
Africa became literate and members of such societies became
educated and even [inaudible]. Koranic learning with ability to
read the Arabic script was begun by children from about the
age of six to eight years old. And the idea of receiving
education was so compelling that Koranic classes even
attracted some non-Muslims to send their children to them. The later 18th century
Scottish traveler, Mungo Park, observed this while
staying in a village if what is now the Republic of Mali. He said, “I’ve observed the peoples
at Kamalia where most of them — I have observed that the
peoples at Kamalia where most of them, the children are pagans. Their parents, therefore,
have no predilection for the doctrines of Mohammad. Their aim was their
children’s improvement.” He noted, too, that young
people graduated, quote/unquote, from their schools in a
manner he seemed familiar with from his European experience. And he put it this way. “When any of them has
read through the Koran and performed a certain number of
public prayers, a feast is prepared by the schoolmaster and the
scholar undergoes an examination or, in European terms,
takes out his degree. I attended three different
inaugurations of this sort and heard with pleasure the distinct
and intelligent answers which the scholars frequently have
to the bushreims [assumed spelling], that is, the men of religion, who assembled on these
occasions and acted as examiners. Education clearly thus brought
people into the Islamic faith just as in the colonial area
it brought some of them into the Christian faith. And it helped them more — to have
more extensive literacy in Arabic. As Mungo Park further noted, where the Mohammedan faith is also
introduced the Arabic language with which most of the
Fula’s, that is the Fulani, have a slight acquaintance. Another European traveler,
some two decades later, the Frenchman [foreign words]
observed Muslim education in Senegal, the Kingdom of
Kyor [assumed spelling], and how a man came to be
considered part of the class of religious instructors or [foreign
word] as they are called in French. He said, “Two conditions
are indispensably necessary to procure admission into the
class of [foreign word] — an irreproachable character
and an acquaintance with the Arabic language. The candidate also knows several
chapters of the Koran by heart. And to combine with these
requirements a knowledge of certain Arabic books
which treat of the history of the world and of arithmetic.” Mohammedan priests are always
called upon to divide inheritances which is one of the reasons why
they need arithmetic, of course. African [inaudible] scholars
therefore had to be able to use the Arabic language
and have wider knowledge than just memorizing the Koran even
though this was the foundation stone of the Muslim educational system. Of all the sentence of
advances dynamic education in West Africa before
the 20th century, Timbuktu was undoubtedly
the most celebrated. And its scholarly tradition was
widely disseminated throughout the area. Timbuktu is situated at the
point where the Sahara intersects with the great Niger Waterway,
grew from being a nomad’s camp around 1100 to being a major
center of both commerce and learning in the 16th century. Scholars migrated there from North
Africa and from Saharan oases, and their presence
attracted students from a wide range of
regional locations. One of its most famous scholars was
Ahmad Baba, born in 1864, died in — sorry, born in 1564, died in 1627. A member of a family that provided
the city with Islamic judges, [foreign word], for
a century-and-a-half. He was a prolific writer, composing
some 70 works, mainly dealing with aspects of Islamic law,
but also including treatises on Arabic grammar and a large
biographical dictionary. His teachers were at first
from among his relatives. But his primary professor,
his sheik, was a man called Mohammad [foreign
word], a [inaudible] scholar from [foreign word] some
500 miles south of Timbuktu. With him he studied
Islamic law very deeply. But also many other fields including
[foreign word], the sayings and actions of the Prophet, exegeses
of the Koran, logic and astronomy. Both Mohammad [foreign word] and his student Ahmad Baba assembled
great libraries of their own. Mohammad [foreign word] had a
great reputation for lending books to students while Ahmad
Baba reported that his library contained
1600 items. But he stated that it was the
smallest of those in his family. Timbuktu in the 16th century
had such a number of teachers and students at the higher
level of Islamic learning that some writers have referred to it quote/unquote
University of Timbuktu. Although the Islamic tradition of
learning is individualized rather than institutionalized, the advanced
nature of much of the instruction in Timbuktu and the fact that it
produced qualified teachers does to some extent justify use
of the term University. This type of learning
was also to be found in other West African Muslim towns but Timbuktu was the
Harvard of West Africa. And its tradition of scholarship
still exists as do some of its scholarly libraries. The same is true in many
other West African locations, from Senegal towns such as Dakar,
Louga, Saint Louis, Kaolack, to Nigeria towns such as Sokoto,
Katsina, Kano, Zaria, Ilorin. The breadth and depth of Islamic
learning in this region is reflected in the literacy and learning of some of those otherwise quote/unquote
ordinary persons who were captured in conflicts, enslaved,
and eventually exported to the Americas, South and North. Noteworthy among these
was the member of a Guinean Fulani ruling
family, generally known under the anglicized form
of his name, Job ben Solomon who was shipped out of the
River Gambia to Annapolis in Maryland in the year 1730. As one of his recent
biographers put it, “When Job appeared before surprised
and sympathetic Europeans prior to the rise of both anti-slavery
and anti-black theories, his impressive manner and
mind and his strong African and Muslim identity attracted
the serious attention of a number of colonial Marylanders in
the old country Englishman.” One of these sympathizers,
Thomas Bluett, persuaded Job to relate the story
of his life, and this was published in London in 1733, and was to
become, in the view of Allan Austin, a model, in part at
least, for later African and African American memoirs
or freedom narratives. A devout Muslim who could not deal
with the limitations placed on him by slavery, Job wrote a letter
to his father in Arabic, and this letter eventually
came into the hands of the philanthropist James
Oglethorpe who was so impressed by this display of literacy
and Job’s firm religious faith that he arranged a
bond to release him. In 1733 a group of Annapolis
gentlemen, also evidently impressed on similar grounds, arranged for Job
to travel to London and from there, after being feted in learned
and political circles, he was allowed to return to Africa. Religious devotion and Arabic
literacy undoubtedly played an important role in gaining respect and ultimately freedom
for this Muslim slave. Another Muslim slave, and Derrick
Beard has just been talking about Omar ibn Said,
was literate in enough to write his own autobiography in
1831 whilst in slavery in America. He originated in Futa
Tooro in Senegal and spent some 25 years studying
in various parts of the region. In slavery he had the good
fortune to end up in the hands of a sympathetic master, John
Owen, and his brother James Owen, a one-time Governor
of North Carolina, who together spared him hard labor
and did their best to convert him to Christianity — though
whether they succeeded or not has been contested — giving him an Arabic
translation of the Bible. Omar gained respect not only
from his masters but more broadly from members of the communities
of Fayetteville and Wilmington in North Carolina on
account of his manifest piety and his ability to write Arabic. In addition to his autobiography
he wrote many smaller items include copies of prayers, even including
“The Lord’s Prayer” and a document in 1890 in which he returned
a prayer for his return to Africa is enshrouded in
numerous quotations from the Koran and from other Arabic writings,
including the opening lines of a 12th-century versed work on
Arabic grammar, the [foreign words] which he must have memorized
during his studies in Senegal. Such slaves, therefore, were
the first representatives of the Islamic faith to
live in the United States, and in some cases the faith was
retained by their descendants. However, slaves were not the only
African path for the dissemination of Islam in the United States. Early in the 20th century
a Sudanese preacher and teacher called Satti Majid came
to America after a brief period in Britain where he had been
acting as a Muslim missionary. He was attracted to
come to America — — because he had heard that Islam
had been coming under attack. So he resolved to go and defend the
faith, and ultimately to promote it. Satti Majid spent some years in
New York where he devoted himself to supporting Muslim
seamen, Arabs and Indians, who had become stranded
there and weren’t able to get jobs to return them home. He appealed to both the
British Consul in Washington and John D. Rockefeller for help. And to administer such
a project he set up the Islamic Benevolent Society. And other times he also established
other Islamic organizations. These included the
Muslim Unity Society, the Islamic Missionary Society,
and the Red Crescent Society. He became known as the Shaykh
Islam of America and remained in the United States until 1929,
when he left for Egypt and then home to the Sudan where he died in 1963. Regrettably we do not
yet know much detail about his activities
in the United States. But the little we do know indicates that he was an active
promotor of the faith. In an interview with a Cairo
newspaper in 1935 he said that he had converted a number
of persons living in America to Islam — Afghans, Indians,
Africans, and Americans. The latter term presumably
meaning Euro-Americans. The role of Africans in
the implantation of Islam in America then is significant. There’s undoubtedly much still
to be learned about the role of [inaudible] African
slaves in this process for as Michael Gomez has suggested, there may have been
some hidden linkage between the Islamic practices
of such early African residents in America and the later
expressions of the faith promoted by such African Americans as Noble
Drew Ali and Elijah Muhammed. Thank you.>>Marieta Harper: She specializes in contemporary Islamic
issues including Islam in America and Women in Islam. An author and edited more than a
dozen books, among themThe Muslimsin AmericaandGender
and Social Change
. With John Esposito, Haddad
co-edited theOxford Encyclopediaof Modern Islamic Worldin 1995. She has taught, lectured in numerous
universities in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, and sits on
the Advisory Board of the Council of Foreign Relations, the
American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies,
as well as many others. Haddad.>>Yvonne Y. Haddad: Thank you. I am speaking out of sequence and I think Professor Diouf
should have been on this panel. I’m going to talk about
the immigrants mostly. And I’m going to talk about
the situation prior — you know, how we got here post 911,
who are they, what are they up to, and what has America done to them? And the question, the last question
is sort of something that came to me after — I mean I recollected
this question because I had once an
interview with a reporter fromNew York Timesand
he was asking me, you know, “These people do not share our
values,” which is something that came up a lot after 911. And he said, “You know,
why don’t they go back to where they came from?” And so I asked him, “What
values are you talking about?” And he said, “Well, you know, they
don’t believe in premarital sex and homosexual lifestyle and drugs.” And I said, “Well, okay. Let’s send them all
back to the Middle East. What are you going to do with
all the Jews who agree with them? Maybe we can send them
back to Israel. What are you going to do with all
the Christians who agree with this, you know, who condemn
this kind of lifestyle?” And his question is, what
are they doing to America? And I told him that my research
into Muslims in America started by studying the work of Sayyid
Qutb who came to the United States as an agnostic and went back as a
member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and eventually wrote the text
Milestones
which became sort of the bible of Islamic
Revolutionary Movement. And I wanted to know what has
American done to this Muslim person and to others who have
come to America. Let me start with 911. The immediate response
of the Muslim community to 911 was one of apprehension. There was this fear that the
American people or the public, American citizens, would take
this terrible opportunity, the horrible act of what happened,
and attack Muslims to pay for it. And they were very gratified that President Bush
took a very strong stand in which he distinguished
between acts of terrors, terrorists, and Islam. They were gratified that he met with
Muslim leaders, they were gratified that he went to the mosque. It was only the second time that an American President
had gone to a mosque. The first one was President
Eisenhower when the mosque here in Washington on Massachusetts
Avenue was inaugurated. It was a long time in-between in
which an American President felt that it was okay to go
to a mosque because up until then America had identified
itself, unconsciously maybe, or consciously in some people’s
mind, as a Judeo-Christian country. America is changing. It’s not only that Muslims are here. We have Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs,
and a variety of other religions that are now part of the
American, you know, environment. And America has not
addressed this issue. Quite a few of our Senators and
Congressmen continue to talk about America as Judeo-Christian
country as though there is no room for other people to have an input. Now there were some incidents
against Muslims and Arabs and, you know, first incident was against
an Egyptian Copt who was Christian. And the majority of Arabs in
the United States are Christian. We expect, you know,
somewhere estimate about 2 million Arab Christians
live in the United States and about 1 million Muslims. But the Arabs and Muslims
seem to be interchangeable in the mind of many Americans. The majority of Muslims in
the United States, you know, some people think that
they are African Americans. Others think that they
are from South Asia. But it is definitely from, you
know, from a variety of surveys that people have conducted, Muslims
in the United States are a minority in Islam, just as they are
a minority in the world. And a Muslim community in the united
States reflects the composition of the Muslim community
in the world. Now, what happened is, right after
911 is that the American press went into a special mode of trying to
explain Islam to the American people because suddenly the American
people woke up and discovered that their next door
neighbor is a Muslim, and they were sort of scared. I remember one time about 10
years ago I got a phone call from a reporter from theChristian
Science Monitor
, and she said, “I want to write an article
about Muslims in America.” And I said, “Why do you want to
write on this topic and why now?” And said that her next door
neighbors have just moved in and they were Tunisians. And she was worried that while they
were playing with their, you know, guns and bombs, that her
whole place would blow up. And I said, “Well, you know, I think
you should go and talk to them.” And she said, “Can I do that?” And I said, “Why not? Just knock on the door, tell them
you’re writing an article on Muslims in America, and interview them. And ask them about their
grenades and bombs.” So she went and knocked on the door. And I forgot about her. A few days later she called
and said, “Dr. Haddad, thank you very much for that
very important suggestion.” She knocked on the door,
they invited her to dinner. She had a great time. And then she said something that
still — I can still hear it. She said, “You know, they’re people
like us, they’re people like us.” And I think that the first reaction of the American press was what
I increasingly call Islam 101. And, basically, it was
this introduction to Islam, the five pillars of Islam. This is what Muslims believe. They pray five times a day. There are five schools
of Islamic Law, and so everything is
five’s and five’s. And so all Islam can
be reduced to that. But it was an effort to explain
Islam to the American people. And there was a great deal of
support from a variety of areas within the American population. There were the women in Michigan
who put on a headscarf and went to school that day in
solidarity with Muslim women that felt constrained, that
people had spat at them and tried to pull their headscarf off. There were women from various areas
that offered to do the shopping for Muslim women who
wearing a scarf, or walk with them to
the grocery store. There were people from mosques — from churches and synagogues
who offered to stand vigil to protect Muslim institutions
in the United States. And there were Muslims who
were elated at what happened. And I heard one Muslim say, “We
couldn’t have spent $1 billion to do as much dowah, which is
Islamic propagation in America. In a sense there was a by-product of
101 in which America was introduced to Islam, and all the Korans sold
out, and translations of the Koran, and books on Islam were being
bought all over the place. Now what happened after that is
about three months after 911. Something happened. And, you know, so those of us who’ve
been monitoring this have an idea of what happened. But basically let me say that the
press switched into Terrorism 101. So that in asking — rather
than asking who are the Muslims, suddenly the question is
why are Muslims terrorists? What is it in Islam
that is terrorists? What is jihad? Why do they hate us? Now the question of why do
they hate us was there even when the press was doing Islam 101. And what happened is that
you had a variety of people, most of them from the think
tanks around the Washington. I’m not wearing any armor to protect
me, but basically what they said, one after the other, is they
hate us because of our values, not our policies, but our values. And then they identified
the value as, you know, because we have a democracy,
because we are — you know, we have a very
progressive country, we have human rights, et cetera. And what was interesting
was almost every one of them was a policy-maker. And every one of them was
defending the policies that he had instituted
that brought us to 911. And probably the best way that
it has been categorized — I heard Vergam [assumed spelling]
yesterday say it out loud, and it’s the first
time I hear it on TV. But there are quite a few of
us have been whispering it. It’s the policy, stupid. There was been several policies that
the United States had propagated in the last 10 years or so, since the Madrid Agreement,
which led us to 911. And there are people in the policy
industry, whether think tanks or former administration people, and
I apologize to anybody who’s here in the audience who was involved
in these, who gave us some policies to let — that led to that event. But the question is, is there
a difference between the ones that perpetrated that act
and the Arab Muslims who live in the United States, because most
of them, as far as we can tell, most of the people
who have been accused of perpetrating the act were here
illegally, they were not immigrants. Now, who are the Muslims of America, people who have put roots
in the United States? Today we have our — probably sixth
generation of American-born Muslims in the United States,
immigrants who came from Lebanon and Syria in the 1870s. Some of them will tell you
that the first language spoken in the United States when
it was discovered was Arabic because Luis de Torres,
who was on the ship that brought Columbus was the first
one to address the American Indians who came to meet the ship in Arabic. Columbus was looking
for Prester John. He was looking for the
other people who are going to have a pincer operation
to contain Islam and he brought Luis Torres with him. Now, I’ve seen some
Jewish sources that say that he was a Jewish person. But the point is he spoke both
Hebrew and Arabic, and we know that. And so some people speculate that
his Arabic name is [foreign words]. That’s not the point. The point is that we know that
immigrants started coming in 1870s. Their children have
fought in American wars. We have — I have collected a whole
set of pictures from Detroit area where you have people who
fought in the First World War. You have some communities
that were totally decimated. Cedar Rapid, Iowa sent
its young people. They never came back. And, you know, 1911 you
have in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, one of the first mosques built. There were over a hundred
Lebanese Muslims there and 1978 the mosque was demolished
and there were no Muslims left. But most of them went
to the First World War. Some of them died and
the rest probably settled in Dearborn or in Ohio. And what you have is a people who
fought in the Second World War. Yeah. In the first days
during the Second World War in the Air Force was Mr. Igram
who started the Federation of Islamic Associations
of North America. He came out of South Dakota. You have — then you have people
who fought in the Viet Nam War and they have been American, they
have been — as Americans you can. They have fought for American wars. Now that is the immigration
that was stopped in 1924 when America changed its immigration
laws to keep a lot of people out. But then we have a different
kind of immigration that starts after the Second World War,
and that is the beginning of the coming of the brain drain. There were Arab students
that were recruited from all over the Arab world and brought
to the United States to be trained to be sent back with the hope that they are going to
become pro-American. Anti-Communist was part of our
strategy during the Cold War. By 1965, when the Asia
Repeal Act was instituted, basically the immigration was
open to people of Asian background and we have a continuation of
the brain drain with the coming of Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis
who were doctors and engineers and a part of the brain drain. If you go to San Jose there
is one mosque which has over 325 computer engineers
with MAs and PhDs. So there have been — and, you know, the Pakistani Medical Association
has over 2000 medical doctors. The Arab Medical Association
has thousands of doctors. So they have been part
of the people ministering to the needs of the United States. What happened is, and after that
we have a new sort of immigration because there were laws that were — you know, our immigration laws
were changed so that Muslims from South Asia couldn’t
come to the United States in the numbers they did after ’65. And that was by an act of Congress
in which they restricted the coming of people with a British passport. Up ’til then we were welcoming
people with a British passport and then because Pakistanis
and Indians who had lived in the United Kingdom were coming on this immigration
loophole if you want. So it was stopped and instead we
shifted to importing Irish people. What happened after that
is we have then most of the newer people have been
coming either as chain migration, coming to live with their
relatives, or as refugees. And there is a great deal of
difference between the immigrants who came as part of the
brain drain and the refugees. And the refugees have come from
Somalia, from Iraq, from Palestine, from Afghanistan, from
Bosnia, and Lebanon. Some of the Lebanese refugees
who came from South Lebanon after the Israeli invasion of
South Lebanon are illiterate in both Arabic and
English when they came. So that you get PhDs on one side
and illiterate people, you know, from Afghanistan and Somalia also
that have come to the United States. How have they fared
in the United States? Well, the United States had
special stereotypes for them. I personally — who
— I’m not a Muslim. Yesterday somebody asked me that. I should go teach Islam in Cairo
because he thought I was a Muslim. And I had to correct him. But, you know, it’s part of this
misinformation that everybody with an Arab name must be a Muslim. Anyway, when I first emigrated
to the United States in 1963, the dominant stereotype of Muslims
and Arabs in the United States was of the camel jockey, somebody
on the periphery of America. And I remember going on
a trip with wives from — faculty wives from Princeton because
my husband was teaching there. And one woman asked me, she
said, “You have a slight accent. Where are you from?” And I said, “Jordan,” because
my husband’s Jordanian. I had a Jordanian passport. And said, “Georgia?” “No, Jordan.” “Oh, King Hussein, Lawrence of
Arabia riding into the sunset.” And then she turned
to me and she said, “Whoever civilized you did
a very good job” [laughter]. And that is, that is the stereotype
that Muslims and Arabs have had to live with in the ’60s, one
in which they were uncivilized, and if they could speak English,
somebody must have civilized them. By the ’70s the stereotype
shifted and they became all part of the oil sheik syndrome because
it comes after the 1973 oil boycott and suddenly the Muslims
are a threat to America’s economic welfare. And you have these cartoons
in which every Muslim walks, and then he has four
wives sort of, you know, sort of traipsing behind
him a few steps behind. And probably the best description
of that would be the cartoon of “Dennis the Menace” in which he
runs home and he says to his mother, “You know, the Arabs have
stolen the Thanksgiving dinner of our neighbors.” And what happened is they
were eating hamburger because they couldn’t
afford the turkey. Why? Because of the price of oil. So Arabs became a threat to
America’s economic welfare. By the 1980s it shifted and they
became the terrorists over there. And the press had a great
deal of terrorism movies. I won’t go over them but anybody
who’s interested in how Arabs and Muslims have been
depicted in American movies, there is a recent book published
by Dr. Shaheen in which he goes over 990 movies from the time of
the silent movies in which Arabs and Muslims have been depicted. And in over 990 movies
he finds only three, only three in which they’re
depicted as, you know, sort of regular guys,
regular human beings. In all the rest they are, you
know, what he calls the bombers, the rag-heads, and
the belly dancers. But basically they are all — and the name of the book
isReel Bad Arabsand the “Reel” is R-E-E-L. And I recommend you look at
it because it tells you how over a century Muslims and Arabs
have been stereotypes and depicted in these sort of parts of the
unconscious of the American people. By the 1990s the stereotype
shifted again, and they became not only terrorists
who are a threat to some people over there, but also part of an
evil that has to be wiped out. And there’s a difference between
a terrorist that you can bring to justice and try and execute, and
to somebody’s who identified as evil that has to be eradicated. And it becomes your
duty, your divine duty. I mean, all religions have
asked people to get rid of evil, so that increasingly in the
press this terrorism 101 that has taken place — increasingly
you will find that people, you know, that Chris Matthews on MSNBC or
O’Reilly on FOX or Linda Gradstein on NPR, basically there
are questions, there can — contextualization, their attacks, are definitely what
is wrong with Islam. Why are they terrorists? And so and so forth. Now — two minutes, okay. I’ll try and finish before then. How have the Muslims
adjusted to America? When they came, America
was, you know, it was — the dominant theme of
America was this is a country that demanded Anglo conformity. And they did. If you look at the records, they
called their imams “our minister,” or the Koran “our Bible,”
mosque, “our church.” Part of it is because the American
public had no idea what they were talking about if they
used the Arabic words. And part of it is because
they wanted to meld. That was part of the melting pot. And you will see that — if
you look at the architecture of the first mosques they built, they looked like congregational
churches. They tried to fit within
the environment. It’s not until the ’70s and
’80s that you begin to have, except for the mosque in
Washington, D.C., which was built by the Embassies, you begin
to have purposeful mosques, mosques that looked — you know,
or cathedral mosques or mosques that looked Islamic and you begin
to have people saying, “Well, I want to put a dome
on top of the mosque,” or put a minaret on
top of the mosque. But basically identify
it publicly as Islamic. And there were several things
that brought this about. Part of it was there was some
funding from foreign sources to support the building of
mosques in the United States. That came to an absolute
and total end by 1990. And then there was this feeling of
confidence of belonging to America and trying to find a niche
where Muslims can fit within the American mosaic and
create the space for themselves. Nineteen-ninety, during the Gulf
War, there was pressure from Saudi, Arabia for Muslims to condemn —
not only to condemn Saddam Hussein, that is for Muslims in the
United States, they all did, but also to support
American intervention. And they brought a sheet of
paper and asked them to sign, and they were against it, so Saudi,
Arabia, forthwith [inaudible]. And for a few years the Muslim
community in North America stumbled and didn’t know what to do. A headquarters in Indiana, you
know, they had to shut it down. Basically, they couldn’t afford
somebody to answer the phone even. And then they said, we
don’t need them anymore. And basically they went
into their own pockets and started rebuilding —
building, constructing mosques. So then I have a list here
of the mosques that — and development of mosques. One I [inaudible] in 986. These are mosques and centers. There were 598 mosques in 1986 and about five months ago I got
the information from Dr. Nimmer who is writing a book on Muslim
institutions in North America and his calculation is at
present there are 1372. So you have a major growth
in the number of mosques and centers in the United States. And a lot of this has come from
the fact that Muslims began to feel comfortable
in the United States, most comfortable during the
last election where they came out from the mosques
and decided they wanted to participate in the
election process. They endorsed George Bush and
about half of them voted for him. Many people believe that
the vote of the Muslims in Florida was what delivered
the election to George Bush because there was a greater deal of
support for George Bush in Florida from the Muslim community. Today the Muslims are still
eager to belong in America. The question is whether America is
going to be able to accommodate them on equal terms, because at the
moment there is still a feeling that when President Bush
said “You’re either with us or with the terrorists,” he definitely left no
wiggle-room for anybody. And there is this feeling that
the press believes that, too. And that the — there is this
special division between us and them, good and evil, and it’s
gliding over, so that if you look across the Muslim world
today you will see that the United States is losing
the propaganda war because of some of the statements that our
policymakers are making. And I think I better stop. I see her eyes staring at me.>>Marieta Harper:
Thank you, Dr. Haddad. At this point in time I’d like to entertain some
questions from the audience. We’ll have about 15
minutes to do that. And also an opportunity for you to have a little coffee
break if you want. Where are the mics? Okay. We have one. Where are the questions? All right. So the gentleman over
to my left, over here. I have — I have two — well,
that wasn’t a gentleman, but we’ll take you for right now. Then the gentleman up front.>>Should I start here first?>>Marieta Harper: Yes, you may.>>Thank you. Well, I would like to thank all the
panelists for their representations. And I have a [inaudible] on Dr.
Yvonne Haddad’s presentation. The Muslim block vote
that was done in the 2000, it was not done by the mosques. It was done by the National American
Muslim Political Organizations which have a coordinating
council that did back, and according to that they did make
a choice between the two candidates. And because of the responsiveness of then Governor Bush
they did endorse him. So just to set the record straight. Thank you.>>Yvonne Y. Haddad: I accept that.>>Marieta Harper: Okay.>>Yvonne Y. Haddad: No problem.>>Marieta Harper: The
gentleman up front. Okay.>>My question, too,
is to [inaudible]. It is on your last comment,
whether America will abate Muslims. Now the one — the way Muslims are
being treated after the 911 event — and, really, I have lived in this
country for a quarter century. I did not see this America. Now Americans are very tolerant,
much more than France and some of the European countries so
far as religion is concerned. But yet a neighbor started
talking to neighbors. People never stared at me
during the last quarter century. For the first time after 911
I saw people staring at me. My — a Pakistani boy who is friend
of my daughter, he was [inaudible]. Now to what do you attribute that? It is kind of — is it
— it is not religion. People are very tolerant,
as you said.>>Yvonne Y. Haddad:
Well, I really don’t — I mean, I think it’s a combination
of racism and also what kind of religion is tolerated in America. Because I was at a meeting of
the World Council of Churches, which was on Christian-Muslim
relations in Cairo, in December. And there was one person who came
from Gatare and he was responsible for schools for the Organization of
the Islamic Conference in Africa. And he told me that the American
Embassies were escalating what they are teaching in their schools,
what they’re teaching about Islam. And he was very distressed about
it, and he said, “You know, they can ask the — the can
interview the professors, they can interview the principal,
they can interview the students, they can look at the textbooks, but they cannot tell me
how to interpret Islam.” And, basically, there is this
effort to say that this kind of interpretation of
Islam is unacceptable. And the question is, who
decides what Islam is acceptable? And given the fact that there are no
— there is no Pope in Islam, okay? Who is going to decide? I mean, for example, I’ve heard some
Muslims say that President Bush went to the mosque and said, “Islam
is a religion of peace.” A lot of Muslim’s believe
it’s a religion of peace. But it’s also a religion of justice. And unless you have
justice, you have no peace. And so if the issue
of justice is missing, then [inaudible] interpreted
right at — or sanctioned by the
President of the United States in the way Muslims see it. I know what I’m saying
is controversial. Don’t attack me. I’m just reporting to you what
I gather, the information. Now what this one guy said to me is, “Are they checking the
Jewish schools in Brooklyn? Because Brooklyn produces the
settlers that go to the West Bank and people who go who
hate Christians and Muslims carry Uzi machine guns. They call them the
Brooklyn Cowboys.” And the question is, what kind of Judaism are they
teaching in Brooklyn? He said, “Are they
also checking what kind of Christianity is being taught
by the Fundamentalist Christians?” So he had some issues. The other thing I want to
report to you that came out of a conference I attended in
January, just a couple of weeks ago, and it was sponsored by Tony Blair
and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and it was Christian-Muslim
relations. And there was one guy who is a
PhD in Islamic Law, from Egypt, and he was asking about
American racism in the treatment of the prisoners, or the detainees. How come Walker is put into a
building where no one can see him and how come the Muslims are
paraded like animals in cages? And this is the way
they perceive it. So that they perceive that there is
an innate racism in American policy. And they see that America has
sanctioned a certain type of Islam, but not the type of
Islam that they want. I mean, I’ll tell you one
more thing and I’ll shut up. Let other — please
ask the other people. I got some phone calls. There was, you know, they kept
asking a certain type of questions and the press runs in herds. And, you know, a new question comes and then everybody’s
asking the same question. And the question was, who
is the moderate Muslim? AndNewsweekwanted
to put him on the, on the front page ofNewsweek. And I wondered, you
know, the poor guy. The minute we identify
him, he’s gone. I mean, who is the moderate Muslim. And I asked him? I said, “What are you looking for?” He said he wanted somebody
who separates religion from state, who privatizes religion. That would be the acceptable person. Will the Muslims of the world
accept that definition of Islam?>>Dr. Hunwick. For those of us who
are still in Islam 101, I first of all thank you
for your essay there. But I’d like to ask — you
mentioned the incursion of Islam into early Africa by the merchants. Now some of us have heard that there
were also several violent conquests where people were converted
by violence. You spoke to the impact of
the Arabs going into Africa and how the literacy was improved. But were there other conditions which historically might
have attributed to our, some of our stereotypes and
beliefs as of this time? Are those things true about
the conquest, the violence? I’ve heard Islam is a religion of
peace, but still somehow in the back of my mind I have, from my
history, that there were conquests, that the converts were gained
through these kinds of things.>>John O. Hunwick:
Well it’s certainly true that North African was
subject to conquests. I’m not even going to say
it was an Islamic conquest. It was an Arab conquest where
the Arabs happened to be Muslims. And maybe that was what
also inspired them to do it. But Sub-Saharan in
Africa, black Africa, was never attacked
in that kind of way. It’s entirely — came across
— I said West Africa — by merchants who were doing
trade, particularly trade in gold, from North Africa into West Africa. They were Muslims. And they came. It was their influence that
brought Islam to the societies in the West African regions.>>What made you interested
in studying Islam?>>Marieta Harper:
Could you repeat that? Can you repeat that?>>Dr. John: What made you
interested into studying Islam?>>Yvonne Y. Haddad:
Why did you study Islam?>>[Inaudible] interesting.>>What made you to study Islam?>>John O. Hunwick: Well, very
early in my career I worked in a Muslim society which really
caught my imagination and interest. That was — of course I’m British
by origin though I’m American now. That was back in the 1950s when I
was serving in the British Army. That was in what is now Somalia. It was then British Somaliland. And so I decided when I came back
from there that I would study Islam. And the best way to do
that was to learn Arabic. That’s why I went to the School
of African Studies in London and did my first degree in Arabic.>>I have a question
directed to Mr. Beard. I spent 20 years in the military. I was stationed in Panama, pre
and post so-called just cause. And I came across information
that the — there were a tribe of Africans who were present in
a area called Darian. And that they are mentioned in the
explorer or the exploiter Balboa. That in his diaries that he saw
black people, or he saw black men, and they were [inaudible] any
background on these Africans who obviously made the Transatlantic
trade before the slave trade?>>Derrick J. Beard: Ah, let’s see. Somehow. It’s interesting that
you mentioned Panama because along with the manuscript of Omar ibn Said
which was collected by [inaudible] like there was a collection of
three Arabic manuscripts written by a Sheikh [foreign word]. Sheikh [foreign word] was a
Sheikh Muslim from Sierra Leone who was living and
working in Panama, working there with
the Panama Railroad. And he wrote a series of
four manuscripts in Arabic in the year of 1854 to about 1856. I have three, and I could
share with you the manuscript and also the translation
of those manuscripts. I’m familiar with Panama and Panama
at that time was a part of Colombia. And in Colombia, particularly
Carta Haina which was a slave port for South America, or particularly
that region in South America, you had a number of [inaudible]
that would come in and people that were brought from
Senegal, Mali, Cambia, the Gulf of Guinea, Guinea. And, again, many of these
people were Muslim — Hausas, Fulanis, Mandingos,
Mendes, Fulas, et cetera, et cetera. And there are — presently
there are retentions of Islam in South America. I know of one guy who
was actually Colombian. His name is [foreign words]. And he lives on the Pacific. That whole region, particularly
the Pacific Coast going from [inaudible] all the way
along the Pacific of Colombia, Ecuador all the way to Northern
Peru is about 90% African today. Okay. These people were Maroons. They fled from the plantations
of Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, et cetera, and they fled to the
jungle along the Pacific Coast. And they stayed there,
isolated, up to the 20th century. And only recently they had roads and
people, Christians, missionaries, that came in there and began to
convert a lot of these people. But they still have their African,
many of the African traditions. And you will find elements of Islam. As I mentioned, this
guy’s [foreign word]. His – which we trace
that name to Mali. And his family was able
to retain their name for almost four centuries. And you have quite a few people
down there that have those name. And in Panama, the area
you’re speaking about there, I talked to Panamanian Muslims and
there apparently there is a mosque, they say, somewhere in the jungle. But I have not gone there nor have
I seen any actual physical evidence. A friend of mine, Mustafa
Benema [assumed spelling], he’s a teacher at Brooklyn College. He was in Panama last year doing
research on Sheikh [foreign word]. But unfortunately, you know, Panama doesn’t have any vital
statistics prior to like 1900. So if you want records
you have to kind of go into the church, you know. And then there’s just
this folklore legends that you have to kind of explore.>>Marieta Harper: We
have two more questions.>>[Inaudible] of America Radio. It’s wrong also to think that the
other side does not have the same debates we’re having right now. Basically I’ll go back
to Mrs. Yvonne Haddad. The other side is also asking. It includes also the
African countries. It’s not only the Middle
East itself. What type of Islam do they want? I’m just translating here
basically word-to-word. How did daily editorials
have the daily tentatives to explain what America wants? It seems to me they think Europe
has [inaudible] understanding, probably for [inaudible] reasons. But so far the other side, the
Muslims all over the world, including these we just — which is
just a tiny portion of the whole — of all that [inaudible]
is still asking what type of Islam America wants
now, in the future. And also they seem to
be surprised at the — to what some describe as a naïve
question, why do they hate us? They answer, both, the
[inaudible] and institutionalized. We do not hate you. Who created that? Who created the [inaudible]? Therefore, knowing all what you
know, and I’m sure if you go to the other side within — your peers on the other
side of the world — there wouldn’t be too
much differences. What is the solution to [inaudible]? Is it in the school level? Should we go back to the ABCs of
schooling on both sides to bring up basically both worlds. Because the same questions are
being asked on the other side. And nobody seems to
have answers so far. Not the institutions, rest, and politicians basically do not
have it according to what it seems. Thank you.>>Yvonne Y. Haddad: Do
you want to answer him?>>Marieta Harper: [Inaudible]
a question over here.>>John O. Hunwick: No.>>Yvonne Y Haddad: No. I don’t think that there are answers
for this because what I read — you know, I read the
Arab Press
too. They’re asking, why
does America hate us? Yeah. And I think that
there is some kind of a gap. I think one of the things
that’s worthy of looking at at the moment is the fact
that America is in the process of defining itself again. In the ’60s it became fashionable
to have a hyphenated identity. So you became, you know,
I’m Irish-American, a Jewish-American, and whatever. If you look at the ads that
are being put on television, there is no room for hyphenation. They all say, I am American,
regardless of who they are. And I think that we are going
through some kind of process of brainwashing ourselves, that
we want to get away from any kind of identity with wherever people
left behind, and, in a sense, get rid of history
which is something that the United States
has had before. I mean, the United States is
a country that is constituted of people from all over the world. They come with a lot of hatreds
for each other and with a lot of histories of genocides and wars. And one of the ways in which the
United States has constituted itself and was able to sort of
create an American society is to say let’s forget
about that history. And that’s why they don’t
teach a lot of history. They teach social studies
and conflict management and the peaceful solutions,
and that kind of stuff. The question is that, you know,
in the rest of the world part of their identity, part
of their national identity as they were formed into nation
states is a particular understanding of history. And generally it’s anti-colonial
history because all countries of the Muslim world have been ruled
by Britain or France or Germany or somebody, except
for Saudi, Arabia, and part of Iran and Afghanistan. But all of them have known the
boot of a foreign occupier. And so part of their identity is
getting rid of foreign occupation. And what has happened is that a
lot of American policy right now — all you have to do is turn on the
TV and they get CBS and NBC and CNN, and they hear the policymakers
saying it’s all right to be hypocritical, you know. Look at the British. All empires of the world
have been hypocritical. The British were hypocritical,
the French were hypocritical. I’m sorry [laughter]. But that’s what they’re saying. I’m just quoting. And so — I mean I take
refuge in being a historian and not a political scientist. I can’t tell you where
we’re going to go.>>Do you believe African
countries within [inaudible] also?>>Yvonne Y. Haddad: Some of them. Some of them. It would –>>Do you think it’s also in Africa?>>Yvonne Y. Haddad:
It’s everywhere. It’s everywhere every day. And it is within Islam itself. What kind of an Islam do we want? But part of it is there are nation
states reacting to colonialism. And the unfortunate thing is
that we’ve had people like — you know, the President
of the United States and Secretary Powell have said
they — we in the civilized world. That means that they
are uncivilized. That is a no-no word because it
brings back the French colonial civilizing mission. And what was part of the
civilizing mission in Algeria? Get rid of Islam. The only way that an Algerian
could become a citizen is if he renounces the Sharia. Are we asking the same thing? I think it is unconscious. But for them it is not unconscious
because they are grounded in this anti-colonial history. And we’ve been using terms that
come right out of a century ago, whether it’s, you know,
Huntington’s you know –>>John O. Hunwick: Civilization.>>Yvonne Y. Haddad: Yeah,
The Civilization Struggle. That was what the missionaries went with at the beginning
of 19th century. It was this conflict between
Islam and the Christian world, and they wanted to
Christianize everybody. And so we’re resurrecting demons that people have thought
have been put to rest. And we are unconscious
because we have, as Americans, no concept of history.>>John O. Hunwick: But
this is where President Bush and Osama bin Laden have
a similar point of view. The world consists of two
kinds of people, us and them. And the clash of civilizations
is taking place. So that’s a view they share I think. But let me just make
one other remark as regards how the United States
is beginning to look at Islam. Nowadays the word Islam has
become part of our vocabulary and you find it on the
news, on the television, in the newspapers, and so on. Nobody things they have
to kind of explain it. But even more than that words like
Ramadan and Hajj have also come into our vocabulary, which shows
that little by little the notion of Islam as an American
religion is being accepted.>>Marieta Harper:
The last question.>>I won’t keep you
from your coffee break, so I’ll just ask a brief
question from Derrick. Derrick, I’m grateful you
shared your information on Omar, a fascinating historical figure. I’ve been a great admirer
of Omar the caliph, and my own son is called Omar. My question is, where can one get
information about Omar or Umar. Is there some book or
accessible literature available?>>Derrick J. Beard:
Well we did a symposium about three years ago I guess,
1998, at Harvard University, which was sponsored by
the Longfellow Institute. And, yeah, there we go. In fact –>>Say it again.>>Derrick J. Beard: — people here
on the panel was a part of that. That’s Sylvaine’s book, Diouf’s
book,Servants of Allah. She’s here, the author. She has quite a bit of information
about Omar and other slave Muslims. There is a new book out called
The Multilingual Anthology
of American Literaturewhich was
edited by two Harvard professors, Marc Shell and Professor Werner
Sollars, and that’s available through New York University Press. The Longfellow Institute is
doing a monogram on Omar itself. And I’m not sure of the exact date when that’s supposed
to be published. It’s coming out through John
Hopkins University Press. But, again, that could
be, hopefully, this year.>>John O. Hunwick:
Yeah, I wish I knew, because I have an article
[laughter].>>Derrick J. Beard:
That’s right, uh-huh. But — and if you want to get
a translation or Arabic copies, Eric’s copy, you can contact
me and I can give you a copy. No problem. Thank you.>>Marieta Harper: Thank you. With that, you have five minutes to have some coffee before
we go to the second panel. Thanks. Let’s give a hand to our
panelists for the first panel.>>Prosser Gifford: Thank you. We’re now in for a second treat. Marieta Harper, whom you saw was
the Chair of the first panel, had a significant role in
putting this whole thing together. And although she was quite
modest and didn’t indicate that, I think you should all know that. We are, again, going
to have an order that is not really
strictly chronological. I don’t think that makes a
great deal of difference. But it is occasioned by
the fact that a number of our eminent panelists
have to teach and, therefore, have to squeeze these
presentations here in and around a very busy
schedule and other commitments. We begin with Akbar Ahmed who
holds the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, School
if International Service at the American University. I apologize for reading what
you have on your yellow sheets, but the yellow sheets are not on
the camera, so I really do have to indicate something by way
of an introduction on camera. Professor Ahmed holds a PhD
for the University of London, has served as Pakistan’s High
Commissioner in the United Kingdom. He’s the author of many books on contemporary Islam
includingDiscovering Islam,Making Sense of Muslim
History and Society
which, as many of you probably know, was the basis of a BBC
six-part TV series. And his Jinnah Quarter consists of
a feature film about Jinnah who was, of course, the prime
creator of Pakistan, the documentaryMr. Jinnah, the
Making of Pakistan
, his book,Jinnah, Pakistan, and Islamic
Identity
, and a graphic novel about which I’m ashamed
to say I don’t know much. He is a recipient of a number
of awards including the Star of Excellence from Pakistan, and the
Sir Percy Sykes Memorial Medal given by the Royal Society for
Asian Affairs in London. So, Professor Ahmed. [ Applause ]>>Akbar S. Ahmed:
Thank you, Professor, for that very warm introduction. A key question that will face
all of us in America and abroad, all human societies, will be
how are we able to live together as a multi-cultural, multi-religious
entity, because the processes of globalization are
creating so much turmoil through all sorts of processes. And this idea will
relate to what I’m going to be sharing with you this morning. My title for those of
you who looked at this — the proceedings for this morning
will note is “A New Andalucía?” You will also note I have put a
question mark after the title. For me, Andalucia symbolizes
something in our history and world history. It symbolizes a time almost a
thousand years ago when Jews, Christians, and Muslims were able
to live together in great harmony. This wasn’t just an ideal
construct, a theory. But it created something. If you look at the literature,
the art, the level of thought at that time, you will be astounded. Some of the greatest
writers and thinkers come from that era in world history. Above all, it was a society where people were able
to talk, talk freely. There was open debate. So Jews, Muslims, Christians,
talked to each other. It was through this civilization
that Europe and the West learned of its own history and its
own foundations, the Greeks. If there’d been no Muslims in Spain
perhaps the Renaissance may not even have taken place. And I came across several great
scholars, American scholars, scholars like Professor Tamara
Sun, Professor John Esposito, Professor Dinah Eck, who were
exploring this idea of America as a New Andalusia,
America as a society which was relatively comparatively
but very advanced in terms of peoples and cultures
living together. There was a genuine feeling
of welcome to the immigrant because America essentially
is a society of immigrants welcoming
other immigrants. And that gave it a certain flavor
and a character in America. I discussed this with a colleague
of mine at Princeton University in making a comparison between
European experiences with Islam and American experiences. And he told me, a very wise
Professor of Anthropology who studied the Muslim world,
he said the difference is that in America the door’s open. There is no restriction. You want to make a mosque,
go and make a mosque. You want to make an Islamic
center, go and make it. Of course, that is on one level. We know that on another level
there are three distinct streams in the American Muslim community — the Afro-American stream
of which we’ve heard with such eloquence this
morning, the Arab stream from the Middle East,
and then the Asian stream which came more recently. We also know that these
three streams run parallel, sometimes they fuse, sometimes
they maintain their own identity. We also know that there are
individuals in the first stream, individuals who are towering, who are in a sense gigantic
figures acting as bridges between not only the
three streams but outside. And I refer to figures like
Malcolm X and Muhammad [inaudible] as much an Afro-American stars. He is an American stars. He’s much a Muslim star. So for someone in Pakistan,
my country, he’d be a complete superstar. Now, September 11 and
Osama bin Laden — Osama bin Laden challenges
many things on September 11. And I believe one of the great, great ideas that he challenges
is the idea of the New Andalusia. He does challenge that. And as a result of this
we have immediately after September 11 three
things happening — the levels of ignorance about
Islam, the levels of understanding about Islam, and the levels
of hatred against Islam. These three things become
immediately apparent after September 11. And you have so many cases. You have men with beards
wearing a turban. Sometime Sikhs, not even
Muslim, being attacked. You have women wearing the hijab
being abused or humiliated, or forced to take their hijab off. And we suddenly have
a great challenge to the idea of a New Andalusia. At the same time, with
this great challenge, we also have a new opportunity
because there is a genuine interest in Islam after September 11. People want to know about Islam. So matched with the great ignorance on one hand there is
a great interest. And the ignorance cuts
across at all levels. Sometimes I aghast at the media
and the experts on the media. Recently I heard a commentary
on the prisoners in Cuba, and one of the experts was
explaining why the beards of these prisoners were shaved. And the expert was
saying they were shaved so that they could become purer. It was a purification process. And I was aghast. How do you respond to something
which is this level of ignorance? And, really, in a sense that is what
we are up against, the challenges of trying to create understanding and mutual dialog between
the communities. So our work as scholars
interested in Islam in America is really cut out. The great challenge today is how
to explain Islam in an environment which is, A, volatile,
B, often hostile, and C, accumulation of so many years
and years and years of prejudice, history, and negative images. We’ve heard the negative images
that have come from the media, particularly Hollywood and the
films, so I won’t go into that. So Muslims are in a
sense in the dark. Whether people accept that or do
not accept it, anyone I ever name which ends with Ahmed or Amed. Try going to a check-in counter at
an airline with the name like that. You’re going to be looked
over very carefully. You’re going to be
asked to step aside. You’ve suddenly become aware that
whatever you are, whoever you are, you are suddenly representative of
the Islamic civilization as a whole. And why not? Just look at what’s happening. Look at the media. Constantly Islam or
Muslims are in the news. There’s a Muslim story
all the time on the media. [Inaudible], Muslims;
Philippines [inaudible] Muslims. Where are we going next? Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Muslim,
Muslim, Muslim, Muslim. Captives, all Muslims. All captives. Johnny Jihad. Muslims, Muslims, Muslims
are always in the news. So however much we pretend
that we as scholars, we live in our own world, we write
our books, we have nothing to do with the real world, we
are part of the debate. I see all of us facing
several crises. The first crisis, for of these
crises is the crisis of identity. I believe that this has
thrown open the issue of identity in Muslim society. Are we Arabs? Are we Pakistanis? Are we American Muslims? Are we part of the world [inaudible]
or are we only American Muslims, defined politically
and geographically by the borders around America? Number one, identity. Number two, theology. The debate about Islamic self. Does the Koran encourage violence? I’m asked that all the time. And I’m sure other Muslims
are asked that all the time. We need answers. It is not good enough for me to say,
well, you must know we are peaceful, we love you, we love America. Islam is a peaceful religion. That has been the Muslim
response and that just will not do because no one is buying that. After you kill 5000
people or 4000 people, you blow up the [inaudible] you
can’t simply say there is no violence [inaudible] there. We need explanations. We don’t need cliches. So theology. We need the theologians
and the scholars to be giving us the answers rooted
in their knowledge of the Koran and the Hadis and Islamic history. The questions people asking. Three, Muslim leadership. I believe there’s a crisis of Muslim
leadership in America right now. Who are the Muslim leaders? I simply hear people in the
media saying Islam is peaceful, Islam is peaceful. This chant, this incantentiation
[assumed spelling] which doesn’t mean anything. What does this mean Islam
is a peaceful religion? It doesn’t explain anything. We need the Muslim leadership
to connect with the community, number one, their own
community and, number two, with the larger American community. That is not happening. Number four, education. Muslim education and larger American
education, where do they meet? Where do they divert? We hear so much talk
about the madrassa. Have we had position
papers on the madrassa? Do we know anything
about the madrassa? What is the madrassa? The madrassa is the
religious system, the religious education system,
that eventually created the Taliban. But at the same time the madrassa is
the foundation for Islamic learning and has been for the
last thousand years. So does that needed information? What do we need to do
about the madrassa? We also know that there’s a
crisis, not only in Muslim society in analyzing non-Muslims, but in non-Muslims
looking at Muslim society. There’s also a failure in
non-Muslims studying Muslims or commenting on Muslims. I see four experts,
all four non-Muslims, commenting on Muslim issues. And all four having
the same opinion. So A will say Islam
is a violent religion. B will say yes, it’s a
terribly violent religion. C will say it’s an even
more violent religion. And D will agree with this. I don’t see much debate. I don’t see much interaction
of ideas. And when a Muslim expert
often appears in the media he’s often
shouted down. There’s a tendency to
simply dismiss him or her. So there is a problem of
communication right now in the media and we may again say the
media doesn’t have an impact. It’s just the media. But I would like to remind you that the media determines
how ordinary people think in any country. And the power of the
media is so great that this may damage those people
like me who are talking of dialog of civilizations of understanding. It is a very frustrating moment to
be a Muslim in America at this time because I feel that the
challenge is so great. I also know that there are
millions and millions of people on both sides, Muslims
and non-Muslims, who are taking this challenge as an
opportunity to move towards the idea of dialog, to try to
create understanding. And I would like to
end with the notion, with the idea of New Andalusia. Remember that the 21st century
itself will be a century of change, of turmoil, of conflict. We’ve heard the professors talking
about the clash of civilizations. We are seeing in some ways,
whether we agree or not, a clash of civilizations
taking place. It is happening and
there’s no reason to pretend it is not happening. And, therefore, the idea and
ideal idea of a New Andalusia, a land where people are
respected for what they are, a land that respects difference,
a land that we are able to say I am different,
my color is different, my religion is different,
and yet I have respect. I think that is a great ideal. And as a Muslim I would
like to share the vision that the Holy Prophet in the
seventh century gave of this ideal of New Andalusia in the last
great address that he presented to humanity in which he said,
“There is no Arab or non-Arab, there is no black or
there is no white.” And this was the seventh century. This was a thousand years before
anyone was talking about equality. This is the vision that
drives Muslim society. And I believe at that point it meets
the American ideal of New Andalusia. Thank you.>>Prosser Gifford. Thank you very much. An appropriate series of
thoughts from somebody who holds the Ibn Khaldun Chair, the first really great sociologist
I think it’s fair to say, historian, of course, great historian
of the Berbers. But the first great sociological
theorist of the movement of peoples in Northern Africa. We now turn back to a more
historical presentation. At least I believe that’s
what it’s going to be. Sylviane Diouf is the Content
Manager for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture on the African American
Migration Experience Project. And she has done a lot of work on
camera for the PBS seriesThis Farby Faith, African American
Spiritual Journeys
. And it was her book that was held
up at the end of the last panel as evidence that there is indeed
in print a good deal on the subject of her book,Servants of Allah,African Muslims Enslaved
in the Americas
. That book received a number of
awards and she holds a Doctorate in Les Sciences Humaines,
Human Sciences, from the University of Paris. She’s an Adjunct Professor at New
York University, Research Associate at the Center for Historical
Analysis at Rutgers, and a former Diplomat from the
Senegalese Diplomatic Service in both the U.S. and in Italy. Sylviane, it’s yours.>>Sylviane A. Diouf: So I’m going
to take you back to the first panel. I will be speaking about the
African Muslims were enslaved in the Americas. And when we look at the situation
today we see that about 7% of the Muslims in the United
States are Sub-Saharan Africans. But there was a time when they
represented 100% of the Muslims in this country as well as in the
Americas at large in the Caribbean. Those were the first 400 years. Now between the really early
years of the 59 [inaudible] until the 1860s hundreds
of thousands of Sub-Saharan Muslims were
brought to the Americas. There were prisons here but
between 15 and 20% of the 12 to 15 million Africans were swept
in the Atlantic slave trade. About 600,000 Africans
were sent to — but they came to the United
States so we can think that about 100,000
of them were Muslims. Those people were men,
women, children. They were [inaudible] Muslims,
farmers, musicians, cattle herders, craftspeople, any category
that you can think of. But there were also categories
that were specific to the Muslims. For example, they were students
and teachers in Koranic schools. They were scholars, Imam, [inaudible] were memorizers
of the Koran. They were judges in
Islamic [inaudible]. They were political
religious leaders and clerics. Some just like Omar [inaudible]
Said were enslaved here mentioned that before they were brought
to the Americas they had gone to Mecca to make the pilgrimage. Some studied in Egypt
also or in Morocco. Here, in the Americas and the
Caribbean, they did all the work that people were enslaved to do — picking cotton, tobacco,
rice, et cetera. But there is also evidence
that many Muslims were employed as professionals, as slave
drivers, as craftspeople, et cetera. What — but there was one
thing that differentiated them from the rest of the population. Not only the other
people were enslaved, but also many of the unslavers,
and this is the fact as mentioned by Professor Hunwick that some of
them could read and write in Arabic but also in their own language
written in the Arabic script. Now it’s one thing to
know how to read and write and to come here knowing that. It’s another thing to continue
to do so when you’re enslaved. And especially in countries that
forbid slaves to read and write. So, obviously, even though they
kept their skills in the Americas and there are many documents
not only in the United States but in Latin America that
mention that slaves — I mean Muslims were writing. It was a difficult endeavor. Of course they could
not buy paper and ink. It was a very — it was very hard to
do, not only for financial reasons but also because if you were
[inaudible] you were just not supposed to do — buying
ink and paper. So we have an example of
Ibrahim [foreign words] from Guinea was a slave in
Mississippi for 40 years and what he did was when he was —
when the people were taking a break, he was a cotton picker, he
used to write on the sand of the plantation just to make sure
that he did not forget how to write. But in some other countries,
and maybe here in the United States also, it’s just that I haven’t found
the documentation, people were also making
their own implements. They were making ink
as people do in Africa. I found an example of people
from Nigeria would be enslaved in [foreign words] who were
described as making ink and making wooden tablets. This is very interesting because
as Professor Hunwick mentioned the tablets, the Koranic tablets
are used either for talismans or they also are used as a
slate in Koranic schools. So these may indicate that
there were Koranic schools in [foreign words] during slavery. And even though it may seem a little
bizarre this is not the only case. There were many Koranic schools which operated underground
in Brazil. And there was a big mass
enterprising in 1835 in Brazil. And the police went, of course,
through the houses of the Africans and they found the slaves and
they found books, et cetera. And it was revealed that those
schools had been operating for years. And I must say that there
were quite sophisticated. We are talking about
some people were free, but the majority of
them were slaves. I have an interesting quote by the
French Ambassador in Rio who wrote, and I quote, “The Koran was
sold in Rio at 15 to 25 queseros by the French [inaudible]
for showing [inaudible]. We import copies from Europe. Slaves who appear to be
quite poor are willing to make the greatest sacrifices to
acquire this volume, going into debt to do so, and sometimes taking a
year to pay off the bookseller. About a hundred copies of the
Koran are sold every year.” So you can see that even though
people were enslaved what leads all time in urgent money they had,
they [inaudible] separated that to buying the Koran. We also have mentions of
Korans in the United States. Some were given by
priests to the Muslims. Some were smuggled,
if you will, here. There were also people who wrote
— did not have access to a Koran, and they wrote their Koran by rote. I mean this is one thing that
people should be able to do after good Islamic education. John [inaudible] that was mentioned
before wrote two copies of the Koran as he was going to London
back from — back to Senegal. Another in Jamaica,
also that we know of, wrote his own copy of the Koran. [Inaudible] Muhammad from
Guinea, who was enslaved on [inaudible] wrote a
13-page manuscript in Arabic on paper that has been analyzed. And it’s been shown that this
paper was manufactured in Italy for the Muslim market
of North Africa. So we have this Muslim from Guinea
in Georgia writing a manuscript on paper coming from
— I mean made in Italy and which had been then sent to
North Africa and then smuggled in some way by what I call Islamic
networks of traders and sailors to Georgia, to a remote
plantation on the Sea Islands. What is important to see is that Muslim literacy
introduced a subversive element in those slave societies because
they were based on the idea that Africans were
kind of a sub-species, incapable of any intellectual
pursuit. So the idea was that,
well, you know, if these people came here
knowing how to read and write in Arabic, what does it mean? That there are schools in Africa. There’s paper, there’s ink,
there are teachers, students. So what about the idea that all
those people are just savages running around naked
hitting one another. So these opened questions in
the slave societies to the point that in many cases these
Muslims were Sub-Saharan Africans from Senegal, Guinea, Mali,
Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana, were described as not being
Africans but as being Arabs. Now there was also another problem. The fact that paper
was smuggled out, books were also smuggled
in some way. And the fact that there
were Koranic schools — evidence that there was a well-run
organized underground community. And this community
could do something else than just pursue religious
and literary things. It could be used in a
more practical manner. And, of course, we’ve seen in
Guyana, in [foreign words], in Brazil, maybe not — not in
the United States as we know of, but in other countries a
literacy in Arabic used by the slaves to plot revolts. From 1807 to 1835 there were many
Muslim conspiracies enterprising in Brazil. And we found — I mean
the documents exist. They are still here today. And they show maps in Arabic —
maps, blueprints for the revolts, plans, et cetera, of people who
were planning those revolts. They were also writing of another
type which were talismans as they — as you, as well as
I explained earlier. Those [inaudible] talismans
are mainly used by the Sufi and they are like, if
you will, I don’t know, a saint medal in Christianity. They are not revered, but they
are supposed to, you know, to help the person who wears them. So what we’ve seen is that we have
many documents that are still — exist today that were talisman,
that were used during those revolts. So, in fact, the talismans were
also kind of a weapon, if you will, that helped people feel
more secure and more sure of the outcome of the fight. So in the specific
situation of bondage, the literacy of the Africans
provided them an efficient tool that could be used as a weapon. And, of course, it was
discrete because the plans and the letters could go rather
far and very few slaveholders and overseers wrote and read Arabic. On top of it some of those papers
were written in also Mandingo, written in the Arabic script. So it was very difficult
to decipher. Were there written
denunciations of slavery, a kind of a protest literature if
you will in — written by those men? We don’t know. But what we can safely say
is that they were writing for other African [inaudible]
were enslaved, so there was no use
denouncing the situation. Everybody knew exactly what it was. But it’s interesting to look
at texts which were written by African Muslims for the rest of the population,
the white population. I won’t go into the
texts by Omar Said because I don’t think
I would have time. But I will just like to mention one
text which was written in 1834 by — a man from Mali was
enslaved in Jamaica, and he wrote his autobiography
in Arabic. He wrote the first version
while he was still in Jamaica and one part is interesting. He wrote it and then he translated
it into English saying, and I quote, “We were three months at sea
before we arrived in Jamaica which was the beginning of bondage. I have no one to thank but
those who brought me here.” End of quote. Now, the second version
he wrote when he was free in London before going back to Mali. And the second version —
this paragraph reads — “This was the beginning of
my slavery until this day. I tasted the bitterness of slavery
from them and its oppressiveness. But praise be to God, under
whose power are all things.” So once he was safe, he meant —
he made sure that people understood that some people were at
fault for him being enslaved. And he was not thanking them at all. Can we say, as some
people mentioned, that the Muslims were
reclaiming their humanity through the [inaudible]. I would say that people
have to be careful about saying things like that. We’ve seen — I mean, many people
have seen Africans and blacks in general who [inaudible]
which for [inaudible] in 500 years of stereotypes. And there is no indication
at all that Muslims and non-Muslims were
enslaved in the Americas. [Inaudible] themselves
as not human at all. On the contrary, French,
Portuguese, Spanish, British, American sources consistently
mentioned that the Africans thought that they were equal or superior to
the people who had enslaved them. The Muslims have no reason
to think of themselves as pagans, as sub-humans. They certainly felt oppressed. They do not feel — some of
them do not feel inferior but they certainly felt oppressed as
human beings as well as [inaudible]. And literacy had them fulfill
their needs, not only spiritual — intellectual, political, and social. It was a marker, I think, of
identity, not of humanity, of identity as Muslims,
as clerics, as scholars. It meant continuing to be
in the situation of bondage where they had been before,
before they had status, before they had been
teachers or students. And they continued to remain so
even though they were enslaved. Given the number of Muslims
throughout the Americas, why don’t we find more manuscripts? And, of course, I mean they
are the limitation that’s, you know, you can imagine. But I must also say that more and
more manuscripts are cropping up. We found some recently in
Jamaica and in Trinidad. Besides the Omar [inaudible]
there are hundreds of manuscripts in Brazil. And as the topic becomes more — I mean as more and more scholars
are looking into this topic, more and more things
are being discovered that were there all along
just in boxes somewhere. And you know, to conclude, I will
say that a tradition of reading and writing, which in some areas that being established 500 years
even more the slave trade started found a new utility in America. Islam was the fourth behind that. But literacy here had
its own dynamics. It served also other
purposes than just reading of the Koran and the text. In the very harsh [inaudible] were
that they were forced to live in, the literate Africans used
their knowledge to defend and protect themselves, to regain
control through, for example, the talisman and the revolt, over
their lives and over their — the present and future
of their communities. And they also tried
to get their freedom. Their knowledge may have
seemed worthless in these — in the Western environment, but
it proved to be extremely useful as well as extremely
threatening to the enslavers. And those are not the only things that the African Muslims
have left in the Americas. There are many others that can still
be found today in the religions even of people of African descent
who are not Muslims today. As mentioned also earlier,
Vodou has some very distinctive Islamic elements. So does Santeria and Candomble,
as well as other religions. So for 400 and sometimes 500 years, the African Muslims have
been a cultural, social, and spiritual force in America. They have left their mark,
including their written mark, in a society that negated
and rejected them. They were Africans,
they were Muslims. They became African Americans. And their story has to be
heard an unearthed if we want to better understand the various
cultures that have made America. Thank you [applause].>>Prosser Gifford:
Thank you very much. Let me just, before I introduce
Amir Al-Islam, let me just try to briefly pull together a couple of
the threads that we’ve heard so far, because Professor Hunwick, by emphasizing the Islamic
learned tradition in Timbuktu, which of course came
down from North Africa, helped to establish the very
kinds of learning and network that we’ve just heard
from Professor Diouf. And what Professor Ahmed emphasized,
the new Andalucia ties back to that also because not only was
Andalucia symbolically a society of tolerance, but it was a society
of intellectual inclusiveness. And it was not only the Greek
learning, but the Byzantine learning that came through Islam and
eventually not only through Spain, but also through Sicily, and
through the North Africa people like Ibn Khaldun himself. So there is a — this tradition
of learning, of inclusiveness to discovery from the
ancient classical West and from the Byzantine world of what
is now Turkey in Eastern Orthodoxy. All of that is incorporated in
the tradition of Islamic learning. And these networks, as has been
suggested several times today, these networks were expanded
by sailors, and traders, and others all over the world. Now Amir Al-Islam, who will be our
sort of cleanup batter for today, is presently the Executive
Director of the Center for Professional Education
at Medgar Evers College where he also teaches
African American History and World Civilization. He holds graduate degrees from NYU,
New York University, from Princeton in Islamic Studies and
African American History. And was Director of Domestic Affairs at the Muslim World League
Office at the United Nations. He’s been actively involved in
interfaith activities in many parts of the world, Poland,
Japan, Sierra Leone, Turkey. He’s organized and conducted
interfaith dialogues throughout this country. He has several publications
on African American Islam and has coauthored a number of
U.N. documents, including “The Role of Religion in Social Development.” So it is I think quite
appropriate for him to be our final speaker
this morning.>>Good evening. I would like to begin by
an invocation that is part of the tradition of the Muslim
community in praising Allah and sending out peace and blessings
upon his prophet Muhammad in Arabic. [Speaking in foreign
language] Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds. Peace and blessings upon
his final prophet, Muhammad. I would first like to take this
opportunity to thank the organizers for inviting me to come today and
share with you some of my views, ideas, perspectives,
and research on Islam and the African American experience. I have — we tried to in the
beginning get the order switched, because Akbar Ahmed
is one of my mentors, a person that I read and study. And I thought that he — it would be
more appropriate for him to be last, as well as the chronological order
would be, I think, more consistent. But we are consistent in
somewhat of our inconsistencies. So what I’m going to do very
briefly today is give you kind of an overview of the African
American Islamic experience. And as I was researching some
information for this presentation at the Chamburg [assumed
spelling], I realized that there’s such a shortage of material about
such a profound and dynamic subject. And as I listened to Yonne Haddad
and Professor Akbar Ahmed talk about the idea of 9/11, in many
instances within the discourse within the Islamic community, we are framing our
experience pre- and post-9/11. And we are not really clear
on what to make of the change that is taking place after 9/11. But I think it’s ironic around
the idea of civilization project and the idea of civilizational
dialogue, as Dr. Ahmed talked about, is that we have to actually go back
to a period in our history to refer to a point or a period where we
can draw from that will allow us to be more civilized
with each other. I think that is indicative of the
failure of our ability to cope with the reality of the plurality of
our existence here on this planet. Having said that, I would also
like to say about the idea of 9/11, African Americans are not
new to racial profiling. The term was coined
by our existence. African Americans are not new — we’re not neophyte to
the idea of oppression, and marginalization,
and misrepresentation. This all happened pre-9/11. This has been the sum total of
our existence and our struggle as we strived, and continue to
strive, to establish a sense of social justice for people
in general in America. This is not new to us. And as an activist scholar — I
was going to say scholar activist, but really I am an activist scholar. More activist than scholar,
actually, because I feel like Gramsci has told us,
somewhat as — when he talks — when he characterizes
the organic intellectual, that theory is grounded
and actualized in praxis. So having had the experience
of working within the African American Muslim
community for over 20 years, it has actualized much
of my understanding of the theoretical framework. Let me say that as African
American Muslims, there is no way that I could convey to you the
trials, tribulations, the struggles, the difficulties, the pain, the
anguish, the contradictions, the alienation, the marginalization
of a people who have embraced Islam. And after embracing this great faith
of 1/5 of the entire human race, now have taken on another burden
where we are, in many instances, doubly margined — doubly
marginalized for being black — punished for being black in a
society that privileges whiteness, that — where racism continues
to permeate individual minds, and consciousness, and
imaginations, and institutions. And being Muslim in a society
where Ibn Said characterizes that the Islam that is represented
or, quote, misrepresented, or covered, or miscovered [sic],
is more about a conception and a construction of a
demonized group rather than the profound religion that is
represented by such a large number of people, a great religion that
is embraced by such a large number of people on this planet,
a religion that teaches such beautiful teachings of love,
and compassion, and understanding, and respect for human beings,
and respect for human life, and respect for the dignity of
human beings and human existence. My topic was, of course,
contemporary African American Islam. And for the few minutes that I have
left here, I want to talk to you about some aspects of that. When we say contemporary African
American Islam, we have to — I have to make a disclaimer
because the concept of contemporary African American
Islam is problematic for Muslims, because in most cases Muslims would
argue that there’s no such thing as African American Islam, nor is
there such a thing as Arab Islam, or Pakistani Islam, that
there really is one Islam. But I would argue that that one
divine and revealed religion and way of life that was revealed
to the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be
upon him, by the Creator of the universe immediately changes
as soon as human beings claim agency over it, as soon as individual human
beings embrace it, it now is changed from the pristine purity of its
revelation to its interpreters and interlocutors who nuance
it with their culture, who nuance it with
their hermeneutics, who nuance it with their
worldview and continue the process of its misrepresentation. Not only does the Western
media often misrepresent Islam, but in many instances Muslims
themselves misrepresent Islam. So when I talk about
African American Islam, what I’m really saying is
Islam among African Americans. I think that is a much more
appropriate title And I don’t need to go into detail, and I don’t
have time to go into detail about the delineation of the history or chronicling the
history of the experience. I have basically divided the
experience into three phases. One is what I call the
pre-emancipation phase, African Muslims in
antebellum America. In this experience alone
one sentence will, I think, be appropriate for you
to capture the essence of what the experience is about. The slaves, a Muslim who left the
mosque in the Senegambian region to go home to his family,
captured, chained, enslaved, taken from his homeland, his family,
his loved ones, his community, and brought to the shores of
North America to be dehumanized, to be demasculated [sic] and sold. And out of this horrific
experience, this individual — or these individuals like Omar,
like Saliba Lada [assumed spelling], like so many others that we
have not even discovered, but whose spirit we embody,
particularly as African Americans, who lived that experience. These people were able to
maintain the Islamic practice within the context of the
horrific experience of slavery. That’s pre-emancipation slavery. Painful, painful. There are not even enough texts
to explain the pain that existed to the experience of slavery. One can read it, but the
reality of the experience of it is something
altogether different. The second phase is what I call
the early Islamic communities, from 1900 to 1960. And in this particular phase of the Islamic development
we see the evolution of what I call proto-Islamic
movements. And I call them proto- to
qualify the fact that many of these movements did not
articulate nor practice the orthodox teachings of Al-Islam, but
in fact appropriated — selectively appropriated various
theological teachings of Islam, to use, to construct, to
develop, to construct tools — as tools to be deployed to
oppose racism and oppression. And within that period of time we
did have individual communities that evolved and emerged,
that became closer — that emerged closer to what
we call the Islamic orthodoxy. So movements like the Nation of
— I mean, the Noble Drew Ali, the Moorish Science Temple, even
organizations like Marcus Garvey who was influenced by Duse
Mohamed Ali when he went to London, before he came to the United
States, that Muslims involved in the Marcus Garvey
movement, Muslims, of course, African Americans,
emerging from that movement into what is called the Nation
of Islam with Fard Muhammad and eventually Elijah Muhammad,
using the teaching of Islam to fight oppression and racism. And the final phase is the phase
that I call the contemporary period, which is basically
from 1960 until now. If you look at the movements
in 1960, the Dar al-Islam, the Muslim International
Brotherhood, Sheik Daud — not Shake Daud [inaudible],
I’m sorry — other Islamic movements and
Islamic party during that period, these movements were fired by the
spirit of the Black Power Movement and the Civil Rights Movement,
and much of their interpretation of Islam was nuanced and
influenced by the radicalization and the rebelliousness of the people
at that time who were fighting and continued to fight racism. As you might notice in my comments, race and racism is
the meta-narrative that permeates every aspect
of our history and experience as African Americans
in this country. And it continues to do so. Now finally, let me say that
in spite of the difficulties, in spite of the suffering,
in spite of the indignities, in spite of the challenge, of
example, of the Muslims who have — a Muslim who has reverted to Islam,
reconnected with their heritage and history, who has
often be alienated from their own Christian family
because now they have new names. They have new dress. They have new food. They have all of the
things that now have — the things that have transformed
them into a new person. We’re talking about an
experience, an Islamization process that creates havoc in a
community, in an individual family, in a society that continues
to suppress that evolution and development. In spite of all of
these difficulties, African American Muslims,
by the grace of the Creator, are now functioning in every
aspect of the American society. Muslims are — African Americans
are doctors, lawyers, judges. We have several Muslim — African American Muslims
who are elected officials, who are — who have formed mosques. I think for the most part, out of
the 1300 mosques in this country, at least 30% of them are
African American mosques. We have leaders like
Imam W.D. Mohammed who has probably the largest
number of African American Muslims in this country, probably
over 2 million, and other African American
traditional Sunni communities like the new organization that’s
established called the Muslim Alliance of North America
that was formed not long ago, which represents part of the
traditional Sunni community. But the Islamic community
is emergent and is — and evolving, and the largest
number of Muslims who are coming into Islam are primarily
African American. And the people are saying
[inaudible] questions, “What is this about?” And I don’t know about
you, but I know many of my African American Muslim
friends say, “Well, we’re surprised that we didn’t see any African
American with the Taliban,” because that’s all
they needed to see, because the Muslim communities
— the last week we were — I was in a mosque in Brooklyn, and they found a listening
device at the mosque. We’re almost strip-searched
every time we go to the airport. So now racial profiling
is very, very — is a serious burden on us as
we move around the country. But in spite of this, as Muslims,
because we believe in Allah, and fear Allah, and want to practice
Islam, we love this country — in quotes love, because there
are some conditions for love. We’ve suffered in pain, but we
do have strategic patriotism. But the reality is we’re going to
change this country, as we have done as part of our African
American experience. But we’re going to
change it in a way that creates a dialogical process,
that engages American people in discursive networks, that
allows us to evolve the existence of a humanity that
represents a plurality. We’re not going to throw bombs. We’re not going to kill anyone,
because it is against Islam for us to kill anyone that does not try
to kill, or maim, or harm us. We’re going to change this society. We’re going to continue
to change this society. And I don’t think we need to look
at Andalus — al-Andalus for that. I think we should have enough
within our creative imagination and within our own humanity to
create a sense of — of embrace. Not tolerance. Tolerance is an inappropriate word. Are you tolerable? Can you tolerate me? I’m just tolerable to you? We’re going to create an environment
that embraces difference, that transforms us, that allows us
to create collectively an America that we envision, that I
envision, that Dr. King envisioned, that all of us would like to
see, that embraces all of us and celebrates our difference. Thank you very much [speaking
in foreign language].>>Hi, everyone. Thank you very much
for your presentation. I have a historical
question for Ms. Diouf — how do you pronounce your name?>>Sylviane A. Diouf: Diouf.>>Diouf, excuse me. I know in many West African
societies there is a very engrained caste system where the slave case
has existed for thousands of years in these societies, and
that it was common practice for well-established people
to have slaves in their house, in their fields, and whatnot. I’m just very curious if there’s any
documentation of any of the slaves that had been brought to
America had been, in fact, slave owners in Africa already,
because I’m very curious because of the presentations
we have heard of Omar Ibn Said, and other scholars, and
very well-respected people in their communities. Based on other historical studies
I’ve done, these people usually are, in fact, slave owners in
their communities as well.>>Sylviane A. Diouf:
Yes, of course. In fact, Omar mentioned that his
father owned, I think, if I’m not — if I’m correct, 70 slaves. No?>>Seventy?>>Sylviane A. Diouf: Seventy. I think that’s what he mentioned. And I mean, in the — it’s
evident that there were people who were enslaved here
who had been slaveholders, whether they were Muslims
or not Muslims. But you have to make a distinction between American slavery
and African slavery. And those are two very,
very different things. They have the same
name, and you know, in some ways people are not free. And that’s, you know, what
— but bondage exists — I mean, people who are in
jail are not free, either. They are not slaves. Okay, so there are differences
between enslavement in Africa or in Asia and in America. And in West Africa, this bondage was
more similar to servitude in Europe than to what was going on here. And there were categories of slaves, those who could never be
sold, and those who could. So beyond saying just
people held slaves, there is a whole history behind
that that has also to be brought, because otherwise it
kind of gives a slant that kind of excuses everybody. “Well, you know, if
they held slaves, so after all if they became
slaves themselves, so what?”>>This morning I was earlier
at a competing conference over at the Capitol Hill
Club where they were — the topic was immigration
and national security. And I’m, yeah, hearing
very different messages over there from here. But I’m –>>Amir Al-Islam: I can imagine so.>>– wondering now, one of the
speakers there talked about — I’m not sure where
he got the statistic, but if I heard him correctly,
he said only one in 10 Muslims in America — in the united States
identifies more with America than with some specific
Islamic nation. And you know, I really sensed
that for the majority over there that was very problematic. And I’m wondering if any
of you would, you know, want to try to give any kind
of explanation for that. You know, I’m wondering if there
is a certain security and comfort with Islamic law, and even, you
know, what seems to me to be, you know, oppression and
repression of people that, you know, may be identified as
Infidels, or you know, not faithful to Islamic
teaching or law? But you know, it seems like it —
the root of this country, you know, in — with Christianity there is a
real sense of freedom, and you know, on one hand may, you know,
allow something like immorality in decadence which, I mean, I sense even these terrorists
were struggling with, you know, even just the night
before their act of terror. But on the other hand, you
know, maybe there’s, you know, some reason that there’s — do
you think there is a comfort and security with this
as far as, you know, wanting the Islamic law
imposed upon everyone?>>Amir Al-Islam: Well, let me say
this — let me respond to that. That’s an excellent question, and
one that is extremely complex, and one that requires
a few conferences. This is probably part of the
discourse that will be — that we will be engaged in within
the next few years about the idea of Muslims, and Muslim
immigrants, and even Muslims who are indigenous in this country. And they — and their challenge,
the issues around their loyalties and sense of patriotism around
and commitment to America. But let me draw this. I’m not — I can’t answer that
question, but let me put this in some kind of context and
frame it for you so that at least you can think about it, because it requires
some serious thinking. There is part of what we call
a kind of a mythologized notion of an America that also permeates
the minds of many American people. Yvonne Haddad talked about this. And then — and she alluded to this. And that is this sense that makes us
believe that America stands for all of the wonderful qualities
of democracy, and equality, and egalitarianism that is espouses. The reality is, I would say
from my own point of view — I’m not representing a community,
nor am Imam, and I’m not talking — speaking on behalf of all
the African American Muslims. Please don’t quote me on that. The point is, for the most part
most Americans, in my own view, who are Judeo-Christians, who are not Muslims basically
are decent, peace-loving people. And there is a small percentage
of policymakers and people that influence policy based
upon a paradigm that has to do with strategic national interests. Now we can question that
strategic national interest, but having studied
international relations, we understand that policymakers
do also have the responsibility of maintaining a sense
of security and stability within the confines of this country. Just, for example, let
all of the Arab countries who sell oil stop selling oil. Tomorrow you will be angry,
as a Muslim in America, with Arabs because for the most
part you have to heat your house. You want to drive your car. So when you talk about the idea
of Muslims and their commitment to America in this society, in this
country, we’re going — we’re — for the most part from what
I’ve done in my own research and my interviews with Muslims,
typically African Americans, I find that African Americans
for the most part who have come out of this 1960s movement — this
is probably the largest percentage of African American Muslims —
well, probably their children are, but that generation of Muslims who
came through the ’60s and those — and that what we call that
period of the contemporary period from the ’60s on — have
had experiences in America that have subjected them to
COINTELPRO programs, oppression, racism, and assassinations. So we come from a bloody
history in terms of the way African
American/Muslims see America. However, if you have any American
or African American Muslim who is traveling abroad, the first
thing they actually flash is their American passport. It’s like an American Express card. So there is a patriotism
that is there. We are Americans. And I say to my immigrant brothers
and sisters when I am invited to speak to them, I am an
African American Muslim. My grandmother and
great-grandparents died and struggled to give us the
right to vote, for example. My great-grandmothers and
grandfathers fought in this country to give us the rights that we have. Yes, we are Americans. Now we do not embrace everything
that America has to offer in terms of its policies. We disagree with it policies, and
we have the freedom to be able to demonstrate our objection
to these policies based within the context of civil
society and democracy, which is a wonderful thing, and which in most cases
Muslim countries don’t have. So we’re not in any denial
about that, although, I think some Muslims are in
denial about that reality. But now — so let us make a
distinction between policymakers — and I don’t want to
demonize policymakers, because they’re critical. But let us differentiate between the
people that make policy for America that impacts Muslims abroad and the
general populace of American people who basically are — in many
instances are influenced and understand Islam by
virtue of the media and all of its misrepresentations
and soundbites, not necessarily always
negatively intentioned, however. So let us make a distinction
between that group and the American policymakers
and the — and let us not misread the
sentiments and the feelings of the Muslims in this country,
because for the most part, if you talk to Muslims
in this country, the immigrant Muslim
population, they love America. They have no delusions about
the fact that if they — they’re not ready to go back to
their countries, because they — what America has to offer
— and I say this — and my nationalist friends
cringe at me saying this. And they’ll probably see this
on the film and say, “Amir, what were you doing in
Library of Congress talking — praising America like this?” But as an old pan-Africanist,
and influenced by black nationalist
thought, and being an activist in the black community,
the reality is that Muslims embrace the wonderful
opportunities that we have in this country, no question. And the — and all the
Muslims that I know — the majority of Muslims are
not about to destroy this. Don’t even think about it. This is the greatest
thing happening. So why would you want to destroy it? So we have to really be clear,
finally, on making the distinction between the actual — the
passion and the anger with Muslims who constantly see themselves
misrepresented in media, misrepresented in the press,
misrepresented in terms of the way people interpret them,
because others are interpreting them as opposed to them having voice of
their own to express themselves. So as the policyholders
over there — they wouldn’t have a Muslim
over there explaining that. Now they think they understand at
a policy meeting about the majority of Muslims of America and
have not done any research. But they have concluded that based
on their conclusions that nine — one out of every 10 Muslims
really has no relationship or loyalty to the American country. They’re here. They’re raising their kids here. And their kids are
going to stay here. The kids are Americans. We are Americans. Hyphenated, which represents an
identification that has to do with our cultural continuity. And we don’t want to deny that. No one else does. No one else wants us to — and
no one should want us to do that. But we are Americans. But we have some serious issues about the way America
is dealing with Muslims. And we’re going to do
everything we can to change, to make sure that the way they deal
with Muslims in the future is going to be one that’s reflective of the great democracy
that America stands for. It’s kind of long, but I’m sorry — [ Applause ]>>Thank you. I’m a social studies teacher,
and these are my students — some of my students that we’ve
brought from Clara Mohammed School. And I wanted, as the Principal
wanted, an opportunity for our students to observe what
is going on in the real world and how they can make a
difference, inshallah, God willing, amongst those — or because
we are, they are all American. They were born here. I had two comments
that I wanted to make. I don’t really have a question. What I wanted to say real quickly
in response to the question that the lady back here had on
conquest, one of things I remember that Bishop Desmond Tutu
said about South Africa is — and this is in regard to
Christianity, “When the Dutch and the British came to
South Africa, or Anzania, they had the Bible, and the people in South Africa, Anzania,
had the land. Now they have the land
and the Africans, the black Africans, have the Bible.” Talk about conquest. I teach social studies, and I teach
history, and I teach geography, which is most important because I
know that many Americans, students and adults, have so little
knowledge about what country is in what continent, and actually
act like they don’t care. Now we’re on — for U.S. History,
my eighth graders are dealing with religious tolerance right now. And somehow a lot of times
we have selective amnesia. When most of the people
came from Europe, they came for religious reasons,
because they were not able to practice their religion the
way they wanted to in Europe. So I’m just giving to all of you a
reminder that this has been going on for a long time, way before
Europe, way before what’s happening in Palestine and Israel, and
way before the United States, or America, as it was named. So we need to read
and study history. And one of the things I know that we do not do well is we
don’t read and we don’t study. We need to get that together, and
perhaps maybe that will answer some of the problems that we’re
having in this world. [ Applause ]>>[Speaking in foreign language]
I just had just one brief comment. As I said earlier that I was —
spent 20 years in the military. I’m a cardiovascular technologist,
and I deal with people one on one. And in the time that
I was in the military, most of the time I did
[speaking in foreign language]. In other words, I propagated Islam. As it says in our religion,
there’s no compulsion. Our only duty is to
deliver a clear message. But being honest — I want to be
as completely honest as possible. In my travels and in my activities
in [speaking in foreign language], I found one consistent
response to Islam from a particular ethnic community. And I don’t want to label
everyone this way, but the majority of Caucasian, people
of European decent, the response has been very
condescending toward the Islam. This is well before 9/11. And I’ve given opportunity to say
extracts from Quran as Allah says in Quran, “Do they not consider
the Quran if it had been from other than God, they would have found
many discrepancies in it.” That’s an open invitation
to let’s debate it. If — let’s come out
in the light of day. If your God is the God of
technology, of science, of information, let’s
debate the issue. So the — it still to me seems
like there’s not a willingness on the part of Caucasians to
want to redress wrong, justice. I think Durban, South
Africa was an opportunity, but I think a clear message
was sent to the world. So I don’t think the world
has been completely shut, but if you do shut the door,
Almighty God, he is slow in anger. But let there be no doubt
that judgment doesn’t come from human beings, that there
is someone who is in control. And let us seek to
understand one another. And that’s my only comment. And if someone wants —
on the panel would want to maybe make any comment,
I’d greatly appreciate it. Thank you for your time. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ]>>Prosser Gifford: — all morning. It will be available on the website. Not instantly, but soon. And it will join the other
morning colloquia that we’ve had on various aspects of Islam. It can be found by going to the
Library of Congress homepage and looking at the
library [inaudible], and you will get a dropdown
menu of the sessions on Islam. So in conclusion, let’s
thank the panelists, one in absentia on this panel. And thank you all for being with us
patiently all morning [applause].>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at loc.gov.

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