Abdur Rahman Muhammad has written a five part series under the controversial title, “Why Blackamerican Muslims Don’t stand for justice?” I find this series significant for its historical value, especially since there are very few works outside of Aminah Beverly McCloud’s book African American Islam that have taken a critical look at the intellectual trends of African American Muslims and their relationship to the immigrant community.
What I like about the series is that it is a solid attempt at explaining the causes for the lack of civic engagement of many African American Muslims since the 90s. Abdur Rahman has a good understanding of the complicated trends. I find his nuanced understanding expecially important in light of some disturbing simplistic generalizaitons, ahistorical explanations, and false assumptions recent bloggers have made. Recently, some Muslims have written me asking if their views are representative of the Black American Muslim community. I do not think so. But with that in mind, I think it is extremely important that scholars begin to study sociological, cultural, and historical processes in the American Muslim community. Many of us discuss trends based off of anecdotal evidence. We don’t know marriage statistics and with so many informal marriages we don’t know. I know as a student organizer, many of us failed to keep a record of our activities. We should have libraries preserving our impressions, thoughts, ideas, and plans. We should have qualified scholars that can analyze speeches and texts. Now more than ever we need a historical approaches to understanding Islamic movements, especially in America.I became Muslim in the early 90s, with little understanding of what had been established and the major shifts in leadership that were underway. If you don’t know where you’ve been, how do you know how you got where to where you’re at? I think there are many lessons that we can learn from history. It is just as important to understand the history of Islam in America as a whole, and that will require many studies and various approaches. I personally think we can discover important insights to understand Muslim communities in multi-cultural societies and global Muslim networks by looking at the history of Islam in America.
One thought on “History and Memory: Black Muslims in America”
Although I haven’t read the articles being linked to, I was at the Stanford religious center library a couple of nights ago when I bumped into the book you’ve mentioned.
However, my comment is unconnected to either of those events, and more on your comment about the civic engagement of African American Muslims.
If you look at the population as a whole, you’ll see that civic engagement has been declining across the entire spectrum of people. I feel that Americans in general are starting to lose touch with democracy, which in this country was always intended as the right and duty of every American to civic engagement. Admittedly it may not always have worked that way, but at some point it used to be greater than it is now.