Islam in America

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The first Muslims to arrive in America were black African slaves, most of whom were forced to convert to Christianity. Beginning in the late 1800s some Muslims came to America as part of a predominantly Christian group of immigrants from greater Syria. Most were poor, working-class males who hoped to return home to their families financially successful. In many cases they stayed to settle, and as they were joined by Muslims from other areas they began to establish communities in many parts of America, including both cities and rural areas. By the second half of the twentieth century immigrant Muslims were coming not only from the Arab world but also from South and Southeast Asia, Turkey, Iran, and Africa, many representing higher educational and economic classes than earlier arrivals. Most recent immigrants have been numbers of Muslim refugees from politically unstable regions of the Islamic world. Meanwhile, in the middle of the twentieth century significant numbers of African-Americans assumed an Islamic identity through the Nation of Islam (NOI). After 1975 many NOI members began the transition from sectarian to Sunni Islam, although the NOI continues today with a small membership. African-Americans, along with other converts to Islam, represent somewhat less than half of American Muslims. Shiis make up about a fifth of the total Muslim community. Others who consider themselves Muslim, such as Druze, Ahmadis, some Sufis, and members of sectarian movements, are often not accepted as such by mainstream Muslims. Muslim organizations have proliferated at both local and national levels to provide structure and identity for the community. The building of mosques, Islamic centers, and Muslim schools has increased greatly over recent years, as has the production of promotional and educational literature and the use of the Internet. Many Muslims today, unlike earlier generations, advocate active public and political participation for both men and women in American society.

See also Nation of Islam

Subjects: Islam.

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