A brief history of Islam in America

So much of the recent debate in the US over Syrian refugees and Islamophobia has tended to assume that Muslim Americans are mostly migrants and that Islam is a new phenomenon in America, along with questions about integration and assimilation.

In fact, Islam has a long history in America, going back to the earliest days of the country’s founding. In the past two-plus centuries, Islam and Muslim Americans have been intertwined with American history. That story is not well-known, and while admittedly that’s in part because the Muslim population of the US has often been quite small, Islam still appears in ways that most Americans might find surprising — particularly, for example, in the history of American slavery and emancipation.

What follows is a brief history of Islam in the United States, from its founding up through today, and a guide to the Muslim American community as it has grown and as it exists today.

Figure 3. In a section of Weinman's work, the Prophet Muhammad holds the Qur'an and a sword while standing between Charlemagne and Justinian. US SUPREME COURT

In a section of Weinman’s work, the Prophet Muhammad holds the Qur’an and a sword while standing between Charlemagne and Justinian. US SUPREME COURT

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