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.