6 African Muslims Who Brought Islam To America

america

By Papatia Feauxzar
About Islam
5 January 2017

As a Muslim of West African origin living in the United States, my Muslim-ness is always contested by Europeans, Americans, and even clueless Africans. They ask me questions like:

“Are you Muslim?” and “Were you born Muslim?”

I get asked these questions a lot by Americans because Islam is something that was made to sound foreign to them.

“I’ve never seen a Muslim from that country wear Hijab.”

Believe it or not, many Africans ask this question as if they are well-travelled.

Is your country predominantly Muslim?”

I get this question from European Muslims as if they had just discovered ‘water on Mars’. In their minds, Black Muslims are an oddity. Because I have been around many of them, I now know the reasoning behind asking such questions. They have the idea that All of Africa is uncivilized and only non-Muslims live there.

The strange thing is many of them have heard of Mansa Musa, the Malian Muslim King. Why they won’t add two and two together to infer that Islam has always been an old religion in Africa and in the USA, I don’t know. In addition, the US census has a record of approximately 300 slaves that had a Muslim surname who fought during the Civil War for freedom.

Throughout all these irritating questions, I try to keep my cool. I keep the frustrated comments, I want to utter, in my head, smile, and move on. However, what I want to tell them is Islam came to West Africa not too long after the 10th century. My ancestors were traders and this was how Islam came to us Mandinga. Islam has always been a religion of business. Furthermore, this also means that many West Africans were exposed to Islam before it was spread to Europe during the Ottoman empire and America via the Moriscos and the Transatlantic slaves.

According to Lost Islamic History, one example of an African Muslim who brought Islam to America is Bilali Muhammad. There are also others like Ayub Job Djallo, Yarrow Mamood, Ibrahim Abdulrahman ibn Sori, Ummar ibn Sayyid (Omar ibn Said) and Salih Bilali. Read more

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Kari Ansari: Telling Muslim Women What Not to Wear

They can’t take my religion away because it is a God-given right. Tara Umm Omar

By Kari Ansari

Writer & Co-Founder of America’s Muslim Family Magazine

Huffington Post: Religion

12 April 2011

France has now officially outlawed the Islamic niqab or burqa in public. French President Sarkozy said in 2009, “The issue of the burqa is not a religious issue, it is a question of freedom and of women’s dignity … The burqa is not a religious sign; it is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission of women. I want to say solemnly that it will not be welcome on our territory.”

This statement by Sarkozy isn’t going to save any Muslim woman’s self-respect or free her from her oppressor by forcing her indoors and out of public life. If a woman is being forced to wear the burqa or niqab by a dictatorial husband or father, the French have just made it more difficult for her to break free from her oppressor. However, most Muslim women choose to wear the niqab of their own free will, and with this ban France has just pushed another segment of their Muslim population further from the mainstream. France outlawed the hijab, or the simple headscarf in public schools and institutions in 2004, and it has forced girls who want an education to either compromise their religious values, or compromise their academic and professional future. Where’s the liberté in that?

A small minority of Muslim women in certain parts of the world wear what is known as the abaya (black cloak) and the niqab (face veil). It is known as a burqa in South and Central Asia and seen most often as the blue full-body veil worn by Afghan women. This form of covering is the manifestation of the strictest interpretation of modesty in Islam. Women who choose this practice consider themselves seriously observant Muslims and believe this form of dress allows them to move about the outside world while protecting their dignity.

People get nervous around these women. I have often heard the refrain, “You need to see a person’s face to judge their character.” I disagree based on my own experience with Muslim women who wear the niqab. I have always known them as highly disciplined, and solid in their faith convictions despite society’s derision. They believe in keeping their physical attributes out of the public conversation by covering. While I don’t subscribe to this strict interpretation of Islamic modesty, I respect the woman who does.

Case in point: I had been corresponding with a young woman in regard to a part-time position on the behalf of one of my clients. The job would include conducting various marketing events within her local Muslim community. Because she lives in another city, I had no chance to meet her until this weekend when I traveled there. Because I am familiar with this city’s Muslim community, I was not surprised to meet her wearing a black abaya and black headscarf. She and I had coffee in a café, and as the interview progressed she proved to be everything her emails and our previous phone conversations led me to believe about her without the benefit of a face-to-face meeting. She is an extremely enthusiastic and professional young woman filled with exciting ideas for marketing my client’s product. Toward the end of the conversation she mentioned that she usually wore the niqab face veil but she decided that she would not don it for our meeting in case I would be uncomfortable. I told her I wouldn’t have been bothered by it in the least. I felt sorry she had come out without her veil on my account — but to be fair, she didn’t know me. While she knew that I’m also a Muslim, she couldn’t be sure I wouldn’t discriminate against her on behalf of my client. After I assured her that her faith practices are her own business, and that my client has great respect for Muslims, she visibly relaxed and we continued our conversation.

Her character, personality and professionalism were evident long before I saw her clothing, or her face. In her American city she happily moves about her neighborhood dressed the way the French have now outlawed. She told me the Muslims are an integral part of her city’s greater community, and she is very comfortable wherever she goes in her graceful, black garments. I will recommend that my client hire this young woman; I’m completely confident that she is going to far exceed the expectations we had for this position.

As I’ve written before, if you strip a woman of what she feels is her dignity, you’ll have a lot of indignant women. We all know American women can become pretty indignant if someone tells us what not to wear.

Photo Credit: Islamophobia Today

Tony Blair’s Sister-In-Law Converts To Islam

Lauren Booth: I’m now a Muslim. Why all the shock and horror?
The Guardian
3 November 2010

News that Lauren Booth has converted to Islam provoked a storm of negative comments. Here she explains how it came about – and why it’s time to stop patronising Muslim women.

It is five years since my first visit to Palestine. And when I arrived in the region, to work alongside charities in Gaza and the West Bank, I took with me the swagger of condescension that all white middle-class women (secretly or outwardly) hold towards poor Muslim women, women I presumed would be little more than black-robed blobs, silent in my peripheral vision. As a western woman with all my freedoms, I expected to deal professionally with men alone. After all, that’s what the Muslim world is all about, right?

This week’s screams of faux horror from fellow columnists on hearing of my conversion to Islam prove that this remains the stereotypical view regarding half a billion women currently practising Islam.

On my first trip to Ramallah, and many subsequent visits to Palestine, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, I did indeed deal with men in power. And, dear reader, one or two of them even had those scary beards we see on news bulletins from far-flung places we’ve bombed to smithereens. Surprisingly (for me) I also began to deal with a lot of women of all ages, in all manner of head coverings, who also held positions of power. Believe it or not, Muslim women can be educated, work the same deadly hours we do, and even boss their husbands about in front of his friends until he leaves the room in a huff to go and finish making the dinner.

Is this patronising enough for you? I do hope so, because my conversion to Islam has been an excuse for sarcastic commentators to heap such patronising points of view on to Muslim women everywhere. So much so, that on my way to a meeting on the subject of Islamophobia in the media this week, I seriously considered buying myself a hook and posing as Abu Hamza. After all, judging by the reaction of many women columnists, I am now to women’s rights what the hooked one is to knife and fork sales.

So let’s all just take a deep breath and I’ll give you a glimpse into the other world of Islam in the 21st century. Of course, we cannot discount the appalling way women are mistreated by men in many cities and cultures, both with and without an Islamic population. Women who are being abused by male relatives are being abused by men, not God. Much of the practices and laws in “Islamic” countries have deviated from (or are totally unrelated) to the origins of Islam. Instead practices are based on cultural or traditional (and yes, male-orientated) customs that have been injected into these societies. For example, in Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive by law. This rule is an invention of the Saudi monarchy, our government’s close ally in the arms and oil trade. The fight for women’s rights must sadly adjust to our own government’s needs.

My own path to Islam began with an awakening to the gap between what had been drip-fed to me about all Muslim life – and the reality.

I began to wonder about the calmness exuded by so many of the “sisters” and “brothers”. Not all; these are human beings we’re talking about. But many. And on my visit to Iran this September, the washing, kneeling, chanting recitations of the prayers at the mosques I visited reminded me of the west’s view of an entirely different religion; one that is known for eschewing violence and embracing peace and love through quiet meditation. A religion trendy with movie stars such as Richard Gere, and one that would have been much easier to admit to following in public – Buddhism. Indeed, the bending, kneeling and submission of Muslim prayers resound with words of peace and contentment. Each one begins, “Bismillahir rahmaneer Raheem” – “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate” – and ends with the phrase “Assalamu Alaykhum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh” – Peace be upon you all and God’s mercy and blessing.

Almost unnoticed to me, when praying for the last year or so, I had been saying “Dear Allah” instead of “Dear God”. They both mean the same thing, of course, but for the convert to Islam the very alien nature of the language of the holy prayers and the holy book can be a stumbling block. I had skipped that hurdle without noticing. Then came the pull: a sort of emotional ebb and flow that responds to the company of other Muslims with a heightened feeling of openness and warmth. Well, that’s how it was for me, anyway.

How hard and callous non-Muslim friends and colleagues began to seem. Why can’t we cry in public, hug one another more, say “I love you” to a new friend, without facing suspicion or ridicule? I would watch emotions being shared in households along with trays of honeyed sweets and wondered, if Allah’s law is simply based on fear why did the friends I loved and respected not turn their backs on their practices and start to drink, to have real “fun” as we in the west do? And we do, don’t we? Don’t we?

Finally, I felt what Muslims feel when they are in true prayer: a bolt of sweet harmony, a shudder of joy in which I was grateful for everything I have (my children) and secure in the certainty that I need nothing more (along with prayer) to be utterly content. I prayed in the Mesumeh shrine in Iran after ritually cleansing my forearms, face, head and feet with water. And nothing could be the same again. It was as simple as that.

The sheikh who finally converted me at a mosque in London a few weeks ago told me: “Don’t hurry, Lauren. Just take it easy. Allah is waiting for you. Ignore those who tell you: you must do this, wear that, have your hair like this. Follow your instincts, follow the Holy Qur’an- and let Allah guide you.”

And so I now live in a reality that is not unlike that of Jim Carey’s character in the Truman Show. I have glimpsed the great lie that is the facade of our modern lives; that materialism, consumerism, sex and drugs will give us lasting happiness. But I have also peeked behind the screens and seen an enchanting, enriched existence of love, peace and hope. In the meantime, I carry on with daily life, cooking dinners, making TV programmes about Palestine and yes, praying for around half an hour a day.

Now, my morning starts with dawn prayers at around 6am, I pray again at 1.30pm, then finally at 10.30pm. My steady progress with the Qur’an has been mocked in some quarters (for the record, I’m now around 200 pages in). I’ve been seeking advice from Ayatollahs, imams and sheikhs, and every one has said that each individual’s journey to Islam is their own. Some do commit the entire text to memory before conversion; for me reading the holy book will be done slowly and at my own pace.

In the past my attempts to give up alcohol have come to nothing; since my conversion I can’t even imagine drinking again. I have no doubt that this is for life: there is so much in Islam to learn and enjoy and admire; I’m overcome with the wonder of it. In the last few days I’ve heard from other women converts, and they have told me that this is just the start, that they are still loving it 10 or 20 years on.

On a final note I’d like to offer a quick translation between Muslim culture and media culture that may help take the sting of shock out of my change of life for some of you.

When Muslims on the BBC News are shown shouting “Allahu Akhbar!” at some clear, Middle Eastern sky, we westerners have been trained to hear: “We hate you all in your British sitting rooms, and are on our way to blow ourselves up in Lidl when you are buying your weekly groceries.”

In fact, what we Muslims are saying is “God is Great!”, and we’re taking comfort in our grief after non-Muslim nations have attacked our villages. Normally, this phrase proclaims our wish to live in peace with our neighbours, our God, our fellow humans, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Or, failing that, in the current climate, just to be left to live in peace would be nice.

More reading…

Lauren Booth Explains Why She Fell In Love With Islam


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Niqabi TV Presenters: Asrar Al-Banat

TV presenter covered from head to toe
Fatima Sidiya | Arab News

 

http://arabnews.com/?page=1&section=0&article=128058&d=4&m=11&y=2009  

 

 


UNCOMPROMISING: Sawsan Salah Al-Deen and her colleagues present an episode of Asrar Al-Banat (The Secrets of Girls) on Awtan TV. (AN photo)
 

JEDDAH: A new TV show that discusses issues concerning teenage girls and female university students was recently broadcast with Saudi presenters dressed in black from head to toe.

The show — named Asrar Al-Banat (The Secrets of Girls) — is broadcast on Awtan TV, a Saudi religious channel that was first aired in August 2008 and has women broadcasters who are covered in the all-enveloping abaya and niqab.

There are over 60 religious satellite channels that are broadcast across the Middle East via Arabsat and Nilesat networks. The channels represent different extremes when it comes to women presenters. Channels such as Iqraa and Al-Resalah have women presenters who do not cover their faces and dress in different colors, not necessarily black. On the other hand, channels such as Al-Majd have no women presenters. Awtan is perhaps one that toes the middle line by allowing women to appear but only when covered from head to toe.

Presenting Asrar Al-Banat is Sawsan Salah Al-Deen, a 26-year-old Saudi BA graduate in Media and Guidance.

Sawsan presents the show with her sister, Sarah, a specialist in blood diseases, and psychologist Nawal Dawood.

Sawsan, who is from Riyadh, said she has long been looking to work as a journalist and has previously tried writing for the print media. She, however, finds TV shows effective in conveying her message. Asrar Al-Banat was the idea of Sa’ad Al-Obaid, the program’s director, who wanted a program that provides an insight into girls’ issues.

“He presented the idea to me and I liked it. He gave me the main points and I’ve been preparing the discussions ever since,” she said.

Commenting on how she looks on TV, Sawsan said, “Basically, this is my hijab and I don’t wear it because of the channel. The channel is an Islamic one and has a rule that I appear in full hijab.”

Sawsan, who is appearing on TV for the first time, said she was initially anxious. Her family has, however, been supportive, particularly since “people will not see me” and the program reaches out to young women.

Something that has also appealed to her family is the fact that her work environment is women-only; male technical assistants do not enter the studio while women are inside and carry out their duties from outside.Commenting on feedback on the program, Sawsan said, “I’ve seen comments on the Internet, spoke to my friends and heard varying opinions in my community in Riyadh. You can’t please all — everything new is refuted by some and welcomed by others.”

Speaking about a woman who criticized her appearance on TV she questioned why would people criticize her while she is in full hijab and leave other women who appear in improper dresses on various channels.

Sawsan added that in addition to compliments from the channel’s owner and the program’s director, the support of religious scholars — such as Sheikh Salim Al-Gadani and Sheikh Ghazi Al-Shammari — has been very encouraging for her.

Answering a question about some opposing religious views that regard the voice of women as Awrah (something that cannot be revealed in the presence of men), Sawsan said that scholars deem women’s voices as Awrah only if they are speaking softly or on immoral topics.

She added that the Prophet’s wife Sayyidatuna Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) would verbally issue religious rulings (fatwas) to men and that none of the Prophet’s companions criticized her at that time.

Commenting on whether her appearance on TV would now lead to women appearing on cooking and children programs, she said, “When it comes to cooking, men can present them. However, there are some issues relating to women which men cannot handle in the way we can.”

Asrar Al-Banat, which discusses different issues relating to teenage girls, has so far broadcast four episodes. It is aired from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Friday and receives live phone calls from members of the public.

America Best Place For Muslims To Live?

BEST PLACE FOR MUSLIMS TO LIVE? AMERICA

Muslim nations could learn a lot from the US.
By Merve Kavakci
from the September 28, 2009 edition

Washington – This summer Muslims were murdered in Holland, Germany, and Belgium – four victims of hate crimes.

These murders are just the latest examples of Islamaphobia coming out of Europe. But Europe is not the only place intolerant of its Muslim citizens. Even in some Muslim countries, expression of religion is often perceived as a threat to the secular state.

One of the best places for a Muslim to live is the United States. In a lot of ways, conditions are better here than almost anywhere. As a Muslim not permitted to wear my head covering as a politician in my home country, Turkey, I know.

Think about it: In Turkey, where the vast majority of the population is Muslim, you will not find a lawyer with a beard or a student at a university wearing a head scarf, but you can find plenty in New York City. In Tunisia, you won’t see a religiously dressed physician at university hospitals – but you can in Alabama.

In the majority of Muslim countries the government is an intrusive enterprise with eyes and ears everywhere. The result is bleak. Countries reward only sycophants of the “divine” state. Muslims feel stifled by the encroachments of the establishment and lack of religious tolerance. If a man or a woman wanted to organize a protest against the government to gain the right to practice their religion more openly or be politically active against the status quo, may God help him to escape from the wrath of the state.

Many Muslim countries promote homogeneity while their citizens yearn for a right to diversity, which will give them the ability to practice their religious rituals freely.

In America, on the other hand, doors open to accommodate people’s religious beliefs. And that, along with citizenship rights and the opportunity to exercise the freedom to practice Islam day in and day out, is what makes the US so good for the millions of Muslims here.

American Muslim women can engage in any sport they choose wearing their religious garment – unlike in France and Italy where Islamic-approved swimsuits, and therefore Muslim women, are not welcome in the pools.

The White House and universities alike host iftars to celebrate Muslims’ holy month of fasting. Elementary school students can attend Friday prayers without having to worry about absentee records.

These small but significant examples of freedoms attest to the country’s sine qua non of inalienable citizenship rights: freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

That is not to say that the US is exempt from the mistreatment of Muslims. Racial profiling and workplace discriminations sometimes do occur. Yet the difference is when American Muslims face an unjust treatment, they have recourse where they can find justice.

Examples abound: The Justice Department sided with Muslim high school students in Texas who weren’t allowed to pray on school premises during lunch break in 2005, when they took their complaint to the federal government.

This year, a judge has ruled favorably in the pretrial lawsuit brought by six imams who were detained in 2006 for “flying while Muslim.” This would not happen in many Muslim countries since judiciary bodies are generally under the thumb of the regimes that promote coercive secularization.

Post-9/11, the US did mistreat some Muslims. But today, the Obama administration is making amends by probing alleged CIA torture and by closing the Guantánamo prison. There, after early abuses, officials accommodated detainees’ religious needs. So-called Muslim nation-states could learn from these steps in their treatment of devout citizens.

As President Obama tries to mend America’s relationship with the global Muslim community, he should promote “democratic” change from within, supporting any push from within countries for more heterogeneity.

Supporting the will of the “people” alone rather than the (semi) dictators, even when it is difficult, could make a huge difference.

Dr. Merve Kavakci is a lecturer of international affairs at George Washington University.