Muslim Acceptance in the United States
“Those who have claimed liberty in the name of their God have, of course, used religion to legitimate their struggle to be free. The alliance between religion and liberty, however, runs deeper than a powerful source of legitimacy for overturning the status quo in human relationships.”
- Jeffrey K. Hadden (Religious Freedom Page)
Islam is one of the world’s greatest religions, numbering nearly a fifth of the world’s total population. The immortalized stereotype produced by the media has resulted in a negative connotation for Muslim American’s, leaving many American’s with an anti-Muslim attitude. The tendency for American’s to misunderstand Islam can be attributed to two factors: media and the Muslim desire to keep a low profile. Muslims are convinced that the views against them are due to the negativity displayed in the news, as American’s have continued to demoralize them over the past century. The fear for the Muslim population began centuries ago, but grew rapidly after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The question that arises: Is it possible for American’s to separate terrorist thoughts with Muslim culture to approach religious acceptance in America? The first Muslims to come to America arrived as slaves during the sixteenth century. The owners of these slaves did not support Islamic practice, and actively discouraged the religion. The Muslim slaves soon began enduring the Christian faith to please their owners. The few Muslims who did not accept Christianity have a history that traces back to their acclimation as an American religion, showing that they adapted their faith to include many Christian texts. The elimination of the Islamic religion among slaves did not take long. The unaccepting environment lead Congress in 1808 to discontinue the import of Muslim slaves, and the further practice of Islam by pre-existing slaves diminished (Haddad, 1997). This was the first wave of American attempt to keep Islamic practice out of American culture. Muslims continued to flow into America from the Middle East in 1875. The First World War ended the first major flow of Muslim migration, and the second end of migration peaked in the 1930s, as a result of the Second World War. A large part for this end to migration was due to their denied citizenship. The criteria that was being used by officials to select those who could obtain citizenship, such as skin color and facial features, made it difficult for officials to determine which race the immigrant belonged to, and was often the reason for denying Muslim citizenship. The immigration of Muslims into America continues today. The majority of Muslims did not come to America to later return home; they came to America in hopes of seeking freedom of religion. The countries they were fleeing were seen as oppressive and unaccepting of their ideologies as a religion. The immigrants attempted to adapt their religious practices in American society in a variety of ways. They received a small chance and had the slight ability to practice their religion through what was known as The Nation of Islam. The start of this social group was still unlikely to gain the opportunity Muslims were seeking to fully express their religious identity in America. The Nation of Islam began identifying their religion within some of the most depressed areas in America through construction of temples and mosques that they yearned would bring hope to these areas. Those who chose to follow Islamic view after their settlement in America were taught by Elijah Muhammad that the only way they could achieve a high standard of dignity and self-worth was to maintain high ethical values and standards found within American society. The practice and identity Muslims faced were finding in these areas would last, but the problem of acceptance would remain. The other American religions felt threatened by the rise of Islam. American’s refused to recognize it as a legitimate...
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