Muslims and the Making of America

by Precious Rasheeda Muhammad,
MPAC Research Fellow

February 7, 2013


Muslims are viewed as having little impact on the shaping of early America, but history reveals that they engaged and influenced its shapers and also contributed, both directly and indirectly, to the making of America. In fact, as religious studies scholar Edward Curtis IV makes clear, "Their contributions – some famous, some unknown – have changed the course of the nation’s life."

Compelling evidence of Muslim interwovenness in major aspects of America's early development can be found in such sources as historical newspapers, government documents, plantation records, rare books, personal papers, and presidential diaries to name a few. From the earliest days of colonial America and the slave trade to the framers of the Constitution to the early presidents through the Civil War and to present times, Islam and Muslims have had a presence and influence in America.

The people, places, events and documents covered in Muslims and the Making of America are but a few selected insights from a much larger, rich history – the depth of which we have only begun to uncover. From them, we can begin to glean a better and more complete understanding of our nation’s story, one that includes Muslims' early presence and influence in America. Indeed, the history of Islam and Muslims in America is a part of America's unique historical record; it is a part of what makes America beautiful.

Please note: This paper is not meant to be a comprehensive history of America’s rich, Muslim heritage, but rather a sampling of its presence and influence from some of the earliest days of colonial America to the present. Creatively told through selected vignettes of people, places, events, and documents, it is a true story that has a moral arc toward elevating humanity and productively co-existing as compatriots around shared ideals and freedoms.

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