Reactionary Historiography: Post 9/11 Muslim Communities and Immigrants

(Featured image of American Moslem Society Dearborn Mosque by Dwight Burdette)

The following is a historiography that reviews literature covering Muslim immigration and communities in the United States after the events of September 11th, 2001 in New York City, NY, USA. Because of how cut & paste into WordPress from a Word file works, you’ll find all the footnotes at the end of the page.

Books Reviewed

Abdo, Geneive Abdo. 2006. Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bilici, Mucahit. 2012. How Islam Is Becoming an American Religion: Finding Mecca in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Curtis IV, Edward E. 2009. Muslims in America: A Short History. New York: Oxford University Press.

Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck. 2011. Becoming American? The Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralist America. Waco: Baylor University Press.

Hussain, Amir. 2016. Muslims and the Making of America. Waco: Baylor University Press.

McCloud, Aminah Beverly. 2006. Transnational Muslims in American Society. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

When the World Trade Center (the “Twin Towers”) in New York City was attacked on September 11th, 2001, many Americans were understandably shocked and angry, but they also found themselves asking, what is a Muslim? Why would they want to attack us?[1] Setting aside the problem of conflating all Muslims with terrorists, these questions revealed a vacuum of knowledge about Muslims and Islam in the United States. Further, there was a lack of understanding that Muslims were and had been a part of American society since before the United States was founded. The rhetoric that flooded popular media painted a picture of Islam vs the West[2] and reinforced the idea that there was a hard dichotomy between the two.[3] One could not be American and be Muslim, one could only be Muslim in America. Scholars from multiple disciplines saw this as an opportunity to produce literature on Muslim immigration and Muslim communities living within the United States to correct the narrative being constructed around Muslims and Islam. Because of this, much of the recent scholarship on Islam has been defensive and apologetic in nature, presenting Muslims in a way that normalizes them and introduces them as typical Americans to the rest of society. Recent scholarship has focused primarily on establishing a Muslim American identity, rather than on placing Muslim immigrants and immigration in a historical context.

According to Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, a scholar on the history of Islam in America, this type of scholarship is not new. Writing in 2010, he indicates that both before and after September 11th, 2001, scholarship on Muslims in the United States has been primarily anthropological and sociological, dealing with questions of assimilation and identity formation.[4] He goes on to say that the historical studies that do exist focus primarily on African American Muslims and on how non-Muslim Americans perceive Islam.[5] Further, because of the positioning of Islam as being opposed to the West, most scholarship on Muslims in the United States has focused on how they are faring in a “foreign” society rather than on how they are actively participating in American history.[6] Much scholarship on Muslims in the US also aims to teach non-Muslim Americans about Islam to counter xenophobia and to reposition Muslims as being a part of “us”.[7] However, this focus on Muslim voices excludes the voices of other groups that have interacted with them. What I mean by this is that ethnic identity formation is both an external and internal process.[8] Muslim American identity formation occurred and continues to occur within a wider American social context. Without adding the voices of non-Muslims to the narrative, as GhaneaBassiri writes, scholars “[dim] the signifiance of the larger American Islamic socio-historical context [in] which American Muslims have [acted] for nearly four centuries.”[9] Many of the books reviewed in this paper, including Hussain’s Muslims and the Making of America, which was published in 2016, fit GhaneaBassiri’s analysis of recent scholarship as being primarily focused on identity formation and assimilation. The two exceptions are McCloud and Curtis’s books.

Transnational Muslims in American Society, by Aminah Beverly McCloud, was written in 2006 during the George W. Bush administration. McCloud cites the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the U.S. government’s “War on Terror,” and the negative portrayals of Muslims in the U.S. as events that, in part, motivated her to write Transnational Muslims. McCloud writes that every year, she is confronted with students who have absolutely no background knowledge of Islam or Muslims in the United States other than what they’ve seen on television or in the movies.[10] She is forced to make constant corrections to both students’ understanding of basic Islamic beliefs and the diversity of Muslim immigrants living in the United States. McCloud believes that, in combination with negative media portrayals, many of her students’ misunderstandings result from a lack of adequate introductory material for Muslim immigration to the United States, prompting her to begin writing Transnational Muslims in American Society.

In her book, McCloud argues that Muslims are politically, religiously, and socially diverse. She presents this diversity as being a result of the “home” cultures they grew up in, which influences their understanding of and implementation of Islam as a religious practice. Additionally, the country that Muslim immigrants arrive from informs how they see themselves in relation to other Muslims and in relation to American society. McCloud describes the complex hierarchy of Islamic legitimacy on the global stage and explores how that balance of power translates into American society. In most cases, the question of who speaks with the most Islamic authority falls along traditional lines with Arabs taking the lead, but the American context of religious pluralism has allowed minority groups that are considered heretical in their home countries to gain firmer footings as legitimate expressions of Islam in the United States. All of this may seem obvious today, but in the early 2000s when McCloud wrote this book, most Americans had little knowledge of Islam or Muslims and, as McCloud points out, most of what they did know was biased or skewed.

As the title implies, Transnational Muslims is primarily a transnational history that focuses on immigrant Muslims in the United States. McCloud takes issue with the term “immigrant” as being too generic when it comes to Muslim immigrants. She sees Muslim immigrants as being more connected to their home cultures and extended families than to their new host country. This conflicts with what McCloud defines as the traditional American understanding of immigration, which implies a period of acculturation that ends with the immigrant becoming a homogeneous part of the larger society. The author believes that Muslim immigrants to the United States are better defined as transnationals. She defines a transnational as a person who maintains significant links to fellow immigrants in the host country; with family, friends, and businesses in the home country; and with groups of fellow nationals who have migrated to other countries.[11]

Due to size limitations, McCloud chooses a selection of immigrant communities to demonstrate her points. She includes major groups like Arabs and South Asians as well as marginal immigrant groups like Somali, Iranian, and Chinese Muslims.[12] McCloud’s discussion of these smaller groups clarifies how place of origin affects immigrant groups’ relations with each other and with American society. She claims to base her sample on the type of governments the sending countries have, to show how place of origin can affect the behavior of immigrants. This could have been a very interesting framework for her discussion, but she focuses instead on groupings based on ethnicity, which is understandably easier. There are glaring omissions in this arrangement. What about Central Asian Muslims? What about Indonesian Muslims? Perhaps these communities do not have a large enough presence in the United States to justify being reviewed, but this should have been mentioned considering that those two regions are very populous. Indonesia has the largest Muslim community in the world, for example.

Framing aside, McCloud’s work is effective as a transnational history. She demonstrates the continuity between the sending culture and the communities of Muslims in the U.S. Her strongest points are in demonstrating the continuation of marriage practices and home-life expectations among different immigrant ethnic groups. For example, she discusses the continued practices of arranged marriages in the South Asian and Arab communities.[13] She also notes that sometimes Arab and South Asian males will return to their country of origin to find a bride.[14] She uses interviews with members of these immigrant communities to show that marriage expectations continue to be influenced by the customs of their countries of origin. McCloud demonstrates that social conceptions of success in the home country continue to affect Muslim immigrants in the U.S. as well. South Asians tend to pursue wealth and financial success because of its relation to status and caste in their home countries. Arabs, on the other hand, tend to associate hard work with responsibility and character building.[15] In the case of Iranians, she shows them to be an insular, mostly secular community that considers itself to be in exile. This makes sense, considering the major waves of immigration from Iran were in 1950-1977 (when Iran was a secular republic) and 1979-1986 (after the Islamic revolution, when secular Iranians would likely have been fleeing the country).[16]

McCloud’s work is not without problems. In some cases, she goes into detail about an ethnic group’s history in their home country but glosses over how they generally behave in the United States, which defeats the point of a transnational history that focuses on the migrant community in the United States. Another issue is her contradictory attitude towards Arab predominance in Islamic issues for much of the world, including Muslims in the United States. While her point is valid, she undermines her call for the development of an American Islam and greater Muslim immigrant integration into American civic society by placing the onus of Islamic reinterpretation on Arabs in the Middle East. She also frames this in an extremely awkward way, claiming that Arabs should learn from American Muslim communities to save them from their “backwardness.” [17] Perhaps by design, she also does not really address Muslims as Muslims in the United States. She approaches these ethnic groups primarily as independent units. This works well in terms of emphasizing cultural variety, but it does not address Muslims as they understand themselves (the concept of ummah, the Islamic community) or as mainstream American society understands them. Perhaps, as a book on Muslim immigrants in the United States, her work should have focused as much on commonalities as on differences.

Though written at nearly the same time as McCloud’s work, Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11 (2007), by Geneive Abdo, takes a different approach to the subject of Muslim immigration to the United States. Some of Abdo’s conclusions are similar to McCloud’s, but one could almost believe that Abdo wrote her work in response to McCloud’s, if it had not been released just one year later. McCloud’s work, as a transnational history, emphasizes differences. She discusses frequent trips back to home countries, the importation of media to acculturate children, a lack of local activism, and comes to the harsh conclusion that Muslim immigrants do not want to be a part of U.S. society; they are transnationals who simply want to work, earn status, and send money home.[18] One could question McCloud’s understanding of immigration based on that statement. How does McCloud conceptualize the transition from transnational to immigrant? What standard are these transnationals supposed to acculturate to? These are questions that McCloud does not address.

Abdo’s writing style is quite different from McCloud’s, which is probably a reflection of their different backgrounds. Abdo indicates that she spent a considerable amount of time working as a journalist and she uses those skills to compile what is essentially a series of ethnographies and interviews that detail the social and cultural histories of a number of Muslim groups, organizations, neighborhoods, and notable individuals.[19] The majority of the book is composed of descriptive paragraphs and story-form dialogue of in-person interviews. On the one hand, it makes for an exceptionally readable narrative. On the other hand, it can become tedious if one is searching for her overall arguments, or for what she herself has to say about a particular topic. Abdo attempts to address quite a bit in a short amount of space, from Islamic hip-hop to Islamic workshops to the fight for women’s rights and equal access in mosques.

The overall theme of Mecca and Main Street, however, and what clearly sets Abdo apart from McCloud, is that Abdo sees Muslim immigrants as being actively engaged with and becoming a part of American society. Abdo uses extensive on-site interviews to show that second- and third-generation Muslim immigrants from many countries are engaging in a process of dissolving ethnic boundaries to create a unified American Islam that differentiates itself from the Islam that their parents practiced in their home countries and tried to reestablish at new mosques in the United States. She focuses consistently on situations that show younger generations of Muslims from different ethnic backgrounds working together. This comes through most clearly in the chapter titled “The Future of the Faith,” which discusses the creation of the Muslim Student Associations that now exist on most college campuses and the spinoff organization for graduates called the Islamic Society of North America. In these organizations, Muslims (and non-Muslims in some cases) from all backgrounds and sects participate together in both religious and non-religious activities. Abdo builds on this argument by exploring the shifting power dynamic (based on claims to Islamic authority or legitimacy) that exists between African American Muslims and immigrant Muslim groups. She believes that for many modern Muslims, Islamic education has become more important than ethnic background. To prove her point, she brings up the heavy influence that American converts to Islam have in terms of becoming Islamic educators, working in organizations that promote Muslim viewpoints at the national level, and at local mosques.[20]

Abdo is critical of the first generation of post-1965 immigrants and describes them as attempting to recreate the oppressive conditions of their home countries in their new communities in the U.S.[21] She sees this older generation as wanting to maintain a strong separation from American society. They often import imams (religious leaders who lead prayers in the masjid and give religious legal advice) from their home countries or the Middle East. The imported imams are usually trained at al-Azhar in Cairo, Egypt, the most prestigious Islamic university in the world, but they have no connection to or understanding of American society. Abdo’s interviewees, primarily second-generation immigrants, refer to them as “the uncles,” in a dismissive way, because they do not feel that the imams can relate to their situations.[22] The interviewees expressed a need to have an authentic religious practice that also reflects the reality of their life in America.

Second and third generation immigrants’ need for an Islam based in American culture pushes the boundaries of their home countries’ practices in creative but religiously authentic ways. An example is the revival of a marriage practice based on an experience in the life of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. To accommodate a couple’s desire to get to know one another before marriage, as is common in the United States, a katbil kitab (standard Islamic marriage contract) is signed, but the marriage is not consummated for a year. This is based on the historical example of the marriage between Muhammad and Aisha, a political marriage meant to bind their families and their clans together. Because Aisha was young, the marriage contract sufficed until she was old enough to consummate the arrangement.[23]

While most of Abdo’s book focuses on contemporary social and cultural issues impacting the Muslim community in the United States, there are also brief chapters of denser prose that address historical immigration patterns, including a brief mention of Zheng He, a Muslim Chinese admiral that may have crossed the Atlantic prior to Columbus, a chapter dedicated to early African Muslim slaves, the African-American Islamic Revival initiated by the Nation of Islam (est. 1934), and the impacts of the 1921 National Origins Act and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 on the ethnic composition of Muslims in the United States.[24] Abdo’s point in bringing up these historical movements is to reveal a pattern of failed attempts to establish Islam as an American national identity. Zheng He did not stay or establish a colony, if he made the trip at all; African Muslim slaves were not able to maintain their religious traditions in the face of brutal oppression; the Nation of Islam distorted the religious teachings of Islam and was too heavily focused on race conflict; and the initial waves of Arab Muslim immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s were too few, too distant from each other, and had no interest in creating a Muslim American national identity.[25]

Where McCloud presents Muslims as maintaining insular ethnic cultures, Abdo emphasizes their Americanization, at least in the second and third generations. She discusses the opening of Muslim Student Associations in Chicago campuses to Muslims across religious doctrinal lines and ethnicities, as well as to non-Muslims. She goes into detail about Muslim activists in the organization IMAN, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (iman also means “faith” in Arabic), which operates a soup kitchen for neighborhood kids. In much the same way that religious literature or information might be distributed at a Catholic soup kitchen, there is an understanding that some Islamic education is tied to the assistance, but it is not mandatory for a person to be a Muslim or convert to receive help.[26] Abdo’s point is that Muslims began engaging with American society through typical civic activism, whether the recipients of that care were Muslim or not.

Abdo does not give much attention to Muslims from South Asia, China, or Central Asia. Her interviewees are primarily Yemeni, Lebanese, Egyptian, Syrian, and African American and Latino converts. The interviews Abdo conducts are with prominent American sheiks, like Hamza Yusuf and students attending conferences organized by the Zaytuna Institute in California, but most of her information is drawn from subjects in Chicago. Because of this, the perspective she presents may be less representative of larger trends than McCloud’s. Additionally, Abdo fails to give any attention to secular Muslims. Does she consider a secular Muslim to still be a Muslim? Also, why does Abdo never address the validity of even analyzing an immigrant group in terms of religious affiliation rather than according to national origin. McCloud, at least, recognized how place of origin complicates one’s interactions with a new society or with co-religionists from different backgrounds. Is “Muslim,” which can describe immigrants from dozens of countries, even an effective or worthwhile primary categorization for analyzing immigration?

Muslims in America: A Short History (2009), by Edward Curtis IV, moves back to McCloud’s longer and wider view of history. Like McCloud, he puts less emphasis on individual encounters or the experiences of a specific location and attempts to place the Muslim presence in America in a greater historical context. Like the previous two authors, Curtis recognizes that there is a general lack of understanding of Muslim history in American society. He builds on the previous authors’ claims by extending this lack of knowledge to Muslims themselves. He explains that many Muslim leaders are first generation immigrants that were only able to enter the country after the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 and, as a result, do not have a “collective memory of Islam in the United States.”[27] So, he wrote this book as much to inform Muslims about themselves as he did to inform the public at large, but it still comes across as reactionary scholarship with a contemporary political agenda, including a closing plea that “understanding and compassion among us might yet prevail.”[28]

Curtis focuses on putting Muslim Americans in context both with each other and with the world around them. His goal is to show that Muslims in America have been a productive, integral, and normative part of society since before the country was founded.[29] He does this by consistently explaining the national and sometimes international circumstances that have affected Muslims in the United States. For example, he discusses the history of African Muslim slaves, the reemergence of Islamic movements among African Americans in the 1900s, and the conflicts and opportunities this created between African American Muslims and immigrant Muslims that arrived after 1965.[30] He builds on this by showing how American racial ideologies caused Muslims in the U.S. to self-segregate, much as their neighbors self-segregated.[31] Curtis demonstrates how the influx of Muslim immigrants after the change in immigration laws in 1965 impacted Islamic religious expression. Immigrants began to push for American Muslims and Islamic religious institutions to follow the interpretations of Islamic law prevalent in their countries of origin.[32] Curtis explores the impact of U.S. foreign policy (like the OPEC oil embargo in 1973 and the US embassy hostage crisis in Iran, for examples) on Muslims in the United States. He concludes with an examination of Muslims in the U.S. after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Curtis’s analysis of Muslim immigration to the U.S. from the late 1880s onward contradicts Abdo’s conclusion that lasting, national institutions only formed through the efforts of second and third generation Muslims born from post-1965 immigrants.[33] Curtis shows that Muslim communities experienced varying degrees of success in terms of cohesiveness and longevity. Many Muslims became secular or converted to Christianity because of acculturation. However, immigrant Muslim groups also formed lasting social and professional religious networks. Bosnian Muslim immigrants in Chicago formed a mutual aid association in the first decade of the 1900s. Arab Muslim immigrants in Detroit followed suit. In 1952, the Federation of Islamic Associations in the U.S. and Canada (FIA) was formed. Arabs organized the FIA, but the organization quickly expanded to include Muslims of other ethnicities. More to Curtis’s overall point, the FIA hosted patriotically oriented summer camps and annual conventions and the American Moslem Society, founded in Toledo, OH in the 1950s, encouraged its members to be active citizens and proud Muslims and promoted the idea that to be a good Muslim, one had to be a good American and vice versa.[34] This supports Curtis’s overall argument, that Muslims are valid and valuable members of American society.

To further emphasize that Muslims have internalized American values, Curtis makes frequent comparisons between Muslims and contemporary Christians. In the 1970s, U.S. foreign policy, the sexual revolution, the Watergate scandal, and economic problems led some Muslim Americans, like their Christian counterparts, to conclude that the world could only be saved through a massive religious revival.[35] In the 1980s and 1990s, like socially conservative Christians, some American Muslims believed that American popular culture had become too obsessed with illicit sex, drug use, and “libertine behavior,” leading them to call for a moral revival.[36] In the post-September 11, 2001 era, Muslims have faced increased levels of harassment and violence in the U.S., both from private citizens and the federal government. Despite this, American Muslims continue to express their patriotism, even forming Muslim Girl Scout and Boy Scout Troops. Many of these children are proud to be Americans and see no conflict between their faith and their allegiance to their country.[37] The author’s point, that Muslims have been and continue to be a “normal” part of American society is well made.

Curtis recognizes the difference between the ethnic groups he discusses. Unlike McCloud, he makes no attempt to put them in conversation with each other, but it does not seem to detract from his overall point. In Becoming American? The Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralist America, Yvonne Haddad approaches Muslims in the United States primarily through the experiences of the Muslim Arab community. She occasionally refers to Arabs and Muslims, acknowledging that there are other ethnic groups of Muslims in the United States, but this plurality of voices plays almost no role in her analysis. Haddad approaches the topic of Muslims in America in similar ways to the other authors reviewed in this paper. She is essentially covering the same ground, but there are differences. For example, she touches on the conservative Yemeni takeover of the Dix mosque in Dearborn, Michigan that Abdo discusses in detail but makes almost no mention of the history of African American Muslims in the United States.

Haddad’s book, as the title implies, focuses primarily on the Americanization of the Muslim community. Haddad focuses heavily on the history of Islamic ideas and ideology and how previous Islamic scholarship is being used to justify or argue against new behaviors by modern Muslims in the United States. Her book is also a social and cultural history of Arab American Muslims. She analyzes the complex interplay between traditional customs brought from home, the Americanization of second and third generation immigrants, and their desire to create and develop an American Islam, separate from and relieved of the traditions their parents brought with them. Haddad also introduces political history into her narrative by discussing the impact of U.S. domestic and foreign policies on Arab and Arab Muslim identity, particularly regarding U.S. support for Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people.

Many of the authors reviewed present a change in Muslim identity in the United States beginning in the 1970s, in which national ethnic identities were shed and a unified Muslim American ethnic identity was assumed. Haddad’s work builds on this narrative and takes it a step further by questioning how successful Arab Muslims have been in finding their place in American society.[38] She writes that Arabs have always had a rather ambiguous place in the nation and have almost always fallen under suspicion.[39] She is describing the phenomenon that is still prevalent in society today, where all Muslims are held accountable for the violent actions of a few. What’s interesting about Haddad’s analysis of this problematic relationship between Arabs, or Middle Easterners in general, and the rest of U.S. society, is that she positions it as part of a larger and much longer conflict between the East and the West that has gone on for centuries. She notes that there is a large body of Muslim literature refuting Western claims that Islam is violent or somehow oversexualized and ties the Bush administration’s efforts to forcefully create a moderate Islam in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to a continuation of Western efforts to undermine Islam itself as a religion. She indicates that this is a widespread belief among Muslims in the United States and abroad. [40]

Haddad clearly demonstrates that ideas and movements in the Middle East (particularly regarding US foreign policy) tend to be picked up by Muslims in Western countries, including the United States, adding an element of transnationalism to her analysis. The power of foreign ideology to influence a domestic population makes one question what it means to be an American citizen and an American Muslim in perhaps the same way that people once questioned what it meant to be an American citizen and an American Catholic. Haddad does an excellent job of teasing out the conflict between American identity and religious ideology, but she, of course, cannot answer how well or whether Muslims will find full acceptance in U.S. society in the same way as American Jews. As her book title indicates, she ends on an uncertain note, because it is unclear to her whether Muslims have achieved more than a symbolic acceptance into U.S. society.[41]

Like McCloud, Haddad places a considerable amount of emphasis on the role of the U.S. government and media in creating an atmosphere of hostility that prevents Muslims from fully integrating into society.[42] For example, after the Munich massacre in 1972, the U.S. passed legislation that allowed for wiretapping and increased surveillance of Arabs in the United States. The bill also eased restrictions on deportation, resulting in thousands of Arabs being ejected from the country.[43] The Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 was immediately attributed to Muslims by the media, resulting in harassment, injuries and the passage of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), which degraded Arabs’ citizenship rights. The act gave the U.S. government the ability to arrest Arabs without evidence and singled Arabs out for additional screening at airports, even though the bombing was committed by Timothy McVeigh, a white American.[44]

Haddad writes that Muslims have attempted to integrate into American society by participating in U.S. politics and by seeking increased recognition from the government.[45] In the 1990s, the Clinton administration hosted iftar dinners in the White House. The Department of Defense introduced Muslim Chaplains to the military branches and built a prayer hall on a military base in Norfolk, Virginia. However, the US simultaneously positioned Islamic states as the new national enemy after the fall of Soviet Communism and the end of the Cold War and media pundits were laying the blame for all terrorism at Islam’s door. As a result, the idea of Muslims reaching parity with the status of the Jewish population in the United States became an impossibility. Then President Bush became distant and less accessible, giving Muslim Americans the impression that he was beholden to his donors in the Israeli lobby and the Christian Right, which was then and is now a big supporter of Israel.[46] The position of Muslims in the United States degraded even further after September 11, 2001 because the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center put Muslim Americans back in the position of having to defend their religion, their loyalty, and their patriotism.[47] Haddad’s work shows that in 2011, Muslims had not achieved recognition as a part of mainstream society in the same way that Jewish Americans had, but they had begun to engage with and use the American political system in an effort to make their voices heard with increasing effectiveness.

Mucahit Bilici builds on Haddad’s narrative in his work, How Islam is Becoming an American Religion: Finding Mecca in America (2012). Perhaps because it was published a year after Becoming American, Bilici addresses many of the same topics as Haddad, but from a sociological perspective. Bilici presents a brief overview of the history of immigration, but as an ethnography, his work deals primarily with events that have occurred over the last twenty years. He conducts most of his fieldwork in Detroit between 2005 and 2007, which he justifies adequately by presenting the location as being widely representative of major Muslim ethnic groups, generations of immigrants, members of varying economic classes, and approaches to Islam. Bilici’s approach concentrates on three basic themes: “we are citizens,” “we are kin,” and “we are human.”[48] He discusses the appropriation of American “forms” as a process of becoming American, including space, land, language, citizenship, religion, and humor.[49]

The author describes his work in different ways, including as sociology of religion, as immigration studies, cultural sociology, social theory, and as philosophical anthropology. He utilizes language and approaches from different fields to describe his subject: the American Muslim community. His work is clearly quite different from a typical history book in the sense that he draws from a wider range of sources to justify his arguments. While someone who has been trained to research and write as a historian may use ethnographic work, like Abdo for example, Bilici uses Hannah Arendt, Heidegger, Foucault, and Jurgen Habermas as sources just as readily as he uses primary sources or secondary sources like Curtis and Abdo. He also uses “casual conversations [and] taped informal interviews” as sources, which does not seem like a very good way to gain an objective view of a subject.[50] His goal seems to be less about explaining a series of events and more about exploring the human condition. He does not so much build a narrative of history based on data as he describes how the experience of Muslim Americans fits into existing social, philosophical, and anthropological theories. His work is important but is highly theoretical and is perhaps less relevant to the study of Muslim immigration to the United States than true historical work done on the subject, both because of how he sources his information and because the reader may get lost in his explorations and justifications of philosophy and theory.

One point of difference between Bilici and the previous authors reviewed is in his more nuanced understanding of citizenship versus belonging to the nation. Previous authors identified a shift in Muslim self-identification that progressed from being temporary immigrant ethnic groups to being permanent but separate Muslim ethnic groups, and finally to being permanent American Muslims as a single group identity. Becoming a part of the nation was a process of second and third generation immigrants successively becoming more integrated. Bilici proposes an understanding that positions Muslims as citizens that are still outside the nation.  Bilici understands citizenship as having four parts: civil, political, social, and cultural.[51] They possess legal citizenship, but they are not included in “us.”[52] Prior to September 11th, 2001, Muslims were not in the public eye. They were understood to be in the United States, but they were foreign in the sense that they were culturally different. After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, Bilici believes that increased surveillance and interrogation further placed Muslim citizens outside of the national body.[53] The civil and social aspects of their citizenship were diminished.

This more nuanced understanding of belonging as requiring civil and social inclusion in the nation as well as legal citizenship is particularly useful in the case of Muslims as an immigrant group. It adds depth to our understanding of the formation of a single Muslim-American identity by explaining it as both an internal and external process. Muslims assumed this new identity both as part of a larger Islamic revival and as an expression of group solidarity, but it is also an identity imposed on the various Muslim ethnic immigrants by mainstream American society. The view of Muslims as all being representative of a single identity carried a negative connation in the years following September 11th and was characterized by suspicion, fear, and hostility. It also positioned Muslim Americans as being a part of a world-wide Muslim entity or group that was hostile to US interests, rather than as being part of the American national body.

Bilici discusses various ways that Muslims are attempting to overcome this negative perception. Using media and interfaith dialogue, Muslims attempt to close the gap between “us” and “them” by emphasizing commonalities. Bilici shows that this process is taking place through both interfaith dialogue and comedy.[54] Because the U.S. is perceived to be a Judeo-Christian society, interfaith dialogues focus on emphasizing the commonality between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity of Abraham and the Abrahamic God in an attempt to redefine Islam as an Abrahamic faith and, therefore, part of the spiritual foundation of American culture. Muslim comedy attempts to convert fear into laughter by accentuating differences in a way that normalizes them.[55] The goal is to show that Muslims are ordinary people that are already linked to the greater faith community in the United States.

The partial loss of citizenship and subsequent efforts by the Muslim community to recover their status as full members of the American national body that Bilici describes are not unique events in U.S. history. In Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America, Mae Ngai describes how people of Japanese descent had a similar experience during World War II. After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese citizens were rounded up and removed from the west coast of the United States and were subsequently placed in detention camps. This included natural born American citizens of Japanese ancestry. An assumption was made that anyone of Japanese ancestry was an enemy of the state in much the same way that all Muslims were assumed to be enemies of the state after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City in 2001.[56] In both instances, what was called into question was the composition of the national body. Who is and who is not a part of “us”? And who gets to define “us”?

Ngai also points out how weak citizenship protections were in the United States. Japanese-American citizens serving in the U.S. armed forces were given an “honorable discharge” at the “convenience of the government” based on suspicions that were grounded in racism rather than fact. As previously mentioned, US citizens by birth who were of Japanese descent were detained for the same reason. They were put in camps and were consistently challenged to prove their loyalty to the United States.[57] Essentially, their rights as American citizens were taken away from them and their citizenship was depreciated. One would assume that American citizenship is a concrete condition, but similar situations involving different minority groups more than 60 years apart show that what it means to be a U.S. citizen is still in a state of flux and is still being defined. In the case of Japanese internment in the 1940s, having fully recognized citizenship depended heavily on race. In the case of Muslims in the early 2000s, ethnicity seems to have taken the place of race as a marker of whether one belongs to the nation.

Muslim-Americans today are continually called on to demonstrate and proclaim their loyalty instead of that loyalty being assumed by virtue of their citizenship. There is an expectation that after any event where a Muslim anywhere in the world commits a horrible act, all American Muslims must make public declarations of condemnation. If a Muslim doesn’t, then some people assume that they tacitly approve of or support violent actions against non-Muslims or, depending on the situation, against the United States. This too, is reminiscent of the Japanese-American experience and the loyalty questionnaires they were expected to fill out.[58] In a way, much of the literature that was produced after the September 11th, 2001 attacks fall into this category of Muslims or people who sympathize with Muslims loudly proclaiming Muslim loyalty to the nation in print, by clarifying and exploring the long Muslim presence in the United States.

Amir Hussain’s Muslims and the Making of America, published in October of 2016, is one of the most recent books published on Muslims in the United States. Hussain focuses on the long history of Muslim contributions to American life and culture, beginning with the Muslim slaves brought to the colonies in the 1700s and 1800s (as mentioned previously) to Keith Ellison’s election to U.S. Congress in 2007. Hussain’s book is a cultural history that focuses on art, sports, music, and architecture. He seeks to prove that Islam is not new to America, and is not foreign, violent, or “un-American.”[59]

Hussain’s work does not greatly deviate from previous works in the field in terms of his argument, but he does provide a wide range of examples of Muslim contributions to society in the U.S. The way that he constructs his narrative is somewhat problematic. He focuses mostly on secular Muslims, which is certainly a valid approach, but if he is trying to prove that Muslims, as Americans think of them, are not violent or a threat, then he would have been better off addressing the issue from a religious perspective. Many of the critics he is attempting to refute would simply reply that a non-practicing Muslim is not actually a Muslim. On the other hand, emphasizing the wide range of practice or non-practice in the Muslim community adds more depth to the conversation about Muslims in the United States. Because the author includes himself in his conception of American Muslims and is writing from a modern Muslim perspective, the way he frames his narrative reveals the firm establishment of the idea of American Muslims as Muslims first, rather than as members of individual ethnic groups. Otherwise, one would be a Pakistani rather than a “secular Muslim.”

Despite being published by a university press, Muslims and the Making of America reads like popular history and includes phrases like, “My Toronto homeboy, Frank Gehry, perhaps the world’s greatest living architect, is one of its graduates.”[60] Much of Hussain’s narrative is anecdotal rather than analysis and does not describe the impact of the events or people under consideration on the rest of American society. More importantly, he does not try to tie his examples into public opinion about Muslims in the country or explain how they were received by the Muslim community. For example, he relates that in the 1940s, the Ahmadiyya community gained a number of converts among African American Jazz musicians.[61] How was this understood by the larger Muslim community at the time? How much of an impact did it have on the public perception of Islam? Another example is the story he relates of Fazlur Rahman Khan, an engineer who developed a tubular brace system that allowed for the construction of buildings of record-breaking height, like the Sears (Willis) Tower in Chicago. But, if the public is not aware that these buildings were designed by a Muslim, does this have any significance for the public perception of Muslims?

When describing the process of immigration, Oscar Handlin, a historian of immigration, argues that “regardless of nationality, religion, race or ethnicity…the common experience was wrenching hardship, alienation and gradual Americanization that changed America as much as it changed the newcomers.”[62] This idea that immigrants were uprooted from their homes in a wrenching experience and were gradually Americanized does not wholly explain the Muslim experience in America. This definition of immigration and assimiliation could fit the African Muslim slave experience in the American colonies and later in the United States.[63] It could also fit, to some degree, the early midwestern Muslim communities that disappeared as they converted to Christianity or secularism, if one understood assimilation to be adoption of Anglo-American culture.[64] But it does not explain the Detroit Dix community, where traditions, cultural practices (like arranged marriages), imams, and social networks were transplanted from Yemen to the United States, or the tenacity with which they, and other communities like them, hold onto their traditional way of life.[65] The Dix experience is better explained by Rudolph Vecoli’s conception of immigration as people being transplanted from one location to another while clinging “tenaciously to their traditions and develop[ing] strategies to retain their heritage and resist pressures to embrace the American social and economic system.”[66] However, this too is inadequate when attempting to explain the Muslim-American experience as a whole, because there were and are Muslim immigrants who readily embrace American social and economic systems, as demonstrated in this paper. According to Russell Kazal, John Bodnar, another scholar of immigration, viewed Americanization and assimilation in economic terms. He saw Americanization as a process that required assuming the supposed middle-class values of power, wealth, and personal gain. He believed that immigrants entered the country already fitting into a middle-class or working-class mold and only saw those that entered the middle class as having assimilated into America. Bodnar equated capitalism with America, but as Kazal points out, there is nothing distincly American about capitalism and one does not need to believe in capitalism or be financially successful to be an American.[67] In addition, it seems cynical and depressing to center American identity around the acquisition of property and wealth. Bodnar’s conceptualization of immigration and assimilation seems the least applicable to any immigrant group, Muslims included.

Perhaps the reason that Muslims do not fit neatly into these theories of immigration is that they immigrated to the United States from dozens of countries over hundreds of years. They have engaged in a range of behaviors after entering the United States, from being destroyed as a coherent group through chattel slavery, to creating and preserving ethnic enclaves, to fully immersing themselves in American culture and society. Yet, they remain a distinct ethnic group. Their identity as Muslims sets them apart from other Americans, if not in their own minds then in the minds of some who, perhaps, have come to associate Muslims with the caricature presented by the media. The core of the conflict seems to be an argument about what the fundamental nature or character of the people of the United States as a nation will be. Is there room for Muslims in “us”? Can Muslims redefine their values and customs in a way that the rest of society can be comfortable with?

When Muslims were a relative unknown in the public imagination, there was no (or very little) outcry or Islamiphobic rhetoric. The events of September 11th, 2001, and the “Global War on Terror” launched Muslims into the national spotlight and acted as a trigger that forced Muslim-Americans to engage with American society and renegotiate their identity in a way that emphasized their “Americanness.” The scholarship on Muslims in the United States reviewed in this paper is an example of that renegotiation. So, too, is the content they cover, including Muslim comedians, Muslims engaging in civic activism, Muslims promoting interfaith dialogue and working to include Islam under the umbrella of American religion as a fellow Abrahamic faith. In the past, Irish immigrants, like the Scots and English before them, arranged their conception of themselves in such a way “that the more Irish they were, the more American they became.”[68] Essentially, to be a good Irishman was to be a good American, and vice-versa. Muslims, too (or at least some Muslims) have reached a similar point of self-understanding and self-expression. A good example is the creation of Muslim Boy Scout and Muslim Girl Scout Troops, which is a demonstration by Muslims that there is no contradiction between their faith and their patriotic feelings towards the United States.

According to the books reviewed, Muslim-Americans’ identity formation (and the ongoing development of that ethnic identity) as a unified ethnic group rather than as a collection of nationalities and cultures took place through conflict with the rest of American society. In an article published in the Journal of American Ethnic History in 1991, authors Kathleen Conzen, David Gerber, Ewa Morawska, George Pozzetta, and Rudolph Vecoli discussed the process by which immigrant groups become American ethnic groups, an alternative to the idea of assimilation.[69] They present their own view of ethnicity as an act of conscious invention, a “process of construction or invention which incorporates, adapts, and amplifies preexisting communal solidarities, cultural attributes, and historical memories [that are] grounded in real life context and social experience.”[70] For Conzen (“et al.” shall be assumed moving forward when mentioning Conzen), ethnic group formation, or group identity formation, is an active process, in which a community renegotiates its identity relative both to other ethnic groups and the dominant culture in an effort to create solidarity and to demonstrate compatibility between the “sidestream ethnoculture” and American principles and ideals.[71] Conzen belives this process is ongoing within and between all ethnic groups in the United States, but becomes more pronounced in times of societal crisis, like wars and economic depressions, for example.[72] This conceptualization of ethnicization as Americanization seems to best describe the Muslim-American experience. Groups of widely varying origin and practice invented the Muslim-American ethnic identity because it was necessary to respond to criticisms from the rest of society and assert their own identity and belonging.

Muslim-Americans have experienced conflict with other ethnic groups in the United States in much the same way that other ethnic groups have, resulting in a renegotiation of Muslims’ identity and role in the country vis-à-vis other ethnic groups. As noted above, Conzen and her colleagues believe this is a natural part of the Americanization process. However, what seems to set the Muslim experience apart from that of previous ethnic groups is the profound impact of modern technology and modern media. In the past, there were certainly negative stories published about immigrant ethnic groups, but in the modern era of the internet, Facebook, Twitter, and amateur “journalism,” there is an unrelenting, constant onslaught of negative media portrayals that Muslims must endure, ignore, engage, or refute. The modern media’s ability to quickly influence public opinion (or, perhaps, create public opinion) has impacted immigrant ethnic groups’ ability to become accepted parts of American society. This becomes a larger problem when one considers that in addition to having a wider and almost instant reach, much of what modern media publishes has degenerated into sensationalism to get “clicks” and ad revenue. Playing on stereotypes and fears makes money. Presenting Muslims as a threat will gain readership. A story about Muslims running a soup kitchen in Detroit will not.

Recent historiography on Muslims as immigrants to the United States has primarily been written defensively. The authors all mention September 11, 2001, as a major turning point for Muslims in the United States and as at least a partial impetus for their work. The authors feel a driving need to explain who Muslims are in a way that counters popular conceptions that are the result of distortions in news reports and popular media. These authors argue that Muslims and Islam have been a part of American and U.S. society since the colonial period, in one form or another. The work that has been produced is mostly of a journalistic, descriptive, or anecdotal nature, as if the authors are more interested in trying to make Muslims seem fun and approachable than they are in presenting the history of Muslim immigration and integration into American society. As previously noted, this may be because many of the authors are Muslims and are personally invested in normalizing Muslim-Americans. It could also be a sales tactic, to make the books more marketable to lay readers were looking for authoritative sources that they could readily digest in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001. Regardless, it would be difficult to write an in-depth book on Muslim immigration as a whole, however, because the topic is simply too wide to cover in an effective way.

The authors of the books reviewed also make it clear that “Muslim American” has subsumed multiple ethnic identities and become a primary means of self-identification for Muslims born in the United States. The development of this identity may have been the result of both internal and external forces, but Muslim Americans have been effectively using their new identity to join in American identity politics. In the same way that other ethnic groups have previously done, Muslim Americans are “putting themselves out there” in a simplified way that the public can easily understand, normalizing themselves as a part of the American tapestry through Muslim television shows, Muslim stand-up comedy, and civic activism, for example, to advocate for equal treatment. Identity politics was originally developed as a means for fighting against one’s own oppression and forming coalitions with similarly oppressed groups to fight oppression together, which Muslims seem to be doing through groups like CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations).[73] Identity politics, insofar as it emphasizes commonalities among all citizens to overcome oppression, is a useful tool, but as a system, it can be perverted to emphasize differences in a way that allows people to dismiss the views of others if they are not part of their identity group. Or worse, identity politics can devolve into a race to the bottom of the victimhood barrel, as if proving hardships somehow proves legitimacy. When that happens, identity politics becomes an obstacle to the common good.

Does identity politics have a place in scholarship? In other words, is “Muslim immigration” a valid lens through which to look at the American immigration experience, as opposed to studying the immigration of ethnic groups, or people from a region regardless of relgion? In a way, yes. It may allow for a more specific look at the experiences of a particular group of people who share some attribute(s) and the immigration experience of a particular type of people can be interesting for its own sake. For Muslim immigration scholarship in particular, I would say that identity politics should have been ignored by the academic community and studies should have been done on individual ethnic groups or groups from specific geographic origins, with a chapter at the end discussing how they fit into a larger Muslim-American identity group that serves primarily as a special interest group. Muslims immigrate to the United States from almost every country in the world. It is impossible to do any one group justice in a single volume that tries to lump them all together, as most of the authors reviewed admit. So, why try? Most of the books reviewed for this paper appear to be kneejerk responses to the September 11th, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the available literature on Muslim immigrant groups suffered as a response. That is not to say that these books are not valuable in any way, of course, but for the most part they all claim to take a broad view and then wind up spending most of their time describing one or two communities in detail.

A possible new avenue of approach in this field of study would be to analyze American news and popular media representations of Muslims over a period of time, to determine if there have been any significant shifts in the discourse on Muslims in America. It could also be worthwhile to develop a comparative analysis of popular opinion of Muslims in the United States in relation to conflicts in the Middle East. Decidedly lacking from the existing literature is enough emphasis on Chinese-American Muslims. Central Asian Muslims and Southeast Asian (Malaysian, Indonesian, Filipino) Muslims in the United States have not been discussed at all. Perhaps these immigrant groups are not very large or simply do not exist, but adding their voices to the current literature would deepen our understanding of Muslims in America. Finally, as Muslim identity begins to take precedence over ethnic identity, it would be worthwhile to review the internal discourse of Muslim groups to discover what form American Sunni Islam is taking, or if practice remains fragmented.

Selected Bibliography

Abdo, Geneive Abdo. 2006. Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bilici, Mucahit. 2012. How Islam Is Becoming an American Religion: Finding Mecca in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bodnar, John. 2012. “Bodnar-Transplanted-excerpt.pdf.” ePortfolios. January. Accessed January 23, 2018.

Conzen, Kathleen Neils, David A. Gerber, Ewa Morawska, George E. Pozzetta, and Rudolph J. Vecoli. 1992. “The Invention of Ethnicity: A Perspective from the U.S.A.” Journal of American Ethnic History, Fall: 3-41.

Curtis IV, Edward E. 2009. Muslims in America: A Short History. New York: Oxford University Press.

Diouf, Sylviane A. 1998. Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved In the Americas. New York: New York University Press.

Ghaneabassiri, Kambiz. 2010. A History of Islam in America. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Grimes, William. 2008. “Rudolph J. Vecoli, Scholar of Immigration, Is Dead at 81.” The New York Times. June 23. Accessed January 23, 2018.

Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck. 2011. Becoming American? The Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralist America. Waco: Baylor University Press.

Hussain, Amir. 2016. Muslims and the Making of America. Waco: Baylor University Press.

Kazal, Russell. 1995. “Revisiting Assimilation: The Rise, Fall, and Reappraisal of a Concept in American Ethnic History.” The American Historical Review 100 (2): 437-471. Accessed August 24, 2016.

McCloud, Aminah Beverly. 2006. Transnational Muslims in American Society. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

Ngai, Mae. 2014. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Politics and Society in Modern America). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

2003. “Poll: Two Years After 9/11, Growing Number of Americans Link Islam to Violence.” Pew Research Center: Religion & Public Life. September 10. Accessed February 1, 2018.

Said, Edward W. 2001. “The Clash of Ignorance: Labels like “Islam” and “the West” serve only to confuse us about a disorderly reality.” The Nation. October 4. Accessed February 2, 2018.

Van Dyek, Max. 2018. “Van Dyke: Identity politics are necessary to fight structural oppression.” THe University Daily Kansan. January 23. Accessed January 23, 2018.

Vitello, Paul. 2011. “Oscar Handlin, Historian Who Chronicled U.S. Immigration, Dies at 95.” The New York Times. September 23. Accessed January 23, 2018.

Footnotes (that were converted to Endnotes by cut & paste to WordPress)

[1] A November 2001 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 61% of Americans knew “not very much” or “nothing at all” about Islam. “Poll: Two Years After 9/11, Growing Number of Americans Link Islam to Violence,” Pew Research Center: Religion & Public Life, September 10, 2003, URL:

[2] For more information and a criticism of this rhetoric, see Edward W. Said, “The Clash of Ignorance: Labels like “Islam” and “the West” serve only to confuse us about a disorderly reality.” The Nation, October 4, 2001, URL: Also, Douglas Little, Us versus Them: The United States, Radical Islam, and the Rise of the Green Threat (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

[3] Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, A History of Islam in America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 7.

[4] Ibid., 4. For example, see Zareena Grewal, Islam is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority (New York: New York University Press, 2013); Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States, reprint ed. (New York: New York University Press, 2016). For works not reviewed in this paper that do not follow this trend, also see Bruce Lawrence, New Faiths, Old Fears: Muslims and Other Asian Immigrants in American Religious Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002); Edward Curtis, IV, ed. The Columbia Sourcebook of Muslims in the United States (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).

[5] Ibid. For examples, see Richard Turner, Islam in the African-American Experience, 2nd ed. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003); Michael Gomez, Black Crescent: The Experience and Legacy of African Muslims in the Americas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); and Sylviane A. Diouf, Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas, (New York: New York University Press, 2013).

[6] Ibid. For examples, see Yvonne Haddad and Adair T. Lummis, Islamic Values in the United States: A Comparative Study (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987); Yvonne Haddad and John Esposito, Muslims on the Americanization Path? (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998); Jane Smith, Islam in America, 2nd ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999); Jocelyne Cesari, When Islam and Democracy Meet: Muslims in Europe and in the United States (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Andrew Garrod and Robert Kilkenny, eds. Growing Up Muslim: Muslim College Students in America Tell Their Life Stories (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014).

[7] Ibid., 6. For an example, see Haddad and Esposito, Americanization Path?; Sumbul Ali-Karamali, The Muslim Next Door: The Qur’an, the Media, and That Veil Thing (Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press, 2008); Mucahit Bilici, How Islam is Becoming an American Religion: Finding Mecca in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), which is reviewed in this paper; Sally Howell, Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); Edward Curtis, IV, The Practice of Islam in America: An Introduction (New York: New York University Press, 2017).

[8] Kathleen Conzen et al., “The Invention of Ethnicity: A Perspective from the U.S.A.,” Journal of American Ethnic History 12, no. 1 (1992): 3-41, URL:, accessed August 8, 2016.

[9] Ibid., 7.

[10] Aminah Beverly McCloud, Transnational Muslims in American Society (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006), 1.

[11] Ibid., 5.

[12] Ibid., 7.

[13] Ibid., 62, 83.

[14] Ibid., 69, 85.

[15] Ibid., 54-55, 83.

[16] Ibid., 102-103.

[17] Ibid., 125.

[18] Ibid., 133-134.

[19] Geneive Abdo, Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), Kindle location 58.

[20] Ibid., 2372. Abdo notes that there is an unfortunate trend of mosques and born-Muslims having little regard for converts who are not educated in terms of Islamic religious history and law. Well-educated converts, however, are highly regarded. For example, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir founded the Zaytuna Institute, a well regarded Islamic school in the United States. A popular Muslim activist, Ingrid Mattson, is also a convert.

[21] Ibid., 68.

[22] Ibid., 295-306, 1433-1445.

[23] Ibid., 446.

[24] Ibid., 127, 889, 896, 994.

[25] Ibid., 1195.

[26] Ibid., 1464-1475.

[27] Edward E. Curtis IV, Muslims in America: A Short History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), xi.

[28] Ibid., 116.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid., 64-65. For example, Sunni “orthodox” Muslims made it a point to try to convert Malcolm X to their brand of Islam because of his status as a symbol of Islam in the United States. Many Muslim immigrants after 1965 saw Islam as a complete way of life that could and should inform political life as well as religious life. Malcolm X, on the other hand, saw Islam as a religion or religious denomination, like most other African American Muslims at the time.

[31] Curtis, xii.

[32] Ibid., 67.

[33] Abdo, Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11, Kindle location 1196, 2595.

[34] Curtis IV, Muslims in America: A Short History, 56-59.

[35] Ibid., 69.

[36] Ibid., 88.

[37] Ibid., 108-109.

[38] Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Becoming American? The Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralistic America (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2011), 23.

[39] Ibid., 38-39.

[40] Ibid., 39, 90-91.

[41] Ibid., 96.

[42] Ibid., 94.

[43] Ibid., 18.

[44] Ibid., 72-73.

[45] Ibid., 70-71.

[46] Ibid., 74-75.

[47] Ibid., 89.

[48] Ibid., 32.

[49] Mucahit Bilici, How Islam Is Becoming an American Religion: Finding Mecca in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), 10.

[50] Ibid., 29.

[51] Ibid., 13.

[52] Ibid., 13, 123.

[53] Ibid., 13.

[54] Ibid., 147, 174.

[55] Ibid., 174.

[56] Mae Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Politics and Society in Modern America) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 175-176.

[57] Ibid., 177-179.

[58] For more information about the Japanese experience during World War II, please see Chapter 5 of Ngai’s Impossible Subjects: “The World War II Internment of Japanese Americans and the Citizenship Renunciation Cases”.

[59] Amir Hussain, Muslims and the Making of America (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2016), Kindle location 80-125.

[60] Ibid., 1019.

[61] Ibid., 622.

[62] Paul Vitello, “Oscar Handlin, Historian Who Chronicled U.S. Immigration, Dies at 95,” The New York Times, September 23, 2011,

[63] For a full account of the African Muslim experience, in addition to the chapters they’re afforded in the works reviewed, an excellent resource is Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas, (New York: New York University Press, 2013) by Sylviane A. Diouf.

[64] These immigrants were not uprooted in the sense that they were alienated. They did face hardship, but lived as a community, despite eventual Americanization and abandonment of the social and communal ties they had developed. For more information about these communities, please see chapter 3, “Twentieth-Century Muslim Immigrants: From the Melting Pot to the Cold War,” in Muslims in America: A Short History, by Edward Curtis IV.

[65] Abdo, Kindle location 671-678, for example.

[66] William Grimes, “Rudolph J. Vecoli, Scholar of Immigration, Is Dead at 81,” The New York Times, June 23, 2008,

[67] Russell Kazal, “Revisiting Assimilation: The Rise, Fall, and Reappraisal of a Concept in American Ethnic History,” The American Historical Review 100, no. 2 (1995): 456-457, URL:, accessed August 24, 2016 & John Bodnar, “”Bodnar-Transplanted-excerpt.pdf,” URL:, accessed January 23, 2018.

[68] Ibid., 21.

[69] Ibid., 3-41.

[70] Ibid., 4-5.

[71] Ibid., 5.

[72] Ibid., 13.

[73] Max Van Dyke, “Van Dyke: Identity politics are necessary to fight structural oppression,” The University Daily Kansan, January 23, 2018, URL:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.