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A Growing Presence: American Converts to Islam

As a result, African-American Muslims today play an integral role in America's Islamic community. Warith Deen Muhammad is now an important Muslim leader internationally, with close affiliations to the Muslim World League and the Organization of Islamic Conferences.

Separatist movements do remain, however, most notably under the leadership of Louis Farrakhan, who has resurrected the Nation of Islam and the militant ideology espoused by Elijah Muhammad. While Farrakhan has been presented as a representative of America's Muslims, members of the mainstream Muslim community, including Warith Deen Muhammad, consider Farrakhan's teachings to be heretical, and not a true representation of Islam.

Islam in the Hispanic Community

Considerable efforts are now under way to increase the numbers of Muslim converts in America's Hispanic community, as well. In 1986, the organization Alianza Islamica was founded with the specific purpose of fostering Islam within America's Hispanic population. The group now publishes a bilingual magazine under the same name, designed to increase awareness about Islam and its teachings.

A primary focus of the organization and the magazine is the contribution of Islam to Hispanic civilization, stemming from the eight centuries of Muslim rule in Spain. In addition, groups such as the Islamic Society of North America and the International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations have undertaken to publish a number of Islamic works in Spanish. While the number of Hispanic converts to Islam is estimated to be only 1,000, their role in America's Muslim community is gaining increasing recognition.

America's major Muslim organizations, including the two cited above, the Islamic Circle of North America, and the Muslim Foundation, all have undertaken to integrate Muslim converts into this nation's Islamic community. With the number of Muslim converts on the rise, in the next century Islam is expected to be this nation's second most widely practiced religion. How much impact this has on American life overall depends to a very large extent on the future unity of America's Muslims, and particularly the extent of cooperation among Muslim immigrants and their descendants, and American converts to Islam.

 

This article first appeared in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and is reprinted with permission.

Uzra Zeya currently works for the U.S. Department of State.

3/16/2010 4:00:00 AM