Eye On… the U.S. – Black Muslims in America

A unique segment of the Islamic population in the United States is that of Black American Muslims, with approximately half of the population of Black Muslims having converted from Christianity or another religion. According to the Pew Research Center, Black Muslims make up close to 20% of the American Muslim population, and are devout, with 55% reporting that they perform the required five daily prayers.

While the controversial Nation of Islam, founded in 1930 by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad, is credited with popularizing a form of Islam to Black Americans, the sect was estimated to have a membership of only 20,000 – 50,000 in 2007. Fard’s vision for the Nation of Islam was both to teach the principles of Islam and to address political, economic, and social inequalities in America. With Fard’s disappearance in 1934, several changes in leadership throughout the following decades, and various scandals (including the murder of former member and spokesperson Malcolm X), only two out of 100 Black Muslims still report an affiliation with the Nation of Islam. A slight majority of Black Muslims report that they subscribe to Sunni Islam (52%), or report being non-denominational (27%).

A staggering 69% of Black Muslims were born in the United States, with the remainder of Black Muslims being immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa. As we look at these statistics, we have to begin ask ourselves some questions. Although the majority of Black Americans still profess Christianity, what makes Islam so attractive and why is the flow of conversion so heavily weighted toward conversion to Islam as opposed to Christianity? As the American church, what have we done to connect with Black Americans and what can we do to reach Black Muslims in our communities? What are the challenges unique to reaching those who have been raised in the United States?

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