From Church to Mosque: The African-American Muslim

The red and white sticker proudly adorned the bumper of the Cadillac as it sat in the supermarket parking lot. As the well-dressed woman put her groceries in the spacious trunk and entered her steel and glass sanctuary, a casual observer would assume that she was typical of others in her age group from that area: a kind-hearted, church-going woman who takes care of her children and is active in the community.

However, the four words written on this bumper sticker betrayed any
preconceived notions that one may have of her. These words were part of this woman’s changed world. What was it like for her to believe these words? Did she imbibe them into her soul and feel them deep in her heart? Did her family feel the same? Had she been a part of a church at one time? If so, what was she seeking that she did not find there?

Whatever compelling reasons led this middle-aged African American woman to don her vehicle with a sticker that read, “Islam Made The Difference,” one could be sure that this was no flippant statement, nor was this woman an anomaly. On the contrary, Islam is growing fastest in America among African Americans, most of whom at one time described themselves as Christians. Along with Southeast Asians and those from the Middle East, African Americans comprise one of the three largest ethnic groups of American Muslims and make up about twenty percent of the total U.S. Muslim population. Indeed, there is hardly an African American male today who does not grow up in some proximity to Islam.

What is the reason for this attraction to Islam within African American
communities? Throughout the remainder of this Black History Month, we will look at key factors that have led many African Americans to convert to Islam: a quest for justice, dignity, and identity. Sadly, throughout their history in the United States, African Americans have experienced grave injustices, beginning with slavery and perpetuating throughout the Jim Crow Era. Even today, people of color are facing injustice in the forms of mass incarceration, racial profiling, and police brutality. In light of these past and present injustices, someone recently told me that “Islam [gives] language to resistance against perceived evil.” In other words, the banner of Islam is waving over many African American households because of the hardships their community has faced and is facing. In addition, the honor of African Americans was decimated throughout slavery and the years following. Many have seen Islam as a doorway back to dignity.

Along with a restoration of respect, many have sought a whole new identity, even going so far as changing their name. This practice began with Noble Drew Ali, the founder of the Moorish Science Temple, who said in 1913, “The name means everything.” Others, like Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, followed suit. African Americans Muslims continue this practice today, abandoning European-rooted names for Arabic ones.
Despite the lure of Islam for many in the African American community, the reader will encounter hope in each of the coming week’s blogposts. The Bible has much to say on matters of justice, dignity, and identity, and the Gospel is still the answer for African American Muslims. Those who have abandoned the church for the mosque must decide what they will do with Jesus, for the Jesus (Isa) of Islam is different from the Jesus of the Bible. Indeed, every African American Muslim deserves to hear the truth about Him.

Photo by Nicola Fioravanti on Unsplash

Tags: , , ,

Leave a reply