AMERICAN

MUSLIM

RECLAIM THE PAST
REIMAGINE THE FUTURE

We are a storytelling platform dedicated to revealing
the long and vital role that Muslims have played in shaping the United States.

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Some 292 Muslim-sounding last names appear in troop listings for the Civil War. Most prominent among them is Nicholas Said (pictured here) also known as Mohammed Ali ben Said, who joined the 55th Regiment of Massachusetts Colored Volun­teers. Unlike many African Americans who fought in the war, neither Said nor any of his ancestors had been enslaved on American soil. According to his remarkable autobiography, Said was enslaved or indentured for much of his life yet he traveled to five continents, spoke seven languages, served princes and diplomats, and worked as a teacher and speaker in the southern United States. He was committed to being “useful to my race”. In his autobiography, Said notes that "Africa has been, through prejudice and ignorance, so sadly misrepresented, that anything like intelligence, industry, etc. is believed not to exist among its natives”. His work serves as a counter narrative to that notion.
Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Historical Society, thanks to Precious Rasheeda Muhammad for her work excavating this lost history and publishing Said’s autobiography.
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#juneteenth #liberation #usmuslims #africanamerican #civilrights #losthistory
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On #Muslims4abolition @believersbailout National Day of Action, we remember the long history of police brutality against Black communities in America, and the powerful forces from the Muslim community who stood up to them.
On April 27, 1962 an act of police brutality took place took place at the Nation of Islam’s mosque in Los Angeles. Six unarmed Muslims were wounded and one was killed.
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Malcolm’s words about that day ring powerfully today: "In the shooting that took place, seven men were shot. Seven Muslims were shot. None of them were armed. None of them were struggling. None of them were fighting. None of them were trying to defend themselves at all...you’ve got some Gestapo tactics being practiced by the police department in this country against 20 million black people, second class citizens, day in and day out.”
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Photo courtesy of the @gordonparksfoundation *
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#Muslims4abolition #BlackLivesMatter #racism #solidarity #muslims4blacklives
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In her essay, Dr. Mia Carey, former field director of the Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Project, reflects on why the stories of enslaved African Muslims and Islam’s early presence in America have been silenced.

As we watch the streets fill with protests for #BlackLivesMatter, Dr. Carey reminds us of the long history of racism and systematic violence against black bodies, and how that history has informed what it means to be American.
Read her essay on this lost history and it’s implications. Link in bio.

#blacklivesmatter #forgottenhistories #usmuslims #yarrowmamout #racialjustice #american
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#blackouttuesday. American Muslim stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. We are outraged by the systems of oppression and anti-blackness that marginalize people in America. We feel the anguish of this moment, and we too are grieving. Our vision is to reclaim the past to reimagine the future, a future where everyone belongs. We want to learn from the past, from our Muslim American ancestors who have been in this fight from the beginning. At the same time, we recognize the inherent challenges. As one of our team members put it: "We've been having the same damn conversation for the past 70 years, and I don't know what's changing". As storytellers, we're committed to using this platform to make a difference, a real difference. We don’t know exactly what that looks like yet, but we’ll continue sharing stories, and doing what we can to change the conversation. ...

We hope you enjoyed Denise Spellberg's @utaustintx reflections on #religiousfreedom in America, its successes and failures. We continue to think about what she said, especially this quote,"Muslims remain a litmus test for the full realization of the American experiment's promise of universal inclusion and equality, regardless of race or religion."
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Please tell us what you learned from this series! What does the election of Muslims in Congress @repilhan @rashidatlaib @repkeithellison @repandrecarson tell us about the American experiment for "universal inclusion and equality"?
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#americanmuslims #muslim #representationmatters #race #americanmuslimhistory
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We asked our project advisor, Denise Spellberg, Professor of History & Middle Eastern Studies @utaustintx, and author of the fascinating book “Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an” how Muslims fit into the American experiment of universal inclusion and equality: “When Keith Ellison became the first Muslim elected to Congress in 2006, he swore his private oath of allegiance on Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an. That book symbolizes our nation's long and complicated history of connection to Islam and Muslims. The reaction to Congressman Ellison's election tested, in practice, the inclusion Jefferson had earlier predicted in theory. What would Thomas Jefferson say about Congressman Ellison's election? Possibly that it reflects a near-perfect confirmation of his founding, theoretical ideal of Muslims as future citizens with religious freedom and civil rights that he forecast in the 18th and 19th centuries. Muslims then marked the placeholders for the furthest reaches of inclusion as Americans at the nation's founding. But this ideal remains a work in progress. Even in the 21st century. Muslims remain a litmus test for the full realization of of the American experiment's promise of universal inclusion and equality, regardless of religion or race. Jefferson would not have been surprised that a Muslim had been elected to Congress, but he would have been stunned to realize that the first Muslim congressman descended from former West African slaves who arrived in North America in 1742. Once again, race continues to complicate Jefferson's capacious view of universal religious freedom. Despite bigotry born from rank prejudice and a limited view of American history, Islam remains what it has always been, an American religion. and its adherents as citizens test whether American ideals of equality and inclusion will prevail as national values. in this struggle for full equality, there is good news. Since Congressman Ellison's election, three more Muslims have been elected to Congress. Andre Carson of Indiana in 2008 and two women; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and lhan Omar of Minnesota in 2018. Positive signs that many Americans share political values which transcend religious differences."
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Sound up!
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We asked our project advisor, Denise Spellberg, Professor of History & Middle Eastern Studies @utaustintx and author of “Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an,” what George Washington’s list of taxable property reveals about the Founder’s views on race and religion: “George Washington, like Thomas Jefferson, intended Muslims to be future citizens of the American Republic. In 1784, Washington wrote a friend that he needed workmen for his Mount Vernon plantation, and he didn't care about what they believed or didn't. Washington insisted, quote, “If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa or Europe. They may be Mohammedans (meaning Muslims,) Jews or Christians of any sect, or they may be atheists.” However, this document from a decade earlier in 1774 reminds us that despite Jefferson and Washington's lofty, theoretical ideals of religious freedom, their practice of chattel slavery based on race tragically reduced the earliest American Muslim people in the United States to the status of property. Thus, we see on this list of taxable items at Washington's Mount Vernon Plantation, the names of two women, probably Muslim, who were named after the Prophet's daughter Fatima, spelled incorrectly here as Fatimer, F-A-T-I-M-E-R, and Little Fatimer. An estimated 15 to 20 percent of enslaved people in North America who hailed from West Africa were of Muslim origin. Historians identify this minority in part by their distinctive monikers. Enslaved on Washington's plantation, we cannot know if either Fatima a little Fatima practiced Islam privately or publicly. They were probably a mother-daughter duo. Whether we don't know if Washington ever recognized them as Muslims. However, because of race and slavery, neither woman named Fatima at Mt. Vernon retained rights or religious freedom. In his will, George Washington insisted that his slaves be freed. But whether either Fatima achieved emancipation remains unknown.”
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📸 The George Washington Paper @librarycongress *
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#americanmuslims #americandream #rethinkamerica #freedom #religiousfreedom #listening #emancipation #blackandmuslim
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About

Muslims first arrived in America more than a century before the Jamestown colony was founded…
Too few Americans are aware of the profound impact of the Muslim experience on U.S. soil, stretching back over 400 years.  In the popular imagination, Muslims are at best foreigners, at worst suspects.
It’s time to create a new narrative about what it means to be American.
This three-year project is exploring how Muslims of every generation have participated in the American experiment—as Africans who were enslaved, homesteaders, soldiers, community builders, business leaders, sportspeople, political activists, artists and more. Through their stories, we are highlighting the role of Muslims in U.S. history and expanding our notion of what it means to be an American today.

American Muslim is using innovative storytelling techniques to reach people wherever they consume their content—through broadcast, digital, community screenings and educational initiatives. We have already launched our social media channels and will be producing a series of short films for digital distribution, before building to a three-hour documentary series intended for broadcast in 2022. The series will be accompanied by a state-of-the-art website, and vigorous community outreach and educational engagement, designed to bring these stories to schools and colleges across America.

Blog

Silenced in the Landscape

Today in 1752, an enslaved African Muslim named Yarrow Mamout arrived in Annapolis, Maryland on board the slave ship Elijah. Gaining his freedom at the age of 60, Mamout went on to become a successful craftsman, entrepreneur and financier – lending...

Everyone Belongs in This New American Story

One of my favorite new lockdown traditions is a daily dance party with my six-year-old son. We blast our favorite Bollywood and Bieber tunes, mimicking outrageous dance moves to the best of our abilities. Although my son doesn’t speak Urdu or...

Creative Team

We have assembled a diverse media team with decades of experience creating award-winning non-fiction and history content for public media, commercial television and digital platforms. The project has been developed and is led by:

Project Advisors

We are honored to be working with an academic advisory board of distinguished scholars who bring to the project a diverse range of experience and expertise.

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SUPPORT

Help us change the narrative surrounding  Muslims in America.
Tax-deductible donations can be made here.

With thanks to the individuals and foundations
who are generously supporting our work:

Hassan and Rasha Elmasry

Salma Hasan Ali, the late Maurice Berger, Fareed and Asma Farukhi/UHRC, Navine Karim, Tanu Kumar, Mohini Malhotra, Ambassador Osman Siddique, Caroline Sunners.

The Pillars Fund
The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art

American Muslim is a sponsored project of the Filmmakers Collaborative.

Connect

For more information about American Muslim, to become a partner, or for any other enquiries, contact us using this form. Thank you for your interest and support.

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