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Homegrown Islam in the USA

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Muslims in America are an ethnically diverse group, coming from more than sixty nations and representing very different racial, linguistic, tribal, educational, and cultural backgrounds. Yvonne Haddad groups them into three categories: immigrants, converts, and sojourners (Conser 1997, 218, 219). This article will focus on those who have converted to Islam in America, with particular attention to the brand of homegrown Islam that has developed among African Americans.

There is a growing controversy over how many Muslims there are in the USA, with widely different numbers claimed by various groups. The problem stems from the fact that the US government does not include religious background questions in its census counts, thus leaving the question of the Muslim population in the USA to less than accurate estimates. Many claim that there are between 6 and 7 million Muslims in the United States while others are just as insistent that there are only about two million (Boehlet 2001, 4). It is beyond the scope of this paper to deal with this issue. Regardless of the number, it is a given that the Muslim population in the USA is growing rapidly, that there are more than 1,209 mosques, and that African Americans constitute 25-30 percent of all Muslims in the United States (Sheler 2001, 50).

Over the past ninety years converts to Islam in North America have largely come from among African Americans. Initially Blacks joined a racist, separatist movement that could be labeled quasi-Islamic at best, but most of those converts have now moved to a much more orthodox Islamic position that encourages participation in the nation and calls for brotherhood between all races. While small splinter groups still mirror the early stages of the separatist Black Muslims, the large majority has moved into mainstream Islam. In this article I will briefly sketch the development and growth of Islam among African Americans, then I will offer four brief suggestions on how the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church should begin to relate to the growth of Islam in the African American communities of North America.

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