By Matthew Bigg
1 hour, 48 minutes ago
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Islam is growing fast among African Americans, who are undeterred by increased scrutiny of Muslims in the United States since the September 11 attacks, according to imams and experts.
Converts within the black community say they are attracted to the disciplines of prayer, the emphasis within Islam on submission to God and the religion's affinity with people who are oppressed.
Some blacks are also suspicious of U.S. government warnings about the emergence of new enemies since the 2001 attacks because of memories of how the establishment demonized civil rights leaders Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
As a result, they are willing to view Islam as a legitimate alternative to Christianity, the majority religion among U.S. blacks.
"It is one of the fastest-growing religions in America," said Lawrence Mamiya, professor of religion at Vassar College, speaking of Islam among black Americans.
He said there were up to 2 million black U.S. Muslims but acknowledged there are no precise figures.
"It's not viewed (by authorities) as a threat because the numbers are small and once we get past the war on terror and all the negative images then it will continue to spread."
Black Americans typically attend mosques separate from Muslims from immigrant backgrounds despite sharing common beliefs, according to Aminah McCloud, religious studies professor at DePaul University in Chicago.
But imams in Atlanta, a U.S. center for black Muslims, said they were subjected to less scrutiny than Muslims from the Middle East and Indian sub-continent.
RAP BROWN'S MOSQUE
Many blacks converted during the civil rights era, when Malcolm X helped popularize the Nation of Islam, attracting boxer Muhammad Ali among others. Islam still attracts prominent blacks such as rapper Scarface, a recent convert.
But the Nation of Islam has declined as a force at the expense of an association of mosques led by Warith Deen Muhammad, the son of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, who died in 1975.
At a street-corner mosque in one of Atlanta's oldest and poorest neighborhoods, a recent Friday sermon illustrated the power of the history of Islam in the United States for blacks.
Men and women sat separately on the mosque floor, heads covered, as cleric Nadim Ali recounted stories from history of Muslim slaves brought from Africa who struggled to uphold their faith in the face of slaveholders' opposition.
If Muslims could remain true to Islam under slavery, the audience should follow their example, Ali said at the Community Masjid of Atlanta in the city's West End district.
"You are talking about a people who were cut off from their roots .... Islam reconnects you with Africa and with other parts of the world so your peoplehood transcends race," Ali said later in an interview.
The mosque has a direct link to a slice of black history. It was founded by H. Rap Brown, a one-time member of the 1960s Black Panthers group. Brown became a Muslim in prison in the 1970s and changed his name to Jamil al-Amin.
He was convicted for killing a sheriff's deputy in Georgia in March 2000 and is serving a sentence of life without parole, but in his absence the mosque has continued what Ali said was the low-profile work of building a local Muslim community.
The mosque teaches there was no distinction between Sunni and Shi'ite within Islam, according to people who attend regularly. Sermons urged Muslims to find work, stay free from crime and drugs and maintain stable family lives.
Ali said he assumed the mosque was bugged and infiltrated by informers, in part because its leaders remained skeptical about U.S. policies since September 11.
"They (the government) unplug black people and plug in Arabs or Muslims. They unplug Arabs and plug in communists. America needs war to maintain its economic status," he said.
The larger Masjid of al-Islam mosque in another mainly black neighborhood of Atlanta is part of Warith Deen Muhammad's group. Its imam, Plemon el-Amin, said he was involved with local interfaith work as well as with a local Islamic school.
One recent Friday, Mark King, a new convert, and hundreds of others at the mosque listened to a preacher urge Muslims to seek God through the Koran. Followers of other faiths should seek God through their own holy books, the preacher said.
King, who wears his hair in dreadlocks, converted after visiting Africa for the first time and in Gambia read the Koran and realized its teaching chimed with his own beliefs, not least in fighting injustice.
"For young African Americans, there is some attraction to learning about traditions that have been associated with resistance to European imperialism," said King, who has adopted the name Bilal Mansa since his conversion.
I wonder if this has anything to do with the prevailing number of blacks in prisons and radical, Sadui Arabian-backed Imams preaching to the said inmates...
I think you have to ask why people who are oppressed have an affinity for Islam. What does that mean? I think using the word "oppressed" implies that they are being held down by force. Islam provides justification for overcoming oppression through violent means.
These are people who are rejecting our society.
I wonder if they know WHO was selling them (To Europeans back in the day) and CONTINUES to sell them today?
Some of the piece below.
It has become clear that the enslavement of black Africans did not stop with the demise of the Atlantic Slave Trade. That on this very day and hour, as you read this, black Africans are bought and sold in two North African countries. In the Islamic R epublic of Mauritania, black Africans continue to be enslaved by their Arab-Berber masters. Although slavery was declared abolished three times since Mauritania's independence in 1960, it persists. Slaves are given as wedding gifts, traded for camels, g uns or trucks, and inherited. The children of slaves belong to the master and slaves who displease their masters or attempt escapes are tortured in the most brutal manner imaginable.
In Sudan, Africa's largest country, the Islamic Republic of the Sudan, as a result of an Islamic-vs.-Christian civil war, black women and children (mostly Christian) are captured in raids on their villages and sold as chattel slaves, sometimes, according to the UN in "modern-day slave markets."
The Mauritanian Embassy and the Sudanese Mission were contacted several times for comment—they did not return the calls.
Mauritania—A Legacy of Slave Trading
The enslavement of black Africans has existed in Mauritania for many centuries. It is a country that joins the descendants of Arabs and Berbers from the North, known as beydanes [white men], and the black ethnic communities living in the South. Blacks, mostly sedentary farmers, consisting of the Tukulor, the Fulani, and the Wolof tribes were brought north after being captured by raiding Arab/Berber tribes. This activity predates and postdates the Atlantic slave trade. Simply put, the slave trade that brought black Africans to these shores never stopped in Mauritania. "More than 100,000 descendants of Africans conquered by Arabs during the 12th century are still thought to be living as old-fashioned chattel slaves in Mauritania" says Newsweek after co nducting a yearlong, four-continent investigation of slavery.
Differing only slightly with this estimate, the U.S. State Department estimates that 90,000 blacks still live as the property of Berbers, "and that's a conservative estimate," said Dr. Jacobs, who puts the actual figure closer to 300,000 when interviewe d by The News Tribune. In addition, Newsweek states that "Aside from the shantytowns and a strip of land along the Senegal River, virtually all blacks are slaves, and they are more than half the population."
"Black Africans in Mauritania were converted to Islam more than 100 years ago," says Mohamed Athie, Executive Director of the American Anti-Slavery Group, [and]. . ."the
Koran forbids the enslavement of fellow Muslims, but in this country race outranks r eligious doctrine. . . Though they are Muslims, these people are chattel: used for labor, sex and breeding."
Africa Watch reported that "Religion has been used by masters as an important instrument to perpetuate slavery. Relying on the fact that Islam recognizes the practice of slavery, they have misinterpreted it to justify current practices. In truth, Islam only permits treating as slaves, non-Islamic captives caught after holy wars, on condition that they are released as soon as they convert to Islam. People living as slaves in Mauritania long before the first abolition in 1905 were all Moslems, but this d id not lead to their emancipation. We received numerous complaints about the extent of which qadis (judges in Islamic courts) continue to exercise their judicial functions to protect the institution of slavery, rather than to ensure its eradication."
I have PERFECT way to never have to be picked on by "European Imperialism" again.
Remember my thread on modern racism, victim groups, etc.? Islam constantly portrays itself as a victim so it can excuse its horrendous crimes. Why WOULDN'T this appeal to people who have constantly been told that nothing is their fault, their life sucks because of somebody else oppressing them?