Building Muslim Publics in the United States, 1900–60

Sunday, January 7, 2018: 11:40 AM
Columbia 7 (Washington Hilton)
Sally Howell, University of Michigan–Dearborn
My remarks focus on the development of Muslim institutions in the U.S. in the early decades of the 20th century – coffeehouses, newspapers, ethnic clubs, religious associations, mutual aid societies, advocacy groups, schools, temples, mosques, and umbrella organizations. I’ll look at the different populations involved – South Asians, Arabs, Eastern Europeans, Africans, Turks, and American Blacks – and will discuss why some of their projects were carried out in isolation from one another while others were produced collaboratively. Like my colleagues on this panel, my emphasis will be on the commitment Muslims had to creating communities of belief in the US. By the 20th century, Muslims were free to promote, practice, and pass on their faith in ways their predecessors had not been. Their ability to create viable institutions is what distinguished them from Muslims, slave and immigrant, who came before. I’ll discuss the multiple anxieties their visibility generated among other Americans and among themselves. The term “Muslim American” is not a stable one. I’ll explore the consequences of this ambiguous term for the project of history-making by and about Muslims in the US.