Muslims in America: Denaturalizing Christian-Centered Narratives of American History

AHA Session 301
Sunday, January 7, 2018: 11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Columbia 7 (Washington Hilton, Terrace Level)
Patrick Manning, University of Pittsburgh
African Muslims in the Americas
Michael A. Gomez, New York University
Reframing the Conversation on African American Muslims
Aminah Beverly Al-Deen, DePaul University
Building Muslim Publics in the United States, 1900–60
Sally Howell, University of Michigan–Dearborn
American Muslims and “the New World Order”
Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, Reed College
The Audience

Session Abstract

The Trump administration’s efforts to restrict entry to the U.S. from preponderantly Muslim countries have elicited public debate not only of the politics of crossing borders but of the history and traditions of Muslims in the United States. According to narratives popular in some nationalist circles, America has always been white and Christian, while Muslims came as part of an influx of third world populations after the expansion of immigration in the 1960s. Even the staunch opponents of a Muslim ban commonly assume that Islam and Muslims did not belong to American history before the 1960s, but are a recent addition to American cosmopolitanism illustrating the compassion to Christian majority.

This roundtable invites leading scholars in the history of Muslims in America to discuss the deceptive appeal and persistence of Christian-centered narratives of Muslims in American history. The roundtable seeks to highlight the rich scholarship on African American Muslims and on Muslims generally in American history before the 1960s. Why are the public understandings of American history still dominated by assumptions of a clash of civilizations or clash between a white race and colored races?

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