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The Condition of Muslims in America The USA and Canada

Unlike in most European countries, where Muslims are mostly from the working and lower income classes of the society, in America, apart from black Muslims who, like the rest of the black community, suffer from many social and economic problems, Muslims are mainly from the educated and affluent classes. In the past thirty years, the number of Muslim specialists in various scientific fields, from medicine to information technology, has experienced a dramatic rise. In addition, Muslim investors and businessmen, in the eastern as well as the western cities of America, have achieved considerable success and some of whom are deemed as the country’s wealthiest capitalists. Various Muslim specialist societies hold annual conferences on scientific and social issues and some, such as the Society of Muslim Social Scientists and Muslim Medical Society, have expanded the scope of their activities to the Islamic countries. 

Through the support of Muslims in America as well as that of certain Islamic countries, there has been established an extensive network of mosques, schools, libraries and, even, Sunni and Shi`ite seminaries, on a limited scale. Muslims in the USA and Canada also benefit from the services of a larger number of Muslim publishers and distributors of Islamic books and journals’ more than do their coreligionists in Europe, be it that many of these publications are yet to achieve a high standard of scholarship. There continues to appear a tremendous body of books and journals not just in English, which is fast becoming an “Islamic language”, but in Arabic, Persian and a number of other important Islamic languages; publications with audiences in the Islamic countries as well. 

There is coming into being a group of Muslim thinkers in America who are creating new modes of thought with regard to various Islamic subjects and who confront head-on the pressing issues of the day. These include immigrants from the Islamic countries, native Muslims and those converted of late. An eminent example was the late Isma`il Faruqi, the Palestinian-born master who migrated to the USA after the partition of his homeland and who played a crucial role in the early stages of the discussion about the “Islamization of science”, or Islamiyat al-ma`rifah; one that led to the establishment of the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), which, in addition to the USA, has branches in Malaysia and a number of Arabic countries and which has left its mark on the academic activities in a number of Islamic states. 

All in all, the establishment of Muslims in the USA has resulted in their confrontation with the challenges of the modern world in addition to giving prominence to the necessity for mutual understanding among various Muslim groups. Though the Wahhabi-oriented centers continue to insist in their animosity toward Shi`ism and Sufism, other Islamic groups are increasingly coming closer together, so much so that in several cities in the USA and Canada important religious rituals and ceremonies are conducted jointly. In the past few years, the spread of Naqshbandiyyah Sufi order, which is vehemently opposed to Wahhabism, has played a crucial role in creating unity among various Muslim groups, i.e. Sunni, Shi`ite and Sufi. There have even been attempts at approaching the Wahhabis as a means of strengthening Muslim solidarity. 

Unlike what is the case in most European countries, there is scope for Muslim political activity in America. None the less, the political influence of the Muslims continues to remain incommensurate with their actual numerical strength. Though Muslims comprise roughly the same proportion of the American population as that of Jews, their influence in the realm of politics is nowhere near the latter; in fact, they even seriously lag behind the eastern orthodox Christians, whose numbers are less than both Muslims and Jews. Considering the fact that American politics is somewhat influenced by the activities of various pressure groups, from Jewish, Greek and Armenian to Irish, Hispanic and the like, and given the prominent role of the USA in the world affairs, the political activities of the Muslims of the country can prove to be of immense significance. However, the various tools available to them, such as television programs and various books and journals, remain devoted to religious and cultural and, to a limited degree, social and economic objectives; a situation that is bound to undergo change in the near future. In fact, since four or five years ago, Muslim lawyers have started to establish links with various levels of the American judicial system, as high as the US Supreme Court; their first foray into the political arena, aimed at protecting the rights of the Muslim citizens of America.

* source: Nasr , Seied Hossein "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 , pp.587 - 588

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