Why can’t a Muslim be from America, by Qasim Rashid

If you look up “melting pot” in the dictionary, don’t be surprised to see a picture of America.  Since its’ inception, the United States has been a haven for diversity.  At times the diversity developed organically through immigration from Europe, Asia, and Middle America.  Other times, that diversity developed through coercion vis a vis the slave trade.  However one might recognize it, America has always been one of the most diverse countries on Earth.

However, one thing has confused me for quite some time.  I often travel to different parts of the country for social as well as business reasons.  Often the reason has to do with a lecture or conference on Islam.  When people identify me as a Muslim I’m often asked, “Where are you from.”  In fact, when I travel to a different part of the world for some Islamic conference, I am often asked the same question, “Where are you from?”  Whether I’m in Los Angeles or London, I give the same answer, “I’m from Chicago.”  Interestingly enough, people from London respond with something like, “Oh Chicago, how wonderful!  What’s it like there?”  And then I respond with all the great things our city has to offer.  However, what amazes me is that my fellow Americans respond with, “No but really, where are you from?”

I know what they’re getting at.  I can see it coming a mile away.  And frankly, I’m not offended because I know the intent is sincere and honest.

But here’s my question.  Why can’t a Muslim just be from America?  Is it so odd?  Currently there are between 7 and 9 million Muslims living in America according to most estimates.  Also, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States.  Believe it or not, Islam appeals to Americans.  The reasons why it appeals to America will be discussed later, but the fact that it does is no longer in dispute.  Then why does it seem strange to some that an American who happens to be Muslim might actually identify with America?

Well, what’s my answer to those who ask where I’m “really” from?  A smile, a sincere look in their eye, and a statement.  “Well, I really am an American citizen, but my family history comes from Pakistan.”  Then a quick follow up, “Where does your family come from?”  Again, because I sincerely want to know.

Islam lives in every part of the world, America included.  It has become as rich a part of the American fiber as…well, apple pie, with early Muslims arriving hundreds of years ago as slaves during the slave trade.  (And many Muslims even before them as free men).  Muslim’s might really be from somewhere else, just like every person in America short of Native Americans.  But rest assured, like everyone else, there are plenty of Muslims who are really from America, really.

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9 Comments

  1. I completely agree with you. I am a convert and I recently married a Muslim from Morocco, so of course my last name changed. However, I was born and raised in America, and my family is from America. When people meet me for the first time, many think I am foreign and almost find it impossible for a Muslim to be American by birth. Wake up America!!

    Reply

  2. Salam To All:

    With regards to your post, if I may, I have a request:

    I’m writing to inform you of my brother’s gallery opening next Thursday in
    New York City. His name is Omar Mullick and he’s from Brooklyn, New York.
    He’s a photojournalist and has been documenting the lives of American
    Muslims throughout the States for the last 7 years and will be having his
    first gallery opening next Thursday, October 8th, from 6PM to 9PM.

    I’m sure you are in touch with people in the East Coast and was
    hoping that you can share his work with friends and family regardless of
    whether or not one can attend the opening.

    The gallery website along with a statement can be found here:
    http://www.galleryfcb.com/mullick.html
    http://www.galleryfcb.com/

    Moreover, Bassam Tariq, of 30mosques.com fame, has written a short piece
    about him here and has briefly interviewed him. Hopefully this will
    address any of your questions or concerns:

    http://www.boingboing.net/2009/10/02/an-interview-with-om.html

    http://www.boingboing.net/2009/09/29/cant-take-it-with-yo.html

    I encourage you to make any comments on the respective blog posts.

    And if interested, there has been a Facebook Event setup for those who can
    attend:
    http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=141731708316&ref=mf

    And don’t forget about the FacebookTwitterMyspaceEtc combo!

    I look forward to your feedback and if you have any questions, please feel
    free to email me or my brother, Omar (omarmullick.com).

    PEACE

    Yusuf Mullick

    Reply

  3. Thank you for this post. I recently wrote a grad paper on Muslims in American for a class in Islam I was taking. So, I got to learn a lot of interesting facts and figures about Muslims living in the U.S. But, my question for you, and I ask out of that naive interest you spoke about, is Islam for you a cultural experience, or would you consider yourself a practicing Muslim?

    thank you

    Reply

      1. I agree with you Mr. Salaam. I have encountered many people that can’t seem to accept the fact that I an be a Muslim American. The media plays a huge part in that I believe. Thank you for speakng you mind! =)

  4. Assalamu alaikum. Catchy title to your article. I agree, its very hard for many to assume we are American converts. I had someone ask me where I am from about half a dozen times and each time I replied, “California.” It was too hard for her to imagine that I was born in USA. Funny.

    Reply

  5. I must say, this post really spoke to me. Great job, and very relatable..I feel the same way.

    I am an avid reader of this blog and our team is also working on starting up our own. Our blog touches on Muslim issues as well as many other issues…please support! We need to help each other to help shed light on our issues.

    Women Who Choose to Dress Modestly Are NOT Backwards http://the-needle-in-the-haystack.blogspot.com/2011/07/women-who-choose-to-dress-modestly-are.html

    Herman Cain and Mosque Bans http://the-needle-in-the-haystack.blogspot.com/2011/07/herman-cain-and-mosque-bans.html

    What The Oslo Terrorist Attacks Teach Us About the World We Are Living in Today
    http://the-needle-in-the-haystack.blogspot.com/2011/07/what-oslo-terrorist-attacks-teach-us.html

    Reply

  6. Salamu alaikum. Catchy title to your article. I agree, its very hard for many to assume we are American converts. I had someone ask me where I am from about half a dozen times and each time I replied, “California.” It was too hard for her to imagine that I was born in USA. Funny.

    Reply

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