Muslim America was almost entirely black during the antebellum Era. Today, it stands as the most diverse Muslim community in the world. Today African Americans comprise a significant part of the community along with Muslims of South Asian and Arab descent. Latin Americans are a rapidly growing demographic in the community, ensuring that Muslims in America are a microcosm of their home nation’s overall multiculturalism.
In the US today, Ramadan dinner tables are sure to include staple Arab or Pakistani dishes. Yet, many Muslim Americans will break the fast with tortas and tamales, halal meatloaf and greens. Muslim diversity in the US has reshaped Ramadan into a multicultural American tradition. The breadth of Muslim America’s racial and cultural diversity today is unprecedented, making this year’s Ramadan - and the Ramadans to follow - new in terms of how transcultural and multiracial the tradition has become.
This Muslim American multiculturalism comes with many challenges: Namely, intra-racism, Arab supremacy, and anti-black racism prevents cohesion inside and outside of American mosques. These deplorable trends perpetuate the erasure of the Muslim slave narrative. Integrating this history will not only mitigate racism and facilitate Muslim American cohesion, but also reveal the deep-rootedness of the faith, and its holiest month, on US soil.
This Ramadan honouring the memory of the first Muslim Americans and their struggle for freedom and sharing their story with loved ones at the iftar table, seems an ideal step towards rewriting this missing chapter of Muslim American history into our collective consciousness.
Masha’Allah, this is why I’m in sociology!
I’m reblogging this because since living in a small African Muslim village I’ve learned a lot about a group of people often misunderstood in the States. Even the practices and the ethnic identities of muslims can very so much between towns and countries. Live on diversity.
Ask anyone how Akete came to be, or how the Badu people came to Ghana. Many locals could not tell you. They know they speak the language Badu and they often visit kin in the town of Badu. However they knew little about their heritage.
One evening while giving computer lessons to Rossina, Samadey, a senile elder, delivered a ratted book to my door. In his hand he held the text of the Oral Traditions of Badu, Seikwa, Nsawkaw, and Nkorankwagya. When Samadey left Rosina became curious to why this book was so important to this old man.
I began reading, an untold history came to life. Together we learned about the founding chiefs of Badu, which dates back six centuries ago. We learned about the origin of the “Badu” name (which came from one of the ancestral kings). The book was a collection of events told by an ex-chief from the 1940s. I was surprised how much current day Ghana contrasted with now ancient Ghana (if you can call nearly a 60 year difference ancient). The ex-chief told of a landscape uninhabited and dominated at night by wild animals and a culture that worshiped their own god, Kasampre.
As we sat on my bed unveiling her heritage Rosina helped me pronounce words in Twi/Badu while I asked her if she ever knew about the founding chiefs or about the traditional spirits once worshiped. She had no idea. At the age of twenty, this was the first time anyone had spoke of Badu history to her.
The history of the Badu people, whom are centralized in the Brong- Ahafo Region of Ghana needs to be told. So much has been lost since the age of colonialism, and even more will be lost in the age of development. Of course elders share stories with their grandchildren. However the reality is elders will die, children from the small villages will continue to grow up, dismiss the stories told to them, and leave their communities slowly but surely. They will go to school and have modern jobs. They will be either Christen or Muslim preventing them from openly observing religions of their ancestors. Give it more time, they will never know the people they once were.