Preserving Our Freedoms and Civil Liberties, Combating and Preventing Terrorism: The History of Islam among Urban Blacks in New Jersey
Naeem, Mikal, Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table
There are Good Men in America, but All Are Very Ignorant of Africa--and Its Muslims (1)
Lamine Kebe 1835
You may close your Supreme Court against the black man's cry for justice, but you cannot, thank God, close against him the ear of a sympathizing world, nor shut up the Court of Heaven. All that is merciful and just on earth and in Heaven will execrate and despise this edict of Taney. (2)
Frederick Douglass May 1857
The two quotes above by Lamine Kebe, an African Muslim enslaved in the United States in antebellum America, and Frederick Douglass, a Native American son, of sorts, also enslaved in antebellum times, captures the essence of the Blackamerican (3) struggle for freedom, justice, equality, and recognition in a hostile land endured by them and their descendants up to the present day. This paper seeks to provide an historical analysis of the Blackamerican struggle to fight oppression, and their efforts to contribute towards the common good on various fronts.
The popular image of Islam and its relationship to the struggle of urban Blackamericans in the collective effort to prevent and combat terrorism in the United States of America is one that has characterized both Islam and Blackamericans as being other than what they have stood for--the security of people and the preservation of our freedoms and civil liberties. Among the American population in the United States the general perception of Islam, Blackamericans, and Muslims is often a biased and distorted one. Muslims, and the religion of Islam, like African-Americans throughout much of the history of the U.S., are not credited much for the progressive efforts and contributions that they have made to America and the world. Muslims, especially, are perceived and charged by a substantial number of Americans as being religious fanatics, Islamic fundamentalists, Islamic extremists, Islamic terrorists, Islamic radicals, foreign spies, black radicals, narrow-minded, and, thus, people who cannot be fully trusted. Although such terms are frequently used by the haters to describe these people, very seldom are they defined by the people who use them, and, likewise, very seldom do the few who attempt to define them, do so in a way that accurately describes Muslims and what their faith, Islam, teaches. This unfortunate state of affairs has resulted in Muslims being unjustly relegated to a status where they and their faith have been placed on trial, as they, more often than not, are characterized as a people who represent a subversive threat from within to our core American values. If that was true, then suspecting policy makers would be justified in their determination to protect us from such people. But, fortunately it is not true and so policy makers have a responsibility to defend their fellow citizens from slander. To fully appreciate my concern, one only has to consider the dismal Peter King trials aimed at American Muslims, and the recent political attacks initiated by the republican representative, Michelle Bachman, against representatives Huma Abidin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Keith Ellison, a democratic representative from Minn.; and others who have been unfairly branded as foreign spies simply because of their adherence to their Islamic faith.
Of course, such anti-Islamic propaganda and attitudes are as offensive to Muslims as they are un-American, and seems to have resulted in grave misconceptions within America about the nature, history and goals of the Islamic movement. According to the sentiments of many leading Muslim-American organizations: among them, the Islamic Society of North American (ISNA), the Islamic Circle of North American (ICNA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), The Mosque Cares (Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed), The Nation of Islam (NOI), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)--it is this irresponsible use of language and position that has contributed most, over the years, to the climate of anxiety, fear, and trepidation now prevalent amongst the American people and others throughout the world. Furthermore, many have claimed that it is this reckless use of language and position that has contributed to the continuing lack of trust, understanding, and mutual respect between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Whatever the cause for this "nervous breakdown"4 in group feeling and communication, only a careful study of history, as the late El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X) meant when he stated in the 1960s that "the study of history is best qualified to reward our research," can provide adequate information and insight into the roots of the problem. Muslim history in New Jersey provides a pivotal starting point for this discussion.
SLAVES AND MUSLIMS IN THE OFFICIAL RECORDS OF THE NORTH
John Mitros' Slave Records of Morris County, New Jersey: 1756-1841 and Amir A. Muhammad's Muslim Veterans of American Wars provide interesting and useful data as evidence of the presence of slavery and Muslims in Northern USA. While Mitros' book focuses exclusively on the slave population in New Jersey, Muhammad's text provides a broader insight into a segment of American history that unveils the subtle influence of the Islamic presence in the nation's military wing. "Slavery as an institution and practice in New Jersey began in the 17th century when English and Dutch settlers brought slaves to their colonies as a result of a severe labor shortage." (5) Kenneth Stamp called it the peculiar institution and it was especially prevalent in New Jersey and New York.
Consequently, a great deal of evidence of the antipathy towards Blacks in New Jersey can be witnessed from the historical record. For example, it is no secret that New York and New Jersey had the most severe slave codes of the northern colonies. (6) One example of the severity is that the slave codes dictated castration for any who attempted or had sexual relations with a white woman. (7) New Jersey, partly because of its prominence in industry that had a demand in the South, was the last northern state to enact legislation abolishing slavery. During the Civil War the state legislature passed the so-called "Peace Resolutions," which disputed President Abraham Lincoln's power to free the slaves of the Confederacy. (8) NJ was also the only northern state that failed to ratify the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. (9) Sadly, New Jersey's most prestigious educational institution, Princeton University (known in 1898 as The College of New Jersey), openly discriminated against African-Americans in its admission practices, and between 1848 and 1945 it had no black graduates. (10) The state had separate black public schools, especially in South Jersey, down to the 1950s. And, well into the 1960s Jim Crow segregation practices governed the access of NJ blacks to many theatres, restaurants, swimming pools, and other public accommodations. (11) It is against this backdrop that we must examine the struggle of Blackamericans in their efforts to preserve freedom in the twentieth century, the rise of Muslim communities, and the growth of Islamic thought among Urban Blacks in the Garden State.
We find in the records of the United States armed services people with an (Arabized) last name during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War (1861-1865), World War I (1916-1919) and World War II (1938-1946) (12) which suggest a Muslim presence since the nation's founding. Amir Muhammad posits that "at least three soldiers with a Muslim last name were with the Continental troops and three were listed in the Revolutionary War." "'Two of them were known Muslims, Yusuf Ben Ali and Bampett Muhamed, he states; the other four had a Muslim last name.' 'With respect to the Civil War, there were at least 292 people, he states, who had a Muslim last name.' 'The most populous name in the U.S. service records for the Civil War was Hasson with 120 servicemen, followed by Osman with 82 people and Hassan with 52 people.' 'In the Draft and Enlistment registration records of World War I Amir Muhammad found 5470 veterans with a Muslim last name, which included 118 different names.' 'The name Muhammad was spelled in 41 different ways in the WWI records, with over 550 people with the last name.' And, 'during World War II from 1938-1946 there were at least 1575 people listed with 88 different Muslim Last names. Among these veterans fifteen were women and five were listed as black." (13)
Many of these veterans had lived in New Jersey. For example, during the Civil War a private Benjamin Allah served in the Company K Unit 14 New Jersey Infantry. George S. Osman served in Company C 31 New Jersey Infantry. During World War I George Hamid born in 1889 in Arabia lived in Jersey City, New Jersey. Atta Muhamad born in 1892 in Jerusalem lived in Newark, New Jersey. Ahmed Hj Mehmed born in 1892 in Cyprus lived in Essex, New Jersey. Haroon Alim, listed in the records as a black man, was born in 1892 in Denton, Maryland, and lived in Salem, New Jersey, where he was drafted into the army in 1942. Angelo Ali was born in 1918 in New Jersey where he lived and enlisted in April 1941. Anthony F. Ali was born in 1927 in New Jersey where he lived and enlisted in 1945. James Ali was born in 1921 in New Jersey where he lived and enlisted in 1940. Sam Ali was born in 1921 in New Jersey where he lived and enlisted in August 1942. George Aziz was born in 1924 in New Jersey where he lived and enlisted in New York in January in 1946. George Hakim was born in 1908 in Turkey lived and enlisted in New Jersey in January 1941. Henry Patrick Hasson was born in 1896 in Trenton, New Jersey where he lived and was drafted in 1942. Jack Hasson was born in 1889 in Constantine Die Turkey, lived in Atlantic, New Jersey where he was drafted in 1942. John Edward Hasson was born in 1895 in Trenton, New Jersey, lived in Mercer, New Jersey where he was drafted in 1942. Muslim immigrants in the Garden State, thus, one might …
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Publication information: Article title: Preserving Our Freedoms and Civil Liberties, Combating and Preventing Terrorism: The History of Islam among Urban Blacks in New Jersey. Contributors: Naeem, Mikal - Author. Journal title: Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table. Publication date: Summer 2012. Page number: Not available. © 2008 Forum on Public Policy. COPYRIGHT 2012 Gale Group.
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