The Muslims of America

By Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad | Go to book overview
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media, and the doctrines of the sect. In recent years American Ahmadis have shown a tendency to adopt specifically American strategies of outreach, many of which have been borrowed from methods used by evangelical Christians. 22

No account of da'wa would be complete without reference to the American Muslim Mission (formerly known as the Black Muslim Movement). Although long the focus of controversy and debate, this indigenous group was nevertheless for a long while "the prevailing Islamic presence in America." 23 It has been estimated that some 2 million blacks in the United States are either members of or are in some way connected with this movement, and it is significant that in 1978 the Gulf States of Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar named Warith al‐ Din Muhammad, the head of the main body of Black Muslims, "sole consultant and trustee for the recommendation and distribution of funds to all Muslim organizations engaged in the propagation of the faith in the U.S." 24

This list of organizations is by no means exhaustive; dozens of other groupings could be mentioned, and their very number is indicative of an increasing awareness on the part of North American Muslims of their responsibility to perform da'wa among their neighbors. These organizations were severely criticized, however, in an article that appeared in the December 1986 issue of Arabia: The Islamic World Review. 25 They were castigated for their failure to contextualize their message, for having given cultural interests a higher priority than the interests of the Muslim community as a whole, for having failed to evolve a "da'wa language," for failing to engage in meaningful dialogue with Western institutions, for failing to engage in critical self-evaluation, and for the general incompetence of their leadership. These are serious charges, but research by this writer indicates that they are exaggerated. Problems do indeed exist, but it appears that the Muslim community is aware of them and is taking steps toward their resolution. Generally speaking, the health of offensive-activist organizations in North America appears to be good and my prediction is that if Muslims in America continue to gain confidence in themselves as the bearers of a viable religious alternative and to increase their commitment to a internal/personal strategy of missions, their da'wa activity will increase substantially in the years to come.

Hans Wehr, A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, 3rd ed., ed. J. Milton Cowan ( New York: Spoken Language Services, Inc., 1976), pp. 282-83.
Yvonne Haddad and Adair Lummis, Islamic Values in the United States ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 22.
Nehemia Levtzion, "Toward a Comparative Study of Islamization," in Nehemia Levtzion , ed., Conversion to Islam ( New York: Holmes and Meier Publishers, Inc., 1979), p. 11.
For a detailed analysis of these concepts see J. H. Bavinck, An Introduction to the Science of Missions, trans. David Freeman ( New Brunswick, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1960), pp. 287-97.


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