Mission to America: Five Islamic Sectarian Communities in North America

Mission to America: Five Islamic Sectarian Communities in North America

Mission to America: Five Islamic Sectarian Communities in North America

Mission to America: Five Islamic Sectarian Communities in North America

Synopsis

Islam in the United States has developed a fascinating and diverse range of interpretations. Based in large part on community documents and on interviews and correspondence with community members, this study is the first look at these sectarian movements in the hundred-year history of Muslim religious development in the United States.

Excerpt

Events since the 1950s and 1960s have raised interest in the religion of Islam and in the growing community of Muslims in North America representing a broad spectrum of racial-ethnic groups. The general public tends to identify its Muslim neighbors as either immigrants from abroad or indigenous "Black Muslims." Through the depictions of government officials, Washington beltway experts, and the public press, Americans have learned that Muslims come in two basic types, Sunni and Shiʿi, and they have been conditioned to think that each group has certain distinguishing characteristics. Shiʿites in particular have been associated with violence, militancy, and terrorism. Most Americans, however, are quite unaware of the range of differences represented among the Muslims in their midst. The Islamic community in the United States is composed of many different kinds of Muslims who have immigrated here as well as Americans who have converted to the faith. They represent not only different national, linguistic, and racial groupings but also a variety of sectarian identifications.

The concern in this volume is not to characterize "mainline Islam," either Sunni or Shiʿi. It is, rather, to examine the phenomenon of Islamic sectarianism as it is manifested in five North American communities that consider themselves to be part of the umma or community of Islam, or perhaps even the truest spokespersons for the faith. Because of some of the claims made by these groups, however, particularly in relation to their founders, they generally are defined by mainline Muslims as heretical, apostate, or infidel.

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