Islam in the African-American Experience
by Richard Brent Turner
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997. 300 pp. $39.95 (paper, $18.95).
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
Turner argues three interesting points in his faddish though well-researched study: First, Islam was a significant factor in the lives of American slaves. In particular, it had a disproportionate role in inspiring resistance to the institution of slavery: "writing in Arabic, fasting, wearing Muslim clothing, and reciting and reflecting on the Quran were the keys to an inner struggle of liberation against Christian tyranny." In reaction, whites sought the return of Muslims to Africa, "to rid America of Islam."
Second, this faith (what Turner calls the "old Islam") then died out. By the time of the Civil War, Islam among blacks was, "for all practical purposes, defunct."
Third, a "new Islam" took many years to revive and did so through the circuitous route of Pan-African nationalism, black Christian ministers distressed at the racism of their denomination, white American converts to Islam, Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association, Nobel Drew Ali's Moorish Science Temple of America, and the Indian-based Ahmadiyya Movement to America. W. D. Fard emerged from this eccentric background in 1930 and preached the religion that would eventually crystallize as the Nation of Islam. Turner then reliably covers the more familiar ground of Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan, concluding that "African-American Islam has finally arrived on the center stage of American religion and politics."
Related Topics: African-American Muslims, Muslims in the United States | Daniel Pipes | December 1997 MEQ
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