The three circles of American Muslims

By Anis Hoda

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Stars, stripes and the Crescent : a series on American Muslims.

Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar summarized the predicament of being an Indian Muslim perfectly when he said "I belong to two circles of equal size, but which are not concentric. One is India, and the other is the Muslim world." Following in the line of Maulana Jauhar, American Muslims can be defined as those who belong to three circles, which are neither concentric nor equal in size.

American Muslims are of two kinds, the first being immigrants and the second the "reverts*" to Islam. The circles an immigrant Muslim belongs to are, the US, their home land and Islam. In most cases, the circles of the US and homeland are completely separate, connected only by Islam. In the case of a "revert", the circles are a little different, with "homeland" replaced by family. The reason for this, is that in most cases the family stays non-Muslim, so the "revert" somehow balances between a non-Muslim family and Islam. This makes the three circles of a "revert" much more complex and challenging.

Signs that these circles are present are prominent all over this country, especially in metropolises. One can meet a Mark Stevenson with blonde hair or a dark haired Jose Lopez in a big Masjid, just as easily as one can see a Mohammad Abdullah; or travel to "Little Ethiopia" for an Ethiopian delicacy; or just take a stroll down Devon Street in Chicago which has been renamed in some parts as Mohammad Ali Jinnah Road.

The American Muslim is in contrast to the rest of the Muslims in this world. He is well educated, has a much higher income level, and is in the forefront of the technological and economical development of this country. Dr. Sherman Jackson is an ideal example of the American Muslim. He is one of the most prominent scholars of Islam in North America, while being a Professor of Law and a Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies. Abu Ammar Yasir Qadhi is another extraordinary example; a chemical engineer by profession he is also an instructor at the Islamic Institute called "Al Maghreb." Yasir is an expert in theology, Seerah and Tajweed .

The story of the American Muslim is an inspiration to the rest of the Muslim populous around the world. It shows how to exist powerfully, prosper and develop in the face of adversity, constant attacks and suspicion. He struggles to have a better life, and more importantly he strives to maintain a Muslim identity for himself and his family. However, the cases of those who lose their identity in this mixture cannot be ignored either, for there are many.

I am a Muslim Indian American. Can you guess which circle of mine is the largest?


*Author uses "Revert*" instead of "Convert" because every child is considered a born Muslim, so one can only come back to Islam rather than join it for the first time. [Photo by Aaron Vogel]

Originally from India, Anis Hoda [[email protected]] is a student of Engineering in an American University.