The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


American Muslims

Homegrown as well as from 68 nations with cultural differences

David Grafton: The impression one receives from some of the news media is that all Muslims are Middle Eastern or Asian immigrants with heavy foreign accents. In reality, the largest single ethnic community of American Muslims is African-American, the major denomination called the American Society of Muslims.

While African-American Muslims didn't originally come here of their own accord, they certainly now are distinctly American. Those American Muslims of immigrant origin (of course, most Americans are of immigrant origin) hail from at least 68 nations.

One can make comparisons with Lutheran immigrant communities who came to the U.S. for both religious and economic reasons and who maintained their own distinct cultural identities. (In fact, Benjamin Franklin in 1751 made disparaging comments about the boorish Germans.)

People often ask me, "What do American Muslims think about ... (this or that)?" I'm at a loss as to how to respond. It's like asking, "What do American Christians believe about the Lord's Supper?" It depends. In my relationships with Muslims I find there are a wide variety of social, political and spiritual perspectives.

Michael Shelley: I agree. I often tell students in my classes or people attending adult forums: "If you take nothing else away from what I say, take this: there is diversity among Muslims."

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February issue


Embracing diversity