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Muslims in the United States

The State of Research

Karen Isaksen Leonard

Publication Year: 2003

As the United States wages war on terrorism, the country's attention is riveted on the Muslim world as never before. While many cursory press accounts dealing with Muslims in the United States have been published since 9/11, few people are aware of the wealth of scholarly research already available on the American Islamic population. In Muslims in the United States: The State of Research, Karen Isaksen Leonard mines this rich vein of research to provide a fascinating overview of the history and contemporary situation of American Muslim communities. Leonard describes how Islam, never a monolithic religion, has inevitably been shaped by its experience on American soil. American Muslims are a religious minority, and arbiters of Islamic cultural values and jurisprudence must operate within the framework of America's secular social and legal codes, while coping with the ethnic differences among Muslim groups that have long divided their communities. Arab Muslims tend to dominate mosque functions and teaching Arabic and the Qur'an, whereas South Asian Muslims have often focused on the regional and national mobilization of Muslims around religious and political issues. By the end of the 20th century, however, many Muslim immigrants had become American citizens, prompting greater interchange among these groups and bridging some cultural differences. African American Muslims remain the most isolated group—a minority within a minority. Many African American men have converted to Islam while in prison, leading to a special concern among African American Muslims for civil and religious rights within the prison system. Leonard highlights the need to expand our knowledge of African American Muslim movements, which are often not regarded as legitimate by immigrant Muslims. Leonard explores the construction of contemporary American Muslim identities, examining such factors as gender, sexuality, race, class, and generational differences within the many smaller national origin and sectarian Muslim communities, including secular Muslims, Sufis, and fundamentalists. Muslims in the United States provides a thorough account of the impact of September 11th on the Muslim community. Before the terrorist attacks, Muslim leaders had been mostly optimistic, envisioning a growing role for Muslims in U.S. society. Afterward, despite a brave show of unity and support for the nation, Muslim organizations became more open in showing their own conflicts and divisions and more vocal in opposing militant Islamic ideologies. By providing a concise summary of significant historical and contemporary research on Muslims in the United States, this volume will become an essential resource for both the scholar and the general reader interested in understanding the diverse communities that constitute Muslim America.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page

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About the Author

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xiii

THE September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., and their consequences catalyzed a wide-ranging interest in Islam and in Muslim communities in America. The histories and current debates surveyed here are compelling and highly relevant not only to scholars but to a broader readership...


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1. The Development of Ethno-Racial Muslim Communities in the United States

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pp. 3-15

MUSLIMS in North America come from many places, including the United States. Their histories are varied, and their identities diverse and changing. Processes of individual and community identity formation and change like those we are witnessing now in the United States are not new to followers of this major world...

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2. Converging Histories in the Late Twentieth Century

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pp. 16-29

IF THE construction of the category of “Muslim” in the United States is relatively recent, the emergence of new religious and political spokespeople drawing American Muslims together at the end of the twentieth century is even more recent. The decision to become an American citizen orients new immigrants to the future of the United States and...

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3. Historical Research Issues

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pp. 30-47

THREE sets of issues are most significant for further research and theory-building. First is the set of issues related to African American Muslims and their Islamic movements. Black Islamic legitimacy is often called into question by immigrant and other Muslims, yet they are a key group in the American context. Second, a survey of the...


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4. Contemporary American Muslim Identities

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pp. 51-70

IN THIS chapter, I discuss the range of Muslim identities and affiliations in the U.S. context and interactions among them. The American context now assumes greater importance in our story of Muslims. “All identity is constructed across difference,” wrote Stuart Hall (1987, 45), and the configurations of sameness and difference in the United States...

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5. Muslims in the American Landscape

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pp. 71-85

THE IDENTITIES discussed in the last chapter can be displayed in private homes, work sites, schools, mosques, and a variety of public spaces. Some Muslims mark themselves as Muslim externally, wherever they may be. There are spaces in the United States that are marked as Islamic ones, especially mosques, and they have received much scholarly...

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6. Islamic Discourses and Practices

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pp. 86-99

ISLAM is likely to continue, in some profound sense, as the core of many of the Muslim identities and affiliations being developed in the United States as Muslim Americans seek a moral imperative for their lives. This chapter reviews the literature on Islamic or religious law and sources and agents of authority among American Muslims, discussing...

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7. Becoming American

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pp. 100-125

AMERICAN Muslims understand and practice Islam in ways inevitably and strongly shaped by the American context. I return here to the range of Muslim identities being developed in the United States and consider the extent to which they resist or reflect accommodation with or integration into American society. I explore...


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8. Contemporary Research Agendas

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pp. 129-142

ALTHOUGH I have been suggesting all along the scholarly work that needs to be done, this chapter attempts a more general and theoretical overview of research agendas that will further knowledge about Muslims in the United States. I do this comparatively, first and very broadly by contrasting the state of research on Muslims...


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pp. 143-147


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pp. 148-160


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pp. 161-184


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pp. 185-199

E-ISBN-13: 9781610443487
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871545305
Print-ISBN-10: 0871545306

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2003