« | »

Islam “Flourishing” Among Blacks Since 9/11

From a rapturous Reuters:

Mark King, who has adopted the name Bilal Mansa, stands outside the mosque Atlanta Masjid of al-Islam before Friday prayers in Atlanta, Georgia February 9, 2007. Islam is growing fast among African Americans, who are undeterred by increased scrutiny of Muslims in the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to imams and experts.

Post 9/11, Islam flourishes among blacks

Sun Feb 25, 2007

By Matthew Bigg

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Islam is growing fast among African Americans, who are undeterred by increased scrutiny of Muslims in the United States since the September 11 attacks, according to imams and experts.

Converts within the black community say they are attracted to the disciplines of prayer, the emphasis within Islam on submission to God and the religion’s affinity with people who are oppressed.

Some blacks are also suspicious of U.S. government warnings about the emergence of new enemies since the 2001 attacks because of memories of how the establishment demonized civil rights leaders Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

As a result, they are willing to view Islam as a legitimate alternative to Christianity, the majority religion among U.S. blacks.

“It is one of the fastest-growing religions in America,” said Lawrence Mamiya, professor of religion at Vassar College, speaking of Islam among black Americans.

He said there were up to 2 million black U.S. Muslims but acknowledged there are no precise figures.

“It’s not viewed (by authorities) as a threat because the numbers are small and once we get past the war on terror and all the negative images then it will continue to spread.”

Black Americans typically attend mosques separate from Muslims from immigrant backgrounds despite sharing common beliefs, according to Aminah McCloud, religious studies professor at DePaul University in Chicago.

But imams in Atlanta, a U.S. center for black Muslims, said they were subjected to less scrutiny than Muslims from the Middle East and Indian sub-continent.


Many blacks converted during the civil rights era, when Malcolm X helped popularize the Nation of Islam, attracting boxer Muhammad Ali among others. Islam still attracts prominent blacks such as rapper Scarface, a recent convert.

But the Nation of Islam has declined as a force at the expense of an association of mosques led by Warith Deen Muhammad, the son of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, who died in 1975.

At a street-corner mosque in one of Atlanta’s oldest and poorest neighborhoods, a recent Friday sermon illustrated the power of the history of Islam in the United States for blacks.

Men and women sat separately on the mosque floor, heads covered, as cleric Nadim Ali recounted stories from history of Muslim slaves brought from Africa who struggled to uphold their faith in the face of slaveholders’ opposition.

If Muslims could remain true to Islam under slavery, the audience should follow their example, Ali said at the Community Masjid of Atlanta in the city’s West End district.

“You are talking about a people who were cut off from their roots …. Islam reconnects you with Africa and with other parts of the world so your peoplehood transcends race,” Ali said later in an interview.

The mosque has a direct link to a slice of black history. It was founded by H. Rap Brown, a one-time member of the 1960s Black Panthers group. Brown became a Muslim in prison in the 1970s and changed his name to Jamil al-Amin.

He was convicted for killing a sheriff’s deputy in Georgia in March 2000 and is serving a sentence of life without parole, but in his absence the mosque has continued what Ali said was the low-profile work of building a local Muslim community.


The mosque teaches there was no distinction between Sunni and Shi’ite within Islam, according to people who attend regularly. Sermons urged Muslims to find work, stay free from crime and drugs and maintain stable family lives.

Ali said he assumed the mosque was bugged and infiltrated by informers, in part because its leaders remained skeptical about U.S. policies since September 11.

“They (the government) unplug black people and plug in Arabs or Muslims. They unplug Arabs and plug in communists. America needs war to maintain its economic status,” he said.

The larger Masjid of al-Islam mosque in another mainly black neighborhood of Atlanta is part of Warith Deen Muhammad’s group. Its imam, Plemon el-Amin, said he was involved with local interfaith work as well as with a local Islamic school.

One recent Friday, Mark King, a new convert, and hundreds of others at the mosque listened to a preacher urge Muslims to seek God through the Koran. Followers of other faiths should seek God through their own holy books, the preacher said.

King, who wears his hair in dreadlocks, converted after visiting Africa for the first time and in Gambia read the Koran and realized its teaching chimed with his own beliefs, not least in fighting injustice.

“For young African Americans, there is some attraction to learning about traditions that have been associated with resistance to European imperialism,” said King, who has adopted the name Bilal Mansa since his conversion.

Oh joy.

Never mind that Muslims practically invented and still dominate the international slave trade. Who cares about history in such matters?

The important thing is embracing Islam as the perfect guide to life.

Some blacks are also suspicious of U.S. government warnings about the emergence of new enemies since the 2001 attacks because of memories of how the establishment demonized civil rights leaders Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

Yes. Martin Luther Kind is so "demonized" he is the only US citizen with his own holiday.

Malcolm X was killed by Black Muslims (probably under orders from Minister Louis Farakhan) because he wasn’t anti-American and anti-white enough to suit them.

But never mind such details. Here’s a bit more about the bravo Mark King, from his Yahoo blog:

Mark K’s Blog

Entry for August 03, 2006

I care about love, spirituality, laughing, caring, and evolving into my best me.

315The more I live, the more I realize how the life journey is mirrored by research (which is part of what I do for a living).

– with life…usually when we do something new, it changes us and allows us to see more deeply into the things that have been "in our faces" all along.

– with research…studies often change what we think about "how things work," and they ultimately culminate in paradigm shifts that reveal additional ways for us to view reality.

What’s my point? Every time I try to explain my Africa trips, I fall short. I cannot find the words to explain things with sufficient accuracy.

The trip that I took is conducted every year by the African American Studies Program at a Black college in Northern Mississippi (Rust College). Because the trip entails so much uncertainty the details of the trip and participants are pretty circumstance-dependent. The students who attend are primarily selected by accompanying professors from a pool of applicants. I was an accompanying professor this time. I learned about the trip by going to an annual Black student Leadership conference (held in january at Rust College) and offered to pay what the students pay for travel, food, and lodging, and to also help teach the course.

I did this because I knew that I would be learning a great deal from the more experienced professors, and that my money would just facilitate making things happen on the trip. As I expected, I learned a lot about teaching, and re-learned the significance of Africa for a concerned African American – especially one with middle class level access to knowledge, opportunities, and resources. It helped me to remember that the work I do in this life is not only for myself, but also for humanity’s quest to end all forms of oppression and exploitation. In fact, to work for the latter IS to work for the former. I spent much of my life focused on racial oppression, but I have come to see the interrelatedness of many forms and the centrality of racial, gender, and class-based oppression in the whole system.

As for the name, Bilal is a man who travelled [sic] with Muhammed. He was called an Ethiopian, which until the last 100 years (give or take a few years) has typically referred to any "burnt-skinned person." He was the one compainion [sic] seen as being pious enough to call the early Muslim community in Arabia to Prayer. Not just by Muhammed, but also by Allah. Yet, he is known to have been a Muslim before Muhammed began the prophethood stage of his life.

Mansa is the Mandinka word for King. While in Africa I renewed my commitment to prayer as a way to build spiritual power (hence Bilal), and I started to learn some Mandika (hence Mansa). My French really sucks (which limited me in Dakar, Senegal), but Gambians learn English in school. There are about 10-20 local languages spoken at home, though. Wolof and Mandinka are two of the major ones.

An interesting note is that Alex Haley’s ancestor, Kunta Kente, came from a family that has been living in what is called the Gambia today for hundreds of years. Their village is called Juferee. They are Mindinka. The Mandinka have been a Muslim people for hundreds of years.

My whole encounter with West Africa has forced me to engage with my triple heritage as a person of African descent (Traditional African, Muslim, and Christian). It moved me to think about the high probability that I am also biologically a person of Native-American and European descent (and the spiritual heritages that come with these). Wrestling with these things and the biological myth of race, and the social construction of race have all been quite a mind altering experience.

I am the kind of person to seek both inclusion and social justice in my understanding of the world and resulting action. So, putting all of these elements of myself together while avoiding mental (and thus behavioral) paralysis is quite a trick.

How’s that for a first step?

Mark King (AKA: Bilal Mansa)

That’s right. Mr. King Mansa is a teacher at a college.

Though notice that even his understanding of Islam is somewhat suspect:

Yet, [Bilal] is known to have been a Muslim before Muhammed began the prophethood stage of his life.

Bilal ibn Rabah converted to Islam after hearing Mohammed preach, which of course he only did once he began the "prophethood" stage of his life.

A mistake like this would probably cost Mr. King Mansa his head in some quarters.

Though probably not in a "mosque" that claims there is no difference between Sunni and Shiite Islam.

But as Malcolm X himself famously discovered, any similarities between Black Muslims and traditional Islam are purely accidental.

And, lest we forget, unlike Jesus Christ, Mohammed owned slaves. He saw nothing wrong with slavery. Indeed, he was all for it.

From Thomas Patrick Hughes’ Dictionary Of Islam:


I. —The TEACHING OF THE QUR’AN on the subject of slavery is as follows:

(1) Muslims are allowed to cohabit with any of their female slaves. Surah iv. 3: "Then marry what seems good to you of women, by twos, or threes, or fours; and if ye fear that ye cannot be equitable, then only one, or what your right hands possess." Surah iv, 29: "Take of what your right hands possess of young women." Surah xxxiii. 49 "O prophet! verily We make lawful for thee wives to whom thou hast given their hire (dowry), and what thy right hand possesses out of the booty God hath granted thee."

(2) They are allowed to take possession of married women if they are slaves. Surah iv. 28: "Unlawful for you are . . . married women save such as your right hands possess.’ (On this verse al-Jalaln the commentators say: "that is, it in lawful for them to cohabit with those women whom you have made captive, even though their husbands he alive in the Daru ‘l-Harb.")

(3) Muslims are excused from strict rules of decorum in the presence of their female slaves, even as in the presence of their wives. Surah xxiii. 5: "Those who are strict in the rules of decorum, except for their wives, or what their right hands possess." See also Surah lxx. 29.

(4) The helpless position of the slave is regards his master illustrates the helpless position of the false gods of Arabia in the presence of their Creator. Surah xvi. 77: "God has struck out a parable, an owned slave, able to do nothing, and one provided with a good provision, and one who expends therefrom in alms secretly and openly, shall they be held equal? Praise be to God, most of them do not know!" See also Surah xxx. 27.

(5) Muslims shall exercise kindness towards their slaves. Surah iv. 44) "Serve God and do not associate aught with Him, and show kindness to your parents and to kindred and to that which your right hands possess."

(6) When slaves can redeem themselves it is the duty of Muslims to grant the emancipation Surah xxiv. 33: "And such of those whom your right hands posses as crave a writing (i.e. a document of freedom), write it, out for them if ye know any good in them, and give them of the wealth of God which He has given you. And do not compel your slave-girls to prostitution if they desire to keep continent."

And of course slavery is still practiced in the Muslim world to this day.

But never mind that either.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, February 25th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

11 Responses to “Islam “Flourishing” Among Blacks Since 9/11”

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.

« Front Page | To Top
« | »