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date: 19 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Muslim immigration to America has a protracted history dating back to the first coerced West and North Africans brought on ships as part of the slave trade. Yet, the notion of Muslims as a distinguishable or coherent group arose only in the aftermath of 9/11. The Muslims of the post-9/11 era are defined as fairly recent immigrants from Southeast Asia and the Arab world. Scholarship since 9/11 has implicitly accepted this categorization, whether to make the case that Muslims have been racialized or, conversely, to assess the level of terror threat they may pose. The present chapter views this issue through a longer-range lens and a looser definition of Muslim to allow for the inclusion of the earliest migration flows (coerced and voluntary) and those who are often viewed as contested Muslims, such as the Nation of Islam. In total, six migration flows are analyzed according to Alejandro Portes and Ruben Rumbaut’s conceptualization of immigrant modes of incorporation: namely governmental reception, public reaction toward newcomers, and the preexisting community. By casting this wider net and moving away from the confines of the post-9/11 backlash, this chapter evaluates the place of Islam in the lives of those who identify or are identified as Muslims. Analyzing six major migration flows that include Muslims, it finds that Islam has been secondary to the politics of populations identified as such, whether international or domestic. The Nation of Islam was treated as suspect more because of its black nationalist undertones than its claims to Islam.Palestinians, regardless of religion, were treated as terrorists because of the Arab-Israeli war, and Southeast Asian were viewed as model minorities until 9/11 despite their strong identification with Islam. In other words, the contextual elements, especially governmental reception, have a greater influence on minorities and immigrants than religion. Currently, this has meant that American Muslims have been asked to prove their allegiance to the United States. On a positive note, there are enough educated and civically engaged American Muslims that they are able to contest the imposition of a coherent Muslim identity as alien and dangerous.

Keywords: American Muslims, incorporation, mosques, Nation of Islam, 9/11, slave trade, Southeast Asians, Arab Americans, governmental reception

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