A History of Islam in America
Author(s): Kambiz Ghanea Bassiri
Reviewed by: Murad Wilfried Hofmann, Bonn, Germany
Teheran-born, Harvard-trained Professor Bassiri, a Carnegie Scholar serving on the editorial board of The Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States (2006), teaches at Reed College in Portland, Oregan. His book on America’s (not American) Islam from colonial times to the present is a magisterial achievement, comprehensively describing the most diverse Islamic community worldwide: About 5 million Muslims hailing from (i) slavery, (ii) immigration, and (iii) conversion.
Bassiri covers the time from 1690 to 2008, showing how initially black slaves, first seen to be without souls (p.37) and as Muslims adhering to a “semi-civilized religion” (p.40), moved on to become a well organized and respected component of current American society. For the period up to the Civil War documentation is very scarce - but shocking enough: The US founding fathers convinced that “abolition and the Union cannot coexist”, saw blacks as created for “labor under guidance” (pp.48 f.). For them, “Christianity was far from discharging Men from... the Condition in which it found them” (p.38). No wonder that many black slaves tried to pose as Arabs, given that “moors” generally were viewed to be more intelligent.