Building on the initial expansion of Islam in the United States in the early 1920s, the number of Muslims in other parts of the world also increased. One contributing factor was the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928. From the Brotherhood emerged what came to be known as Islamism, a view of Islam “as an all-encompassing worldview or ideology.” Every aspect of life was thought to be “ordered by the Qur’an and Islamic tradition.”
Muslims “had a global mission that included bearing witness to Islam in or outside of Muslim majority lands. This played some role in the increasing number of Muslims who migrated to the United States on student visas shortly after the end of World War II.”
“Many of them, being too radical for the secularized Muslim states in the Middle East (the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, was and still is routinely outlawed), moved here and took advantage of American ignorance of their totalitarian ideology and began to make their way into and influence American Muslim organizations. In the mid-twentieth century … they soon began purposely working toward having ‘Islam recognized as an American religion.’”
The spread of Islam in America was aided by the development of the concept of “American civil religion” before and after the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961). “In 1948, the National Education Association began promoting the advancement of a universal vision of moral and spiritual values that were ‘shared by the members of all religious faiths.’ This enabled the newly established Federation of Islamic Associations to begin efforts at defining Islam as ‘yet another of the monotheistic religions upon which American values were founded.’”
“They were largely successful. By 1957, their work led to the building of the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., where, at its inauguration, President Eisenhower praised what Islam had allegedly ‘contributed to the building of civilization’ and ‘contributed to the advancement of mankind.’ He then acknowledged Islam’s place in the American religious landscape, assuring Muslims that ‘Americans would fight with all their strength’ for the right of Muslims to assemble at their mosques (he called them churches) and worship according to their conscience.”
“Just how many Muslims were in America in the mid-twentieth century is unclear. There were enough, though, that mission agencies and Middle Eastern governments began to take notice.” For example, in 1961 “the Saudis got involved and began their efforts to exert control over Muslim institutions in the United States, efforts which still continue today.”
As previously stated, my goal with this series of articles is to be as objective and accurate as possible, being neither unnecessarily alarmist nor gullibly naïve about the potential impact of Islam’s future in America. I welcome your assistance in achieving that goal. See you next week.