Muslim Journeys: American Stories

Muslim Journeys: American Stories

Winter 2014

While the large presence of Muslims in the United States dates to the 1960s, Muslims have been a part of the history of America since colonial times as well as the slave trade that eventually led to the American Civil War. Muslims’ stories draw attention to ways in which people of varying religious, cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds interact to shape both their communities’ identities and our nation’s collective past. The biographies, memoirs and cultural studies in this series show Islam is not a foreign religion, somehow separate from Christianity, Judaism, and American history; the authors also do not promote one culture or religion over others but, rather, the values of education in a democracy. The actual history of Muslims in America tells the story of people who are both Muslim and American even if tension exists and challenges us as we strive to realize our founding ideals of equality and pluralism. The readings for this five-part series provide a crucial corrective to the rhetoric of suspicion and fear surrounding current discussions of Muslims in the United States and emphasize Muslims’ continuing impact on American society and culture. If you want to be an active partner in this exploration, please join us for this “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” reading and discussion series. Books are available for those who want to partner with us and be present throughout the series.

Oklahoma City University invites participants to make these books come alive in the readings of this five-part series. At each session, a Humanities scholar will make a 30-40 minute presentation on the book in the context of the theme. Small group discussion will follow with experienced discussion leaders. At the end, everyone will come together for a brief wrap-up. Anyone interested in participating by attending the sessions is encouraged to pre-register and borrow the reading selections by calling Harbour Winn at 208-5472, emailing him at, or scheduling to drop by the Dulaney-Browne Library, Room 211 or 207. (Note the offices are located in the five-story building southwest of Walker Center.) Information can also be found on the web site of the Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film & Literature:

The series will be held in Walker Center, Room 151, on the Oklahoma City University campus from 7:00 to 9:00 PM on Tuesdays, beginning January 14 and continuing on alternate Tuesdays through March 11. This theme was developed and made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities in cooperation with the American Library Association. Books, services, and other materials for this series are provided by Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma, a project of the Oklahoma Humanities Council. Funding for this series is provided by the Inasmuch Foundation and Kirkpatrick Family Fund.


1/14/2014 Terry Alford’s Prince Among Slaves

Abd al-Rahman Ibrahima (1762–1829), one of tens of thousands of West African Muslims who lived in slavery in antebellum America, became known as “The Prince” to residents of Natchez, Mississippi, Although a slave, he was an educated, aristocratic man made overseer of the large plantation of his master, who refused to sell him. This biography opens us to another aspect of our Civil War history.

1/28/2014 Edward E. Curtis’s The Columbia Sourcebook of Muslims in the United States

Selections included: pp. 9-18, 29-39, 46-64, 92-194, & 116-120. This collection of essays and documents from an incredibly diverse group of American Muslims “finds Islam” in the American experience from colonial times to the present. A patchwork narrative of different ethnic and class backgrounds and political affiliations emerges. Malcolm X is included.

2/11/2014 Eboo Patel’s Acts of Faith

Patel, American Muslim and founder of the Interfaith Youth Core, ponders the defining moments of Islam and their importance in today’s society. He shows the essential truth that what we learn in our youth determines lifelong commitments, for good or ill. Patel notes his passionate support of religious pluralism is “neither mere coexistence nor forced consensus. It is a form of proactive cooperation.”

2/25/2014 Leila Ahmed’s Quiet Revolution

Personally impacted, Ahmed traces the history of debates surrounding the Muslim practice of veiling one’s head back to efforts by European empires to justify the colonization of Muslim-majority societies and to unveiling movements led by Muslim reformers and feminists. She shows how veiling in the twentieth century has been caught up in the struggle to define the place of religion in public life.

3/11/2014 G. Willow Wilson’s The Butterfly Mosque

The memoir recounts the experiences of a young, white, middle-class American woman who converts to Islam, moves to Cairo, and falls in love with and marries an Egyptian Muslim. Comprehending another person’s culture requires love and compassion, hard work and self-reflection.