Expert talks on history of Muslims in America

“Alexander Muhammed Russell Webb (1846-1916) was the first White American to embrace Islam. The first building used in the US for Muslim prayer service was in Ross, North Dakota, in 1929. The tomb stones of several early American Muslims were detected from Church cemeteries in the US. At least 292 American civil war veterans bore the Islamic last names…”, the talk by Amir Muhammed at Fanar auditorium on Friday evening delved into the Islam”s early presence in the US.

Amir Muhammed, Co-Founder and President of Collections & Stories of American Muslims Museum (CSAM) was delivering a talk on the history of Muslims in America marking the 10-day exhibition “Forgotten Roots” being organised by the US embassy.

Alexander Muhammed Russell Webb attended the first World Exposition Conference on World Religion held in Chicago in 1893, where he delivered two lectures, “The spirit of Islam and “Influence of Islam on social conditions”. The American novelist and writer Mark Twain was among the audience, Amir Muhammed said.

Webb embraced Islam in 1888 while he was serving as the American Consul to Philippines. He was also a journalist. In 1893, Webb founded the first Islamic organisation in America called “The American Moslem Brotherhood”.

Many tombstones, bearing the Islamic Icon “One Finger” symbolising the oneness of God have been discovered all across the United Staes and parts of Canada and Bermuda. Some of them have been found in church cemeteries. While some of these tombstones bear Muslim names like `Osman Rockman” and `Persian Yusif”, some have Arabic writing and few others have words like `Albanian Mohammedan”.

The tombstone of Osman Roackman (Rahman), died in 1845, was found in the `Palisado Cemetery” in Windsor, Connecticut.

Muhammed said that the last names of at least 292 American civil war veterans bore Islamic names. The American civil war records prove that the most popular name among them was Hassan. At least 120 of the veterans bore this name, followed by Osman-82 and Hassan with 52.

In 1860, Mohammed Ali Ibn Said(1833-18820), known as Nicholas Said, arrived in America as a free man. He was born in the kingdom of Bornoo, West Africa near Lake Chad to a well educated merchant family. Said was kidnapped and enslaved when he was 16 and set free in London. Later, he became a 55th Massachussets coloured regiment and became a civil war hero.

On the presence of Muslim women in America”s early Islamic History, Muhammed said there were very few Muslim women appearing in the chronicles of American history of the 18th and 19the century. But the name of Fatima, a Muslim woman who belonged to a group of eight Moors has been inscribed in early American Islam history. In 1790, she petitioned the South Carolina government for the Moors freedom in Summeter, South Carolina.