|Abdul-Rahman (Muslim prince, U. S. slave)|
Many Americans are unaware that Muslims have been in the United States since (and before) its earliest days.
Although the Founding Fathers themselves were not Muslims, Peter Manseau of The Huffington Post reports that “Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both owned copies of the Quran.”
Long before religious freedom became legalized, a 1682 Virginia statute referred to those with “Mahometan parentage and country” who “heretofore and hereafter
may be purchased, procured, or otherwise obteigned, as slaves.”
Manseau explains that the number of Muslims “far exceeded the number of Jews” in 18th-century America. In fact, there were as many people with ties to Islam in post-revolutionary America as there were members “of Methodist or Roman Catholic churches.”
Why, then, do so few Americans seem to know this?
Although slavery was at first confined to non-Christians, a 1667 Virginia law guaranteed that baptism alone would not guarantee anyone their freedom. After that, there was a strong movement to convert all slaves (“whether Negroes, Moors, Mollattoes or Indians…”) to Christianity.
In other words, Muslims were then afraid to openly practice their religion. Hopefully, that part of American history will not repeat.
Copyright March 25, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke All Rights Reserved