Students and teachers trickled into the dimly lit room, full of empty desks and chairs, and a podium in the northeast corner. As the clock ticked closer to noon, in walked a tall, well-dressed man carrying a briefcase.

After glancing at the clock, he promptly began, “In the name of God, most gracious full.”

Rashad Baadqir began his seminar “Islam Within the African-American Community” with a story of his own youth in Los Angeles. He came from a loving Christian home, but later found himself drawn to Islam by the actions and words of activist Malcolm X.

Baadqir spoke of Islam’s presence in America beginning when Africans were enslaved and brought to the U.S. Although very few slaves were allowed to keep their beliefs, the majority weren’t allowed to practice their religion and, over time, lost all knowledge of Islam.

“Many of us feel that you kind of come to the acceptance that you are a prayer to the African-Americans of earlier generations,” says Baadqir.

Islam among African-Americans has increased since the end of slavery. A recent study by the International Strategy and Policy Institute, a Muslim American based group in Chicago, showed that 64 percent of the Americans who convert to Islam today are African-American, and out of the 5 – 7 million Muslims in America, 33 percent are African-American, making them the single largest racial group of American Muslims.

Baadqir encouraged his audience to think more carefully about the racial and cultural issues that go on around them, and how those issues affect the diverse communities that we live in.


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