Muslim students Mohammad and Shazia are in my Colorado History class this semester at University of Colorado at Denver.
Mohammad reported that Chinese scholars wrote that Muslim sailors came to America (Mu-Lan-Pi) in 1178 and that King Abu Bakari, a Muslim king of the Malian Empire, first came to America in 1310.
Muslims have come to Colorado in recent decades from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. Many are students on scholarships from their governments. Mohammad adds that many U.S.-educated Muslims return and put their learning into action to "improve their countries on all levels.
"If you go to the newly developed countries of the Arab Gulf, you would think you are in America or Europe: highways, bridges, tall buildings, luxury hotels, new banking systems using computer technology, credit cards, and supermarkets."
The Colorado Muslim Society, or Masjid Abu-Bakr, established a community center in a South Denver rental house during the early 1970s. The Muslim population grew so fast, however, that a much larger center was built in the early 1980s at 2071 S. Parker Road. That complex has grown into a four-acre site, including 14 classrooms, offices, meeting halls and a large domed mosque with a minaret. Within a 10-mile radius are many Middle Eastern grocery stores and restaurants, as well as Crescent View Academy, an Islamic K-8 parochial school.
Colorado's first mosque was in Boulder, where Masjid Boulder still exists. Shazia found that Denver now has six mosques, Aurora has two, with one each in Boulder, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Golden, Greeley, Northglenn and Pueblo.
Shazia said Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in Colorado, attracting members from all different ethnicities. More than 15,000 Muslims live in metro Denver and as many as 2,000 Muslims attend Friday night services at Masjid-Abu Bakr.