American Islam X
Academic and public discourse on Islam and Muslims in America continuously represses the deep (hi)stories of Blackamerican or Afro-American Muslims – (hi)stories rooted in the very inception of American nations – to focus almost exclusively on the twentieth and twenty-first century (hi)stories of immigrant, Middle-Eastern, and brown Muslims. The brand of racism known as Islamophobia manifests and thrives on the same prejudice, centering images of the “brown Arab-Middle Eastern Muslim” as the biological and cultural archetype of the Muslim-Islamic other. Put differently, both Islamophobic racism and official discourse on ‘Islam in America’ hinge on alienating Blackness from Islam, and hence Islam from America. As per its grasp of Islam and Muslims, American discourse on race, religion, culture, and politics remains captive to two fundamental and historically conditioned assumptions, namely that (1) the Islam of Blackamericans is not an authentic Islam, and that (2) true Islam is necessarily foreign, immigrant, and other to America. In tandem with debunking the myth of the demise of Islam among Afro-American slaves and their descendants, this essay argues that Islam has been indigenized to America by Afro-American Muslims, through centuries of their adaptive resilience to repression by America’s white-Protestant dominant order. As a tradition continuous with the history of American nations, American Islam demands that American Muslims, including foreign-born and immigrant American Muslims, bridge with the (hi)stories and living legacies of Afro-American Muslims, as well as with the perpetual struggle for liberation from human oppression that is central to the formation of American Islam. After sketching out the (hi)story of American Islam – principally via slave history and testimony, and the history of Black (both Christian and Muslim) religio-political discourse – this essay reads the Muslim life of Malcolm X as a significant moment in the ongoing tradition of American Islam. Where Malcolm’s biographers tend to separate his religious life from his politics, this essay reads his Autobiography, as well as his many speeches, interviews, correspondences, activist moments, and FBI records, in light of the tradition of American Islam, arguing fundamentally that Malcolm’s Muslim faith encompassed and guided his dedication to the politics of Black and human liberation.