Today’s post was written by library student ambassador Evangeline Tiara Wilson. Evangeline is a first-year student in Accounting for Business program. Evangeline has been working as a library ambassador for one semester. She loves food and free food.
On March 13, we invited one of our faculty members, Amir Hussain, to talk about his most recent book Muslims and the Making of America, published in 2016 by Baylor University Press, which he also uses to teach his First Year Seminar class. The book directly addresses American Muslims who have played major roles in the creation and cultivation of the United States. “American Muslims have been here in the United States for centuries. There is no America without Muslims,” Hussain said.
Hussain is a professor of theological studies in Loyola Marymount University. He is an American Muslim. In his view, Muslim contributions in America are underrated. “You probably know at least one person who is Muslim. You just never asked them.” His book Muslim and the Making of America was published just before the presidential election in 2016, which makes it especially relevant to the rising tensions exacerbated by controversial comments made by Donald Trump that has lead to a misconception that “Islam hates us” (YouTube).
Most of the students in the audience were from Hussain’s First Year Seminar class. There were also LMU faculty members and staff, including Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas Poon, who said “Dr. Amir Hussein delivered such an insightful and meaningful talk in such graceful, entertaining manners. Everybody should be informed of the huge contributions Muslims have made here and it is sad to see that goes unrecognized.”
Muslims from Africa were captured and brought as slaves to the United States. Hussain emphasized that it is crucial to remember that we utilized slaves to build the White House. Remember what Michelle Obama said, “I wake up every morning, in a house that was built by slaves.” Hussain went even further to note, “You could even say that without Muslims’ contributions, the White House wouldn’t be here.”
American Muslims have also made significant contributions to America in the 20th century, most notably in rock band and R&B culture. Ahmet Ertegun, co-founder and president of Atlantic Records, was a Muslim by birth. He signed the the Rolling Stones and other notable African-American musicians such as Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, and Aretha Franklin. And we can’t forget that Muhammad Ali, who some have called the greatest athlete of all time and went to Rome to represent the US in 1960, was also an American Muslim. In Hollywood today, Muslims contribute to all aspects of the movie industry. Mahershala Ali, for example, won the Oscar in 2017 for his role in Moonlight. Muslims fought in wars for the United States. They serve in the U.S. government.
Hussain ended his Pub Night talk by offering us this question to reflect upon: “How can you say that Islam hates you after all these contributions?” It was a successful event. The audience left the room with insightful information and new perspectives as well as better understanding of American Muslims and what they have done for our country.
Thank you, Evie, for sharing your experience with us!