RELIGION

The Forgotten Muslims Of Early America

Imam Moujahed Bakhach of the Islamic Association of Tarrant County delivers the opening prayer before the House Tuesday, Marc
Imam Moujahed Bakhach of the Islamic Association of Tarrant County delivers the opening prayer before the House Tuesday, March 18, 2003, at the Capitol in Austin, Texas. Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, top, bows his head as he listens. (AP Photo/Kelly West)

It was not the imam’s first time at the rodeo.

Scheduled to deliver an invocation at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo last week, Moujahed Bakhach of the local Islamic Association of Tarrant County canceled his appearance because of the backlash brought on by a prayer he had offered a few days before. The imam had been asked to confer a blessing on horses, riders and members of the military. He was met with gasps from the audience and social media complaints: “Outraged at a Muslim prayer at an all American event!” “Cowboys don’t want it!”

Vocal anti-Islamic sentiment is undergoing a revival. Four days before the imam’s canceled benediction, protesters at the State Capitol in Austin shouted down Muslim speakers, claiming Texas in the name of Jesus alone. In North Carolina two weeks earlier, Duke University’s plan to broadcast a Muslim call to prayer was abandoned amid threats of violence. Meanwhile Gov. Bobby Jindal, Republican of Louisiana claimed that if American Muslims “want to set up their own culture and values, that’s not immigration, that’s really invasion.”

No matter how anxious people may be about Islam, the notion of a Muslim invasion of this majority Christian country has no basis in fact. Moreover, there is an inconvenient footnote to the assertion that Islam is anti-American: Muslims arrived here before the founding of the United States — not just a few, but thousands.

Read more on The New York Times

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