American Muslims in the Diversity and Democracy

It was on the 6 April 2011 when the CRCS-ICRS Wednesday Forum had Abdul Hamid Robinson-Royal to be the presenter of the discussion. Bringing the title ‘Islam in America, from Hajj to Hip Hop and from Roots to Rap’ this Ph.D. student of the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California, who takes the fellowship program in ICRS Yogyakarta delivered a presentation about the Muslims of USA, highlighting African-American Muslims, their history and identity.


Abdul Hamid who is also a musician and has a master degree of music used the term ‘hip hop’ and ‘rap’ to show the diversity of Muslim community in USA, and its history. But again, the issue of identity is still a problem so that Abdul Hamid must open his presentation with the scientific notion of such terms like ‘indigenous’, ‘authentic’, ‘pluralism’, authority, ‘panoptic’, the difference between ‘decolonial’ and ‘post-colonial’ and the introduction of the concepts of ‘double consciousness’ and ‘double colonization’.


Those words are the key for deeper understanding of the Muslims’ life in USA in which the existence of Islam cannot be separated from the issue of slavery and migration. There was also a movie screening in the middle of presentation which portrayed the history of Islam, the arrival of Islam in America and also its development up to now. Abdul Hamid also showed a series of pictures depicting the diversity of Islam in USA and the variety of activities engaged by the American Muslims.


The post 9/11 era is the time when Islam is questioned and the Muslims around the world are being the object of attention. But this situation according to Abdul Hamid is only a part of the complex concerns for American Muslims in performing their religiosity. Even the fact shows that Islam in America has been growing faster in the era of post 9/11. At the time large number of new Muslims in USA came from different spiritual backgrounds, including Abdul Hamid who embraced Islam from Pentecostal Christianity.


The forum led by Kelly Swazey moved to the open session when the first question was related with the phenomenon of pop comedy in the American Muslim community. Abdul Hamid said that it is true that the Muslims really love to laugh. It is the form of Muslims creativity not far from the phenomenon of Muslim musical scene in which hip hop and rap is the prominent part of it. Abdul Hamid mentioned that the scope of Islam and its influence in America including the Ahmadiyya whose missionary work reached many Americans for instance many musicians of the American Jazz scene in 1950es.


Abdul Hamid then answered another question about the varying perceptions of American Muslims concerning their status as minority group. This question noted that condition of being minority and diversity are the things that sometimes work to promote the existence of democracy among the American Muslim community. For Abdul Hamid, being the minority is not a big problem. American Muslims are ‘happy to be small’, but it does not mean they are not already anticipating and preparing for continued growth.


One among the audiences criticized the movie screened as being more like propaganda than an academic documentary. Abdul Hamid replied that the film was intended to provide a context for entering the discussion of Islam in America, not a critical analysis of specific issues of Islam in America. Abdul Hamid is asked whether there are conflicts between different parties among the American Muslims community. He answered that as with any group, there are differences of opinion. However, he went on to say that the various sects of Islam in America seem to be more focused on working together than they are in arguing about what they don’t agree on. In an American mosque, an imam affiliated with certain school of Islamic law can lead a congregation consists of worshippers from different schools of Islamic law, “We are Muslims and that is the most important thing.” [MoU]

This post is also available in: Indonesian


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