BY NF STUDIO
Muslims have been a part of American history since at least the 17th century. Yet the first American mosque wasn’t built until 1929, and although large groups of Muslims have been emigrating to the US since the 1960s, these communities continue to have to contend with Islamophobic attitudes today. Yet Muslims have made invaluable contributions to major aspects of American life and culture that remain largely unrecognized.
Most people are by now familiar with at least some important Muslims in American history, like Black nationalist activist Malcolm X, as well as current public figures like State Rep. Ilhan Omar. Today, famous American Muslims include celebrities and tastemakers as well as innovators, human rights advocates, artists, leaders, and more. Here are just a few people who have dedicated their lives to making the US a more welcoming, inclusive, and spiritually rich place for everyone.
Dr. Omar Suleiman. Dr. Omar Suleiman is the founder and president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and teaches graduate-level Islamic Studies at Southern Methodist University, among other distinctions and projects. He is also an imam who offered sermons and spiritual support to Muslims in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
M. Hasna Maznavi. M. Hasna Maznavi is the founder and president of The Women’s Mosque of America, the first women-led and attended mosque in the US. As Maznavi explains it, it is a “place that seeks to uplift all Muslims by empowering women.” Her mosque is working on a Islamic renaissance movement led by women and their scholarship. It offers an inclusive space for Muslims of all sects as well as women from all other religions who may want to observe, learn from, or support the mosque.
" MUSLIMS HAVE BEEN A PART OF AMERICAN HISTORY SINCE AT LEAST THE 17TH CENTURY."
Keith Ellison. Keith Ellison began his career as a civil rights and defense attorney, eventually directing Minnesota’s Legal Rights Center. In 2006, Rep. Keith Ellison became the first American Muslim elected to serve in Congress and the first Black person to do so from Minnesota. Having experienced Islamophobia frequently on Capitol Hill, Ellison champions equality and inclusion for Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. He is currently the Attorney General of Minnesota.
Ibtihaj Muhammed. Ibtihaj Muhammed is an Olympian sabre fencer who has won multiple Olympic and world championship medals. She became the first American to wear a hijab in the 2016 Olympic games at Rio de Janeiro. A Duke University graduate, Muhammed is now a sports ambassador with the US State Department and advocates for women and girls in sports. She also operates a clothing line with her sisters and has a Barbie doll in her likeness, the first to wear a hijab.
Dr. Rami Nashashibi. Dr. Rami Nashashibi is the co-founder and executive director of Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). IMAN is dedicated to community-building and intersectional activism in Chicago and Atlanta, advocating for immigrants, Muslims, and Black residents in disinvested urban communities. Dr. Nashashibi has served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and currently teaches Muslim Studies courses at the Chicago Theological Seminary.
Dr. Feryal Salem. Dr. Feryal Salem is co-director of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. This type of program is rare in the US, so Salem’s work is highly impactful for current and future generations of Muslim faith ambassadors and spiritual counselors who work in colleges, hospitals, prisons, and military units. Dr. Salem also teaches Arabic and Islamic studies courses at the American Islamic College and is an associate editor of academic journal The Muslim World.
"TODAY, IT IS STILL LARGELY UNRECOGNIZED THAT MUSLIMS HAVE MADE INVALUABLE CONTRIBUTIONS TO MAJOR ASPECTS OF AMERICAN LIFE."
Learn About Influential Muslim Americans With Neighborly Faith
Neighborly Faith is a student-led organization committed to bringing Christians and Muslims together and creating real friendships with neighbors of all faiths. We share the expertise of Evangelical scholars and practitioners to train a generation of leaders to love and lead like Jesus in a diverse world.
Our Boundless Program connects Christian students with influential Muslims in their field in online and in-person learning and networking opportunities. NF Media trains evangelicals to lead and love across faiths. What Went Wrong? tackles the big questions about polarization, and offers real solutions. Our Fellows Program is a competitive fellowship that will equip a cohort of Evangelical college students to lead initiatives that seek justice for and build friendships with people of other faiths in their communities.
If you’re interested in leading with a neighborly faith, contact us today!