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American Muslims

Muslims have been helping to build and shape the United States since before the country was founded, and their stories are undeniably woven into American history.  


  • Some historians estimate that Christopher Columbus, on his famous journey across the Atlantic, carried with him a book written by Portuguese Muslims who had navigated to the New World as early as the 12th Century.

  • The first documented Muslim in America, Estevancio of Azamor, was a Moroccan guide who landed in Florida in 1539.

  • Historical records establish the presence of Spanish Moors in South Carolina by the late 1700s.  


The first substantial influx of Muslims to America came through the slave trade.  



Decades later, following the Civil War and Emancipation and seeking the freedom and economic opportunity America now offered, a diverse array of Muslim immigrants came to our shores.  


With the post-WWII expansion of U.S. immigration policies, Muslims from Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, South-east Asia, and Africa began migrating to America, settling in Michigan, Iowa, Ohio and the Dakotas and integrating into their new communities, building mosques and Quranic schools where they laid down roots.  


By 1960, there were an estimated 230 mosques across North America.  Additionally, the early 20th Century was a time of rebirth for many African Americans who began to discover and identify with their Islamic heritage. Muslims of African-American heritage currently make up an estimated 40 percent of the American Muslim population.


  • Today, it’s believed that between four and seven million Americans are Muslim, including the thousands of American Muslims serving in the U.S. military.  Many have given their lives to protect their fellow Americans and defend our country from harm.  

  • Muslim soldiers fought on behalf of our ideals of freedom and liberty in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and World Wars I and II. More than 3,500 Muslim-American soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in the U.S.‒led War on Terror.  


During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Pakistani-born Capt. Humayun Khan became the face of American Muslim military service when his parents spoke at the Democratic National Convention of their son’s service and sacrifice for his country. 


  • Capt. Khan was killed in Iraq in June 2004 when a taxi attempted to breach his checkpoint at the entrance of an American military compound; the driver, a suicide bomber, detonated a device that killed Capt. Kahn but spared the lives of the nearby soldiers whom Khan had instructed to stand back.  

  • He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, as his efforts to halt the approaching car saved the lives of hundreds of U.S. soldiers inside the nearby compound.


American Muslims have been critical in the effort to protect the United States from further acts of terror in the post‒9/11 world. Since September 2001, the Muslim-American community has helped security and law enforcement officials prevent nearly two of every five al Qaeda terrorist plots threatening the United States, and tips from the Muslim-American community are the largest single source of initial information to authorities about these plots. 

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