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Snippet on Muslims of Texas

Dallas, Dhul Quidah 24/Feb 7 2002 (IINA) - Muslims in the State of Texas, United States, are increasingly playing an important part in the day-to-day life of the State, at the same time they hold tenaciously to their Islamic beliefs and practices. Five times everyday, the muezzins call the Muslim be­lievers to prayers. The Muslim new Texans, characterized as clannish, highly individu­alistic and illustrious, successfully main­tain their family ties, Islamic values and ethnic heritage.

According to Prof. Dr. Ataullah Bogdan Kopanski, of the Department of History, International Islamic University Malaysia, there are more than 250, 000 Mus­lims in Texas (about six percent of the whole population of the state). The majority of them are new­comers who immigrated to the USA from Muslim countries in the late 1960s. But in the last two decades, almost 12,000 ex-­Christian Texan Anglo-Celts, Germans, Mexicans, Italians and Slavs embraced Is­lam. There also are Texanized Muslim Vietnamese, Chinese and a few Native Amerindians (Cherokee, Taos, and Apache tribes), says Kopanski.

Among the Muslim Texans, the Pakistanis and Indi­ans followed by the Arabs are the most abundant ethnic-racial group. The Af­ghans, Albanians, Turks, Malays, Hui and Somalis who settled down in Texas are the 'minority' among the Muslims, according to Prof. Kopanski.

The first Arabic-speaking Muslims appeared in Texas just before the Civil War, when the American Army attempted to establish a camel transportation between Camp Verde in Texas and San Diego, California. The camel tenders were mostly Arabs and Turks, who amazed Texan cow­boys with their oriental dress and unpro­nounceable names. Among them was Hadji Ali, a Muslim from al-Sham (Syria).

The Texan natives called him 'Hi jolly', says the history professor at the International Islamic University of Malaysia. Hadji Ali born in 1828 to a Christian Orthodox family, but he embraced Islam as a young man. He arrived at Indianola in 1856 with thirty-three camels. In 1856 he reached California as head of the gov­ernment caravan, he adds.

Hadji Ali devoutly ob­served his Islamic prayers and fasts in the deserts of Arizona until his death in 1902. One of his Arab friends, Eliyas, settled in Sonora, Mexico. Eliyas's son, Plutareo Elias Calles, became the president of Mexico in 1928. Other Muslim Arabs landed at Houston in 1858 with their camels im­ported by an English woman, a Mrs. Watson. Little else is known about those first few Arab-speaking Muslims in Texas.

The 1920 census revealed that there were 3,400 people of Syrian and Lebanese origin who had immi­grated to Texas, but they were mainly East­ern Maronites and Greek Catholics (MeMtes), with a sprinkling of Muslims.

The Muslims in Dallas, Forth Worth and Houston have built not only sev­eral 'majestic main mosques, but also three reli­gious schools (madrasas)', says Kopanski. He says: "Today, the Mus­lim Texans operate their own radio-sta­tions and present Islamic programs on TV. A large number of heavily veiled Mus­lim women and turbaned, bearded men work in the public and private institu­tions. Muslim women wearing Hijab work even in police stations."

Expatriate Muslims are well represented in the universities, hospitals, banks, attorneys' offices and manufacturing plants of Texas. Most of them are newcomers, who came to study in 1960s and later, attracted by the high standard of living in America, decided to apply for permanent residence and eventually US citizenship.

Culturally and emotionally however, most of them feel alienated and uncertain about times to come. As the rest of Americans, they are obsessed with the economical survival, prosperity and the future of their children.

The Muslim Caucus of the Republican Party is deeply involved in local politics. The Texan branches of the nation-wide Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) have taken up such issues as the support for the independence of Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya (Ichkeria).

Everyday life in Texas slowly, but surely washes away the unjust, false, and hostile image of Islam, as projected by the anti-Islamic forces. Increasingly, the non-Muslim Texans are discovering that their Muslim doctors, lawyers, soldiers, teachers, managers and co-workers are not the terrorists they are portrayed to be.

This process of rediscovery of Islam and the Muslims as a vital part of the American Tradition, is irreversible. Sooner than later, the Muslims will not bother themselves with an obsessive justification of their faith in the pitiful terms of 'modernization'.

Prof. Kopanski concludes by saying that the tradition of Islam shall overcome the deceitful 'methodologies', and adds, 'Islam is a self-justifying faith, and the image of Texas and the 'Wild West' will never be the same again.