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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: August 2012

6 - Islam and American Civil Religion in the Aftermath of World War II

Summary

World War II significantly altered America's national identity. As Americans of varying ethnicities, religions, and gender united to fight a devastating war under the banner of liberty, American citizenship could hardly have been conceived through a conflated matrix of race, religion, and progress. The old, white, Protestant establishment was reconfigured and a new national identity emerged based on political loyalty to the founding liberal democratic values articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. In response to this new American identity, immigrant Muslims began developing national organizations. The American-born children of Muslim immigrants took the lead in creating a national umbrella organization to complement and promote American Muslims' local activities. They were no longer satisfied with simply rooting Islam in America but wanted Islam recognized as an American religion.

Within African American Muslim communities, the chasm between the realities of discrimination and the democratic ideals through which America self-identified after World War II was a powerful example not only of hypocrisy but also of the fact that nearly a century after the Civil War, black Americans still remained outside America's national narrative. In this context, black nationalist Muslim movements’ critique of Christianity as a “white man's religion” and their appropriation of Islam as the national religion of African America proved very appealing. It attracted numerous converts and ensconced Islam in black America as a religion of liberation. During the Civil Rights Movement, it Islamicized a significant segment of African America.

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