The Islamic Program for America
Most Americans older than 40 years of age probably consider Islam to be a religion confined basically to the Middle East and thought of only in connection with the Arab world, The Arabian Nights, or Lawrence of Arabia. While the recent Gulf War drew much attention to that part of the world where the Muslims are predominant, it seems almost foreign to order Americana to consider the Islamic movement a viable religious, political, and social force in the United States.
The younger generation of Americans (particularly those who have attended secular colleges), however, are well aware of the extremely rapid development of the Muslim movement in this country. They have been confronted by an ever-increasing number of Islamic students from abroad, along with a growing number of Black Muslim students from our own nation.
Unknown to many of God’s people, the Islamic movement is the fastest growing religion in the world, claiming more than one-fifth of the world’s population (more than one billion people) as adherents. In the United States, there are now more than 1,300 mosques and for Muslim training centers, several colleges, scores of weekend schools, and many publication houses, book distribution centers, and radio stations.
In 1980, it was conservatively estimated that there were four million Muslims in America. Scholars now maintain that their number has grown to almost five million. Their membership is larger than that of the Episcopalian church in the United States and is about to outnumber several other major denominations. Yvonne Haddad claims that by the year 2015, this group will be larger than the Jewish population of America.
The Background of the Islamic Movement In America
The first sizable group of Muslims came to the United States between 1860 and 1870, and within a few years they had became fairly well assimilated into American society. They held to their religious beliefs but Americanized some of the seventh-century codes of dress and other customs.
Before World War I, most Muslims coming to America were from the Middle East, but a few came from the Punjab region of India. The Indian group was scattered across many areas of the country; hence, they were not a strong political, economic, or social force.
In the 1920s; and 1930s, many Lebanese and Syrian Muslims came to America because of the political unrest and instability in the Middle East. At that time a considerable change developed in their influence as they began to build Muslim communities. With the advent of these entirely Islamic sectors, Muslims began to influence the politics and economics of their geographic regions.
By the 1950s, Muslims began immigrating from the Middle East to the United States in ever greater numbers, and that trend has continued to the present time. Added to the number of immigrants is the ever-increasing number of Islamic students coming to this country to receive an education, in large measure a result of the huge influx of money gained from Middle East oil exports. These students and immigrants have become a force that must be reckoned with.
The Black Muslim Movement
As we consider the Islamic program for America, we must recognize another very strong force made up of people born within our own shores. They, are known as Black Muslims. This movement was founded by Elijah Poole, who was born in 1897. His father was a Baptist pastor who sought to raise his children in the Christian faith; however, Elijah was greatly influenced by a very colorful white religious teacher, Wallace Fard, who was a peddler of “African” clothing and claimed to be “a brother from the East.” Some even claim that he was born in Mecca.
Fard’s knowledge of the Christian church was from the Jehovah’s Witness perspective, causing him to deny the trinity and many other essential teachings of Christianity. In Fard’s view, Jesus was a mere man. Going house to house selling his wares, he used Watchtower literature and techniques. He tore down any of his African-American followers bent toward Christianity, mocking it as “the white man’s religion.”
He used racism to put many black people into a pseudo-Islamic religion. Seeking to give his followers African identity and pride, he urged them to take Muslim names and wear Muslim dress. Interestingly enough, he was the one who sold them these clothes.
In 1934, Fard suddenly disappeared, and Poole, who had by then changed his name to Elijah Muhammed, took over the reins. Elijah wrote many books, and under his leadership the movement grew and became very wealthy.
Malcolm X entered the movement in the 1950s and made a pilgrimage to Mecca. He soon recognized Elijah Muhammed’s sins of immorality, greed, and jealousy, and, realizing that Elijah was not of Allah, he began to speak out against him. But in 1965 Malcolm X was murdered. Not long after his death, Louis Farrakhan, who claims to have had many visions and dreams, became the leader of the sect. As Farrakhan tried to control the movement, a dramatic event occurred—the rise to power of Warith Deen Muhammed, the son of Elijah Muhammed. Although he had earlier been expelled from the movement, he was Elijah’s favorite son, and, on his deathbed in 1975, Elijah reclaimed his wayward son and made him his successor.
Warith Deen moved systematically and tirelessly-to transform the Black Muslims into a mainstream Islamic community. He declared that his father was not a prophet and began replacing his theology with more orthodox Muslim views. Racial hatred was no longer proclaimed, and strict rules were instituted. Through his moves, Warith Deen Muhammed succeeded in making his father’s group acceptable to the international Muslim community.
Farrakhan, however, eventually gained control of the movement, which for a long time was denounced by the Islamic world. It has been only recently that the majority of Black Muslims in America have turned to the traditional Islamic position and have been accepted into Islam. The movement under Farrakhan has splintered and is much smaller than in the past.
What Draws Americans Into the Islamic Religion?
Muhammad never claimed to be God, nor did he claim to have written the Koran. After his death, there was no established hierarchy to assume leadership of his movement. What, then, has caused the Islamic movement to grow to over one billion people? And why is it considered to be the fastest growing religion in the United States?
The appeal of Islam in America is based on the moral corruption of the Western nations. Muslims teach that Christianity has failed and that the church has just about lost its influence on national life. They point out that the Christian holy day, Sunday, has been given over to sports and fun, and they state that the celebration of Christ’s birth has become commercialized to the point that it is one of the greatest travesties of all time. They further maintain that His name is most commonly used as a form of swearing.
The Muslim program purports to offer salvation from drunkenness, immorality, political corruption, violence, and other appalling characteristics of the lifestyles of “Christian” nations. They contend that “It is the Islamic revolution that holds the greatest promise for the American nation and the world.” They also assert that Islam is the answer for those who are disgusted with godlessness and materialism.
To gain some idea of the expansive network of Muslims in America, one need only look at the Chicago area.
With a university, an Islamic and Arabic studies college, a girls high school, an elementary school, 43 mosques and Islamic centers, 19 organizations and institutions, four magazines, four community newsletters, five publishing houses and bookstores, and more than 40 small and medium size businesses, Chicago’s over a quarter of a million Muslims can rightly claim to be the nation’s most dynamic and thriving Muslim community (The Minaret, Summer 1989 edition).
This gives some idea of the tremendous foothold the Islamic movement is gaining in America. Their goal is to continue growing as rapidly as possible, which they believe will—for starters—force government to bend to meet their needs and schools to allow Muslim students to take breaks for their stipulated prayer times. Needless to say, the push is on for maximum growth. Would to God that we were seeing such growth in Bible believing churches.
The Islamic movement claims to offer African Americans dignity and respect. Its strict code of ethics forbids alcohol, illicit drugs, and pork or any other non-kosher meat. Premarital sex is forbidden, as well as dating, but polygamy is permitted. It does not allow gambling, and it requires public modesty for its women. This strict regimen often conflicts with the more open American lifesyle. On the surface, this all looks good and draws many people to the movement, but the Islamic movement is not as utopian as it appears to be.
Islam’s Program for America
Many factors are involved in the Islamic program for America. Its first objective is to continue expanding the movement by bringing new immigrants into the United States. At the present time, between 25,000 and 35,000 Muslims arrive here each year. In their former countries, these people were very passive, but when they settle in America many become activists, both politically and religiously. They often push vigorously to change the society in which they now reside.
The second objective is to fill the colleges and universities with as many students as possible in an attempt to master the fundamentals of communication. Their goal is to make Islam relevant to all contemporary issues in our society (e.g., the nuclear age, unemployment).
The third objective is education and training. Muslims are developing bookstores and teaching centers across the United States under the Islamic Society of North America, which is the umbrella organization for all of their activities. The stated aim of the Islamic Information Center, located in Prospect Heights, Illinois, is, “To deliver the message of Islam in its totally and purity to the American people. To inform non-Muslims about Islam and to aid Americans who embrace Islam in delivering the message to others.”
Many tactics are being used to accomplish these goals. One is trying “to force California schools to revise their Social Studies textbooks to clear away what they regard as offensive stereotypes of their faith. The fight, if successful, could ignite more Moslem activism elsewhere in the U.S.” (Wall Street Journal, Vol. CCXVI, No. 68). Another method is giving a hard push to reach deeper into the African-American community and the inner cities of America. They claim that the Christian church has deserted these people, allowing the Islamic movement to fill the void left when the churches moved to the suburbs.
The fourth objective should stir every Christian to prayer and action. A booklet enticed Muslim-Christian Alliance, by Bedinzzaman Said Nursi, was recently translated from Turkish into English. In it, Nursi claims that the Western world has gone after atheism and Communism. In short, he believes that the Antichrist will soon rise to prominence. To put down these forces of evil, Islam and Christianity will have to unite to rid the world of these enemy forces. In his booklet Nursi states, “Eventually, Christianity will be purified and will get rid of all superstitions and misbeliefs and will unite with the true Islamic religion. Thereby Christianity will be in a way transformed into Islam, and by adopting the Koran, will be the follower of Islam, and the Islamic religion will be in the leadership position.”
It is obvious that the Islamic goal and purpose are to reach out to the entire world. The Arab word for their missionary activities is Da’Wa, meaning to call or to unite. Their goal is to invite everyone to submit to Allah. The current direction of the Islamic movement can only lead to a religion of enormous proportions that is still bound by ancient, seventh-century practices.
The Word of God declares that believers in Christ are to reach out to the whole world with the gospel. But how can that be accomplished when relations between Christians and Muslims are not always good? Of course, the blame for those poor relations can be placed on both groups because of the vast differences in their philosophies of life and viewpoints. Yet one fifth of the world is Muslim; they make up a great portion of the world to which God’s people have been sent.
Muslims need Christ. Although it is true that ministering to them is very difficult and many years of work among them may produce little fruit, that does not excuse us from taking the gospel to these people for whom Christ died. In fact, it should make us seek the face of God more diligently as we labor in the task to which He has called us.
We have a little motto here at The Friends of Israel: “Love them to life.” Regardless of the goals of the Islamic movement for America and the world, our responsibility in fulfilling our Lord’s great commission is to take the gospel to all people, including the Muslims. Beloved, what are we doing about it?