Voices – Present and Absent

We also wanted to acknowledge the many voices that are not present in this toolkit, and explain how we selected the 25 stories that are included.

As noted, this resource was made possible through the collaboration of three of AFSC’s community-based programs. It reflects the relationships that they have built – often over an extended period of time – with the communities they work with. Their work over the years, and the climate of trust it has created, is the foundation of this project.

We know that many other communities also have vital stories to tell; we have focused on settings where we had a presence as an organization.

Even naming communities and their members can be a complex and contentious process. Outsiders often assume that the terms “Muslim” and “Arab” are synonymous. In reality, “Arab” is a term that refers to people’s ethnic origins; the global Arab population includes not only Muslims but also Christians belonging to many denominations and sects, as well as Jews and others from Arab countries.

“Muslim,” by contrast, is a religious term. Muslim populations live not only in the Middle East but in Central and South Asia, East Asia, Africa, southeastern Europe, and elsewhere around the globe. Today, the growth of immigration worldwide is leading to the establishment of new Muslim communities in western Europe and the Americas.

In the United States, Islam is well-established as a religion among portions of the African American community; many scholars believe that its roots date back to the Middle Passage — that is, to the European slave trade. Today, the Muslim community in the United States includes growing numbers of adherents among African Americans, Latinos, and white Americans, as well as immigrants from around the world.

The voices included in this resource mainly represent Muslims from Middle Eastern and South Asian communities, as well as Arab voices, including both Christians and Muslims. Some are recent immigrants (from a dozen different countries); some are from communities that came to the US at different moments throughout the twentieth century.

We know that many voices are missing here that have other stories to tell, and we hope that you will be inspired to seek them out.

We note finally that one of our interviews, with Louise Cainkar in Chicago, presents the voice of a researcher and activist who is herself neither of Arab or Muslim background. As one of the foremost scholars of Arab immigration to the United States, and as a longtime friend to Chicago’s Arab community, we found her voice to be a useful and illuminating one.