Turning our eyes to Islam in Latin America & the Caribbean

A paradox lies at the heart of the contemporary study of global Islam.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent “war on terror,” which has recapitulated the Huntingtonian clash of civilizations thesis and its emphasis on the false dichotomy between “Islam” and “the West" there has concomitantly been an increase in the academic attention afforded to the study of Islam. 

Although the number of Islamic studies degrees conferred has more than doubled in the past decade, Islamic studies has also been remained largely confined to the regions of the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia, leaving Muslim communities in Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe, and the Americas to the wayside. In a word, even with the rise of the study of global Islam, its scope has failed to fully incorporate other geographies and the study of Islam beyond the Middle East is still underrepresented. Thus, there is still a pertinent need to globalize the study of “global Islam.”

For over a thousand years, Islam has been integral to what is known as "Western civilization." Even so, it is too often assumed assumed that Islam is a foreign element and Muslims in the West are doomed to be out of place and in perpetual conflict. The need for accurate, reliable scholarship on this topic is terribly urgent.

Thus, this has become the focus of my academic research on Islam in the Americas. I am convinced that understanding currents in global Islam -- peaceful and violent, widespread and vernacular, popular and institutional -- must be understood from a truly global perspective, while at the same time being embedded in local histories, tensions, movement, and exchanges. Exploring American Islam -- from Canada to the Caribbean, from Phoenix, Arizona to Patagonia, Argentina -- is a prime manner in which to do so. 

Recently I published a book chapter and a peer-reviewed journal article to that effect. The first is titled, "Exploring Islam in the Americas from Demographic and Ethnographic Perspectives." This chapter in Brill's Yearbook of International Religious Demography: 2016 discusses some population data concerning Muslims in the Americas and offers pathways for further research based on these statistics. These demographics invite a more thorough study of under-appreciated religious populations that present ample opportunities for research in cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, and specifically apropos to the ethnographic study of religion.

The latter work was recently published in the Waikato Islamic Studies Review Vol. 2, No. 2 out of New Zealand. The aim of this paper is to intermesh prevalent theories about globalization with the study of Islam, both historically and contemporaneously. It is, effectively, an attempt to globalize the study of Islam in the Americas and offer several brief examples of avenues to approach this study in the hope to not only feature existent work in the field, but offer further areas for consideration and future research. It covers Islam in Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Latina/o U.S.A., and in the "digital borderlands" of Latina/o Muslim specific Facebook pages. 

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about American Islam's history, contemporary manifestations, and linkages to global Islamic dynamics. Also, for those of you wondering...I am still in my "comp cave." My exams last from mid-October until mid-December. I look forward to returning to the world of writing, analysis, and news commentary in January 2017!