Historic Muslim American Newspaper Celebration Draws Hundreds to Nation's

Talib I. Karim | 12/22/2011, 5:56 p.m.

It is estimated that one out of five D.C. residents is a Muslim or has a Muslim family member. With such a presence, the Muslim Journal, the oldest Muslim-American publication, recently came to the nation's capital for a weekend of historic events.

The festivities, themed Time to Be Grateful, featured three days of events including presentations highlighting the historical connections between African-Americans and Muslims. One presentation featured a one-man play staring Philadelphia police officer-turned actor-producer Ahmad Kenya. The play was about the nineteenth century life of Omar Ibn Sayyid.

The monologue depicts the trials of Ibn Sayyid, a scholar from the West African Fulani state of Futa Torro, who in 1807 was literally one of the last Africans sold into slavery in the United States during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Ironically, the slave ship registered in Baltimore, reached its destination of Charlestown, S. C., days before the United States Navy began enforcing the 1807 Slave Trade Act, which made transport of enslaved people via the high seas a crime punishable by hanging.

This production was just one example of the history-telling featured during the Muslim Journal's celebration. America's Islamic Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, in Southeast D.C., also was recognized during the weekend events. Museum curator and founder, Amir Muhammad, spent 30 years chronicling the history of Muslims in America, a legacy dating back to 1312. For the past decade, Muhammad showcased his hundreds of historical artifacts as a traveling museum, making presentations to audiences around the world. Before a sold out crowd of over 500 at the Washington Grand Hyatt Hotel, Muhammad proudly accepted an award for his labor of love in which he has been aided by his wife, Habeebah.

Sharing the stage with Muhammad was the District's Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D). Norton welcomed the crowd of Muslim leaders and other dignitaries to the nation's capitol.

"Muslim-Americans have a long history here in America, and I'm proud to be here with you," said Norton. Ironically, days before the event Norton's Republican colleagues on the House Homeland Security Committee, led by Congressman Peter King (NY), held a hearing scrutinizing the Muslim-American community for its members who promote or engage in violence.

"Why does Congressman King see fit to only focus on the Muslim community? That's unfair," said Norton to a receptive dinner audience. Norton's point was underscored by the fact that conservatives in Congress have not called for similar hearings to investigate Jared Lee Loughner, accused of firing into a crowd waiting to meet Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D), killing six people, including a federal judge, and injuring Giffords and 13 others.

"I am offended by this prejudice," said Norton.

Recognizing that many at the award program were fellow District residents and voters, Norton used the occasion to remind the audience that she has plenty of fight left and asked for support in her reelection campaign.

The morning after Norton's address, the Muslim Journal hosted a meeting of the American Coalition for Good Government. This group founded in 1997, was inspired by the words of Imam W. Deen Mohammed, whose father, Elijah Muhammad, founded the Nation of Islam (NOI).