This podcast episode tells the story of how Islam arrived in America, possibly as early as the 1400s on ships from Europe and West Africa. Our guests this week explain the chain of events that led to America's encounter with Islam more than five centuries ago.

We have two guests on this episode. One is Sylviane Diouf, a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice at Brown University. She has written of the role that Islam played in the lives of African Muslims enslaved in the Americas. Our other guest is Dr Hussein Rashid, assistant dean for Religion and Public Life at Harvard Divinity School, whose research focuses on Muslims and US popular culture.

In a Baccalaureate Address at Brown University in 1996, Mawlana Hazar Imam spoke of the importance of “welcoming encounters” between Islam and the western world:

“You, the graduates, are entering your own society at a time when it is questioning many of its own determinants, and seeking stability, direction and inspiration from its own ethical and cultural roots. In the Muslim world we are doing the same.

No doubt you are seeking to prepare yourselves, as well as you can, for the risks and opportunities of the suddenly globalised environment in which you will live and work. In the Muslim world we are doing the same.

As globalisation unfolds, the Islamic world will be there in myriad ways. Multitudinous encounters are inevitable.

It is time for all of us to ask: how can we ensure that these innumerable contacts will result in a more peaceful world, and a better life?

We should be seeking out and welcoming these encounters, and not fearing them. We should be energising them with knowledge, wisdom and shared hope.

But this will be enormously difficult to achieve until the civilisations and faith of the Islamic world are part of the mainstream of world culture and knowledge, and fully understood by its dominant force which is yours in the West.”

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