Overview and Highlights
Muslim Voices is an ongoing community-based oral history project that records stories of the multifaceted lives of Muslims in Texas.
Islam is the second-largest religion in the world with over 1 billion adherents spread out across the globe. Texas is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the country, along with many national and global centers of contemporary Muslim thought. Muslim communities are an important part of the landscape of Texas, yet generally underrepresented or even misrepresented. This collection chronicles the multidimensional lives of Muslims in Texas across cultures, ethnicities, generations, genders, branches, sexualities, and sects. Through this oral history project, we hope to highlight the lived experience of Muslims and allow their narratives to speak to the complexities and diversity within Islam.
Internal Diversity within Islam
In mainstream literature and media, the Islamic faith is often presented as a monolithic entity, neglecting to account for the internal diversity amongst Muslims on the basis of denomination, school of thought, gender, and more. Within the broader sects in Islam - Sunni and Shia - there are numerous interpretations and opinions.
Muslims are divided into several broader sects, and also into smaller schools of jurisprudence such as Hanafi, Ja’fari, Malikim Shafi’i, and Hanbali. Although the population of Sunni Muslims is unknown, some have estimated that out of the entire Muslim population between 85-90%, at least, practice this branch of Islam.
Today Shia Islam is the second-largest sect in Islam. The vast majority of Shias are twelvers, followers of the branch known as ‘Ithna Ashari'. The Shia thought consists of one major school of thought known as the Ja'faryia, founded by Ja'far al-Sadiq, the 6th Shia Imam. There are other minor schools of thought, known as the 'Seveners' or the 'Fivers.' These names all refer to the number of divine imams recognized after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Within the Shia sect are both Bohri and Ahmadi Muslims, alongside others, whose stories are lesser-heard of. The local traditions of different regions and subsects within Islam have left valuable contributions to the faith.
A one-dimensional understanding of Islam usually leads to sweeping generalizations and stereotypes that further propel inaccurate representations of who Muslims are. At IDCL, we're committed to hearing from Muslims who don't always fit the conventional representation.
Convert or revert perspectives
Islam is the fastest-growing religion in many parts of the world, including Texas. Texas has one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States, largely concentrated in urban areas like Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas.
Many converts or reverts have enriching stories to tell about their personal journies to Islam. Converts come from many different backgrounds but may face similar internal or external struggles within the larger Muslim community. The term ‘revert’ is unique to Islam and based on the belief that all people are born with an innate faith in God. Many people see their embrace of Islam as returning back to that original faith that they were connected to as a child. Although both terms are commonly used interchangeably, it’s up to the individual to decide which is more appropriate.
According to Islam in Spanish, around 1000 Latinos have embraced Islam over the past decade. At a local level, IslamInSpanish was established in the city of Houston, TX right after the unfortunate events of September 11th, 2001 with the purpose to educate the local Latino community, which makes up about 40% of the city’s population, the truth of Islam in their native language. IDCL reached out to Islam in Spanish and spoke to Sakinah Gutierrez about her path towards becoming Muslim as well as her cultural ties to Colombia.
In another interview, Dr. Constance Shabazz speaks to embracing Islam through reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Constance was born in 1952 and grew up in the south side of Chicago where the Nation of Islam had a large presence and helped lay the groundwork for the emergence of Islam as a vital part of the Black Power Movement as well as the broader civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s. Some Black nationalist Muslim movements saw Christianity as a “white man’s religion” and thus saw Isalm in Black America as a faith of liberation, leading to numerous African Americans converts or reverts.
Perspectives on the Hijab
The choice to wear the hijab is a complex form of personal, cultural, religious, and political symbolism. Some women who wear the hijab are immediately exoticized while others speak to the hypervisibility that comes with the obvious physical marker of their faith. Given that the veil is typically associated with stereotypes and negative connotations in the media, it’s important to hear from Muslim women across Texas themselves.
Muslim Non Profits and Organizations to follow
Muslim Space, a non-profit, is a community organization that fosters an open, inclusive, multicultural, and pluralistic space for self-identifying Muslims in the larger Austin community. It is founded on the Islamic principles of service to humanity and equal, respectful, tolerant, and egalitarian treatment of all human beings. Muslim Space provides programs, projects, and initiatives that cultivate and nurture an autonomous, diverse American-Muslim identity; provide opportunities for Islamic enrichment, personal growth and advancement, social and charitable services; promote intra-faith, inter-faith, and cultural education and dialogue, and develop bridges between Muslims and across the larger Austin community.
IDCL sat down with Muslim Space Chaplain, Usama Malik, to hear more about his unique role in the Austin Muslim community.
The Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation is a north Texas-based trauma-informed agency that provides holistic and evidence-based programs and services to the needs of socially and ethnically diverse communities. TMWF aims to promote peace and understanding within the family unit and across the many diverse communities while serving the local community and representing a positive example of Muslims - specifically, Muslim women.
We spoke with Executive Director, Mona Kafeel, for the Corona Chronicles about her involvement in TMWF.