The population of Muslims is the third largest in America after Christianity and Judaism, representing 0.6% of the population. Muslims living in America come from several different backgrounds, and countries and are one of the most ethnically and culturally distinct religious groups in the United States, Native-born American Muslims are mainly African Americans who make up about a quarter of the total Muslim population. Many of these have converted to Islam during the last seventy years. Conversion to Islam in large urban areas has also contributed to its growth over the years. An approximate 30% of the slaves brought to colonial America from Africa were Muslims, and their religion Islam was harshly suppressed on plantations.
The Muslim population in America rose considerably during the 20th century, with a large part of the increase because of a comparatively high birth rate among immigrant communities of mainly Arab and South Asian descent. Around 72% of American Muslims are immigrants because more people from Islamic countries became legal permanent United States residents nearly 96,000 in 2005than in any year in the preceding two decades. In 2009, more than 115,000 Muslims became legal residents of the United States which beat all records. Records from the American Revolutionary War indicate that at least a few Muslims fought on the American side. Among the recorded names of American soldiers are “Salem”, “Yusuf” and “Bampett Muhammad.
Muslims also fought during the civil war. The highest ranking Muslim officers during the civil war were Captain Moses Usman and Nicholas Said, who were former slaves owned by an Arab master. They came to the United States in 1860 where he found a teaching job in Detroit. In 1863, Said enlisted in the 55th Massachusetts Colored Regiment in the United States Army and rose to the rank of sergeant. He was later granted a transfer to a hospital department, where he gained some knowledge of medicine. His Army records state that he died in Brownsville, Tennessee in 1882 Another Muslim soldier from the Civil War was Max Hassan, an African who worked for the military as a porter.
During the American Civil War, the “scorched earth” policy of the North destroyed churches, farms, schools, libraries, colleges, and a great deal of other property. The libraries at the University of Alabama managed to save one book from the debris of their library buildings. When Federal troops reached the campus to destroy the university, a modern language professor and custodian of the library, appealed to the commanding officer to spare one of the finest libraries in the South. The officer, being sympathetic, sent a courier to Gen. Croxton at his headquarters asking permission to save the Rotunda. The general did not agree. The officer reportedly said, “I will save one volume as a memento of this occasion.” The volume selected was a rare copy of the Qur’an.