The Muslims Who Shaped America

the muslims who shaped America

Stuart Jeffries wrote an excellent piece in The Guardian during the recent controversy brewed by Donald Trump against Muslims. He mentioned some of the great contributions Muslims in America have made to the country since the nation’s founding. Excerpts:

Creating America

US flagMUSLIMS were part of the US from its very beginnings. Among those who served under the command of chief of the continental army, General George Washington, in the war against British colonialism were Bampett Muhammad, who fought for the Virginia Line between the years 1775 and 1783, and Yusuf Ben Ali, who was a North African Arab. Some have claimed that Peter Buckminster, who fired the gun that killed British Major General John Pitcairn at the battle of Bunker Hill, and later went on to serve in the Battle of Saratoga and the battle of Stony Point, was a Muslim American. This may be so, but the chief ground for the claim is that Buckminster later changed his surname to Salem or Salaam, the Arabic word for peace.

The largely Muslim kingdom of Morocco, incidentally, was the first country to recognise the US. In 1786, the two countries signed a treaty of peace and friendship that is still in effect today, the longest unbroken treaty of its kind in history.

Building Its Cities

us skyscrapersTHE US wouldn’t look the way it does if it weren’t for a Muslim, Fazlur Rahman Khan. The Dhaka-born Bangladeshi-American was known as the “Einstein of structural engineering”.

He pioneered a new structural system of frame tubes that revolutionised the building of skyscrapers. That system consisted of, as he once described it, “three, four, or possibly more frames, braced frames, or shear walls, joined at or near their edges to form a vertical tube-like structural system capable of resisting lateral forces in any direction by cantilevering from the foundation”.

The result was a new generation of skyscrapers that reduced the amount of steel necessary in construction and changed the look of American cityscapes. Khan died in 1982, but his innovations have proved key for future skyscrapers – including the 2009 Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago.

Living The American Dream

SHAHID Khan is the personification of the American dream. The Pakistan-born billionaire arrived in the US aged 16 on a one-way trip to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. “Within 24 hours, I had already experienced the American dream,” Khan said, by which he meant he found a job for $1.20 an hour washing dishes — more than the vast majority of the people back in Pakistan earned at the time. He started a car-parts business after university.

Now, the 65-year-old is the head of the $4.9bn (in sales terms) auto-parts company Flex-N-Gate, the 360th richest person on the planet and three years ago Forbes magazine put him on its cover as the face of the American dream.

Treating The Sick

Ayub ommayaWITHOUT Ayub Ommaya lots of people, some of them American, would be dead or suffering appalling pain.

In 1963, the Pakistani-born Muslim neurosurgeon invented an intraventricular catheter system that can be used for the aspiration of cerebrospinal fluid or the delivery of drugs. What that means is that a soft, plastic, dome-shaped device is placed under the scalp.

This socalled Ommaya Reservoir is then connected to a catheter that is placed into your brain. The reservoir is used to provide chemotherapy directly to the site for brain tumours. He also developed the first coma score for classification of traumatic brain injury and developed, too, the US’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, which, as part of its mission, focuses on traumatic brain injury.

Being Sporting Heroes

muhammed aliTRUMP tweeted the following earlier this week [at the time of writing – editor]: “Obama said in his speech that Muslims are our sports heroes. What sport is he talking about, and who?”

One of those sports heroes is, Mr Trump, someone you’ve met before. Here are some clues. He was known as the Louisville Lip. He was three times World Heavyweight Boxing Champion.

Oh yes, and in 1965 he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali and later gave interviews explaining his perspective on his new faith. Now you remember. He’s the same guy you met in 2007 when he presented you with a Muhammad Ali award. In May, you posted a photo on Facebook posing with the great Muslim sporting hero and claimed then that he was your friend.

President Obama was making a point after the San Bernadino shootings. “Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbours, our coworkers, our sports heroes. And yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defence of our country,” he said, speaking from the Oval Office. “We have to remember that.”

Here are some more sports heroes he might have meant. Basketball icons Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the latter perhaps the greatest NBA star after Michael Jordan. Hakeem Olajuwon, 52, Hall of Fame NBA centre.

Oh yes, and Mike Tyson, who set the record as the youngest boxer to win the WBC, WBA and IBF heavyweight titles aged 20.

Fighting Injustice

Malcolm XAFTER the end of slavery in the US, many African Americans began to move to cities in large numbers. But because of restrictive housing and employment policies, the result was that many lived in troubled ghettos.

In such a context, some African Americans returned to what they believed to be the religion of their ancestors. Many of them were attracted, during the 1950s and 1960s, to the brilliant oratory of a spokesman for the Nation of Islam [who later converted to Sunni Islam – editor], who was born Malcolm Little in 1925, but became famous as Malcolm X, the Muslim convert who cast off his slave name and exhorted African-Americans to cast off the shackles of racism “by any means necessary”, including violence – a message contrary to his fellow civil rights activist Dr Martin Luther King, who called for non-violent civil disobedience. “I don’t even call it violence when it’s in self-defence,” he said once. “I call it intelligence.”

Advancing Science

Ahmed ZewailAHMED Zewail won the Nobel prize for Chemistry in 1999, becoming thereby the first Egyptianborn scientist to do so. He is known as the “father of femtochemistry” and for doing pioneering work in the observation of rapid molecular transformations.

Zewail, now 69, has spent most of his life in the US where he is now professor of chemistry and physics at Caltech and director of the physical biology center. He joined President Barack Obama’s presidential council of advisers on science and technology (PCAST), an advisory group of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers to advise the president and vice president and formulate policy in the areas of science, technology, and innovation in 2011.

When he joined PCAST the White House hailed this Muslim Egyptian-American as one who is “widely respected not only for his science but also for his efforts in the Middle East as a voice of reason”. Postage stamps have been issued to honour his contributions to science and humanity.


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