Saturday, May 5, 2018

Call to Action: Collecting the History of Conversion to Islam in the US

In 2009, I began collecting documents related to the history of conversion to Islam in the United States before 1975. To do this, I dug through library catalogs, visited various archives, put in dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests, and reached out to Muslims and scholars throughout the country. The results of this work appeared in the first 2 volumes of A History of Conversion to Islam in the United States--which are the 2 most thoroughly documented books on the topic. 


Currently I am working on volume 3 in the series, which looks at American Muslim converts of all ethnicities since 1975. So far, using the same research techniques that I employed for the previous volumes, I have collected a large number of books, articles, interviews, magazines, and newspapers related to Islam in America since 1975. In fact, if I were to stop researching right now and start synthesizing the material and writing, I would already be able to produce another well-documented book. (Below are a couple of small snippets of the catalog for my post-1975 American Muslim periodicals collection.)


But I don't want to stop right now. 

Due to immigration and conversion, the presence of Islam in America has grown exponentially since the 1970s, producing many more masajid/mosques and Islamic organizations than there were before 1975. Because of that, there has been a lot more material produced by American Muslims and yet relatively few efforts have been made to collect these materials in order to document that history. I am therefore well aware that my efforts to collect post-1975 materials have only scratched the surface. There is a lot more out there to be learned....

...And that is where YOU come in. 

If you have or if you know of anyone who has old materials relevant to the history of Islam in America, especially from between the years 1975 and 2000, please consider sending me a copy at The material does not need to be about converts specifically; I am interested in anything related to the history of Islam in America since 1975 because it will all help shed light on the larger context of American Muslim conversion. 

Please note that I do not need the original document--a scan or photos of the document would be fine. But if you want to send originals, I would be more than willing to pay for shipping costs. 

Anyone sending material to me will be acknowledged in the book--either by your name, organization/institution, pseudonym, or as anonymous (your choice). I'd also be happy to abide by any other terms/restrictions that you may have, such as your preferences concerning making the material freely available to the public, whether online or in a library archive. (I have already begun donating many of old my research materials to the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library in Denver, Colorado. Contact me if you would like to know more about this.)


The types of documents I'm most interested in are as follows:

  • Mosque records showing conversions and marriages (It's fine if you remove/redact the names of people.)
  • Copies of Muslim magazines, newspapers, and newsletters. I'm interested in both national and local publications. I already have many issues of several of the more popular of these publications (such as Islamic Horizons, Final Call, Muslim Journal), but none of my collections are complete, so please reach out to find out if you have the particular issues I still need. The older and rarer the better.
  • Programs from events
  • Rare books and pamphlets
  • Old newspaper clippings
  • Audio and video recordings

This collection project will be an excellent opportunity to ensure that your particular community is accounted for and acknowledged in the historical record. 

If you have any other questions or concerns, please reach out to me at

Take care,
Patrick D. Bowen 

**Feel free to pass this notice along**

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