By Rylee Seavers | Staff Writer
Dr. Amir Hussain will speak at Baylor about his new book, “Muslims in the Making of America”, which details the role that American Muslims have played in defining what it means to be American. The event is at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in Mclinton Auditorium in the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation and followed by a book signing.
Hussain has been a professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles since 2005. His main area of study is Islam in contemporary North America, according to the LMU website.
“Hussain is an engaging speaker,” said David Aycock, marketing and sales manager at Baylor University Press. “He is a very respectful speaker, and I would say that of anyone I’ve ever met. He is extremely well equipped to navigate these waters of having a neutral conversation on the history of this faith tradition within the United States.”
The book addresses two main stereotypes about American Muslims: that they are newcomers to the United States and that they are anti-American, Hussain said.
“[I] want people to take away something of the reality of American Muslim life and the ways in which Muslim-Americans haven’t just contributed to what it means to be an America but helped us be better Americans,” Hussain said.
American Muslims have been major influencers in areas like sports and music in the United States. A notable example is Muhammed Ali, Hussain said, who refused to fight in the Vietnam War not as a conscientious objector but as a Muslim.
“Part of this is teaching folks a little bit about the history,” Hussain said. “You might be surprised that our third president owned a Quran. You might be surprised that before General Washington was born, Muslim slaves were brought to America or that when General Washington was two years old, people in London, England, were reading an account of an American Muslim slave.”
Hussain also said that American Muslims are living out the American dream and are a American success stories.
“My father was a factory worker. I can be a university professor. You’re not bound by who your father was,” Hussain said.
To those who may be skeptical, Hussain said that common stereotypes are not the reality. The purpose of interfaith dialogue is to help others find what is meaningful to them within their own religions, not to convert people, Hussain said. He is very interested in the New Testament and said that if hearing him talk about his favorite gospel, Mark, can help a Baptist live out those teachings, then that is a good thing.
Hussain also said that people should talk about their common beliefs and understand that there will be differences of opinion. Hussain became a U.S. citizen in 2013, immigrating from Canada. The 2016 election was his first opportunity to vote, and he said he was struck by the division within the nation.
“It’s one thing to have difference of opinions. Those are wonderful things, but on both sides it wasn’t, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong,’ it’s, ‘I’m right; you’re evil,’” Hussain said.