“The idea that Islam is this foreign thing to America is an illusion, a delusion. The idea that Muslims are people who hate Americans is an illusion, a delusion. You know, we are part of the very fabric of America.”

Abdur’Rauf, born Raul Campos-Marquetti, sits across a table from me, tall and poised, addressing the biggest misconceptions about Muslim identity with care and deliberateness.

A man with undergraduate and graduate degrees from Cornell and Indiana State University respectively, along with over 40 years of experience studying Islam, he draws easily on historical and statistical facts when he talks.  But, most of all, he speaks humbly and from the heart. There’s passion and depth behind his smiling eyes.  

Raised by Afro-Cuban Catholic immigrants to the United States, Abdur’Rauf grew up in Spanish Harlem and Brooklyn's Fort Greene projects in the 1950’s and 60’s.  While in college studying Geology and Planetary Sciences in Ithaca, he was introduced to Islam by a friend and converted. 

When he tells people he’s “Cuban African-American,” they often react with surprise, he tells me.  Most non-Muslim Americans assume all Muslims are Arab, but the truth, he says, is “we’re a world community.”

This world community has deep historical ties to the United States.

He speaks of Muslim navigators who traveled here with the Spanish and Portuguese and of African Muslim slaves torn from their homelands, who arrived in the Americas centuries ago. Then there’s the Muslim iron workers who came from the Middle East in the 1920’s to work on Henry Ford’s model  T’s” in Michigan. 

“We’ve been here for FOREVER”, says Abdur’Rauf.

To those who think they’re going to stop Muslims from coming here, “it’s too late!” he laughs.

“We’re school teachers, we’re engineers, we’re doctors, we’re lawyers… we’re all over the place.  Big towns, little towns.”

“We’re school teachers, we’re engineers, we’re doctors, we’re lawyers… we’re all over the place.  Big towns, little towns.”

What they’re not, are terrorists.

Why, he wants to know, do so many Americans think people who commit acts of terror in the name of Islam, represent all Muslims?  He doesn’t consider the Klu Klux Klan, who lynched his ancestors, as representative of Christianity. 

He adds, “Realize that .01 percent of the population is acting crazy.  What about the other 99.99 percent who are just regular people trying to live their lives?” 

Instead of fearing Islam, Abdur’Rauf says Christians and Jews should realize that their religions, which are all Abrahamic traditions, have much in common with his faith.

 “There are some differences, but we’re similar. Our basic principle is to worship God, love God and care for one another.  Don’t you know that?  You know that.”

But for those who still may not be listening, perhaps they’ll see him around town distributing food to the homeless, showing the world what a Muslim is.

Each Thursday, Abdur’Rauf and a group of brothers and sisters from the Lighthouse, where he is Imam, prepare bagged lunches and distribute them to the homeless, giving meaning to the tenant care for thy neighbor. 

“This is Islam and this who we are.  We’re out here feeding the homeless,” says Abdur’Rauf.

He welcomes people of all faiths and backgrounds to come and get to know the community at the Lighthouse anytime.

But he cautions, “Be ready to work.  Be ready to feed the homeless, make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches” and serve the community.  This is the true Muslim way.

 

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