SYLVIANE A. DIOUF


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Between the early 1500s and the 1860s. West African Muslims from Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Benin, and Nigeria were shipped to the New World. They probably represented from 10 to 15 per cent of the 12 to 15 million Africans swept away by the transatlantic slave trade. In the United States, their proportion may have been higher since, in contrast to the rest of the Americas, people from the Senegambia area - heavily Muslim - were the second largest group deported to the North American shores. Thus, from one to two million practitioners of Islam were forced to make their life all over the Americas and the Caribbean.

Islam as brought by the West Africans has not survived in the Americas, but its impact has been deep and wide in a variety of ways. Though this phenomenon has not received enough attention yet, it is a crucial element, as stated earlier, in a better understanding of the cultures of people of African descent in the New World. It also gives useful clues on the impact of Islam on its practitioners. It is, furthermore, part of the world-wide history of the religion; and as Islamologists will turn their attention to the story of the African Muslims enslaved in the Americas, much more about Islam and Muslim populations, on a global scale in time and space, will come to light.


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