Muslims of the Midwest: An Oral History Project

About the Research

Despite the significant history of Muslim presence in “the heartland,” there has been relatively little oral and visual historical documentation of Midwestern Muslims. This project will build a public archive to document and highlight the diversity of Muslim culture in the American Midwest.

A man with short black hair and a goatee listening to a speaker

Muslims of the Midwest is conceived as a multifaceted oral and visual history project with a substantial research component. The primary goal of the project is to establish and build a digital archive that documents the varied experiences of American Muslims in the Midwest through testimonies across generational, gender, geographical, socio-economic, and ethnic differences. Building on the work of other projects, most notably Building Islam in Detroit, the Muslims of the Midwest archive will provide a rich record of the history of a minority religious community that has a long and important institutional presence throughout “the heartland” and has served as a central point of reference for American Muslims more generally.

A man in a suit interviewing an older woman in a room with many chairs

The earliest generation of immigrant Muslims to settle in the Midwest, during the period between the 1890s and the 1940s, is growing smaller every year and there is an urgent need to record the voices of those remaining elders who are a living record of the past. Also important are the more recent experiences of American-born and immigrant Muslims during the last few decades with the increased attention on Islam in the US media. This project complicates the post 9/11 myopia that conditions perception, representation, and self-representation of Muslims. It also offers opportunities to build connections between scholars, students, and communities.

Two men in suits sitting at a table covered in papers talking and one man is gesturing with his hands

The initial focus of the Muslims of the Midwest oral history project is on founding moments of Muslim communities (1890-2001) with particular emphasis on the following themes:

a) Muslim religious practices in the absence of institutions
b) the stages of growth of Muslim communities
c) crises and successes of communities and individuals
d) narratives of building community (centers, mosques, schools, businesses, organizations, educational firsts, etc.)
e) reflections on change