Muslims are at the center of today’s roiling debate over religious freedom in the United States. But they’ve actually been a part of that heated conversation from the very beginning of the nation’s founding.
A number of the Founding Fathers explicitly mentioned Muslims — along with other believers outside the prevailing Protestant mainstream — as they outlined the parameters of religious freedom and equal protection.
Muslims, referred to in those years as “Mahometans” or alluded to as “Turks,” likely lived in this country; an estimated 20 percent of enslaved Africans were Muslim. But much of the citizenry at the time didn’t acknowledge that Muslims existed in America, according to several historians.
So unlike Jews and Catholics, Muslims were discussed in the…