10 Surprising Facts About Muslims in America

Adherents of Islam have a long and varied history in the United States, despite their being a tiny minority of the total population. Here are some intriguing facts about the world's fastest growing religion and those who practice it in this country.

10.Muslims were in America prior to the Declaration of Independence, coming here as African slaves, beginning in the 17th Century.
9. Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison was the first Muslim elected to Congress. He took his oath of office on Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Qur'an, which is in the custody of the Library of Congress.  
8. A short list of famous American Muslims includes: Shaquille O'Neal, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dave Chappelle, Casey Kasem, Mos Def, Malcom X, Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ahmad Rashad, and, according to some sources, Janet Jackson.

7. In 1821, Thomas Jefferson specifically mentioned "Mahometans," or "Muslims," as protected by Virginia's Religious Freedom Statute, of which he was the author. The statute foreshadowed the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and its expression of religious liberty.   6. Currently, there are more than 5,800 Muslims serving in the U.S. military.

5. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, 0.9 percent of U.S. adults "identify as Muslim." A study done in 2011 by Pew showed "1.8 million Muslim adults and 2.75 million Muslims of all ages" in the United States.

4. The Pew Center also estimates that as of 2010, there were "1.6 billion Muslims in the world – roughly 23 percent of the global population." Indonesia had the most Muslims of any nation, 205 million. Saudi Arabia came in 16th, with more than 25 million.

3. About 1 percent of adults in Arizona are Muslim, according to Pew's 2014 Religious Landscape Study
2. The line in the Marines' Hymn, "To the shores of Tripoli," refers to the 1805 Battle of Derna fought in the First Barbary War, where the nascent United States of America faced off against the state-sponsored piracy of four Muslim, North African states, including Tripolitania, the site of present-day Libya, where Derna was fought.  
1. President Obama often has been falsely accused by birther conspiracy nuts of being America's first Muslim chief executive, but America's third president, Thomas Jefferson, also was accused of being a devotee of Islam by his political enemies. Jefferson was a deist. Obama is a Protestant Christian.

In any case, the U.S. Constitution is pretty clear that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." 
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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons