It is necessary to examine the historical context of Muslim terrorism in the United States to understand the evolvement of Muslim extremism today. Juergensmeyer (2003) supports this stance by stating that contemporary acts of violence are influenced by historical violence perpetrated in the religious past. The assumption could be made that Muslim extremism in the United States is a more recent phenomenon; on the contrary, this is not true. By understanding history enlightens to where foundations and structures were built to support Muslim extremism and terrorism activities that exist in the United States today.
One of the first elements of Muslim influence in the United States occurred in the early 20th century with the formation of the Moors Science Temple founded in 1913 by Noble Drew Ali in Newark, New Jersey and then later reorganized in Chicago in 1919 (Vidino, 2009; Dannin, 2002). Ali’s interpretation of Islam mixed Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroaster and Confucius (Vidino, 2009). In 1929, Ali was charged with and imprisoned for murdering Claude Greene an opponent within the organization (Dannin, 2002). Shortly after being released from bail, Ali disappeared and was presumed dead because he was never found (Dannin, 2002).
With the influence of the Moors, the Nation of Islam, another unorthodox organization of Islam, was founded in 1930 by Wallace Farad in Detroit. Farad claimed he was a prophet to “awaken a dead nation in the West; to teach them the truth about the white man” (George and Wilcox, 1996, p. 317).Only for a short time as the leader, Farad disappeared without a trace in 1934 and was replaced by Elijah Mohammed (Vidino, 2009; George and Wilcox, 1996). Elijah Mohammed established an agenda that Islam was the black man’s faith with an elitist attitude that blacks were a superior race over the white race (Vidino, 2009).
The religions of the Moors and the Nation of Islam took on political tones to form a black separatist movement and a platform to support the black culture (Vidino, 2009). Though the religious influence had some positive aspects for African Americans, the religious sects were marred by episodes of violence and crime. Racial tensions and internal rivalries fostered the violence rather than the militant Islamic ideology seen today (Vidnio, 2009).
In the 1950’s Malcolm Little, emerged as a new leader with the Nation of Islam, which influenced the Muslim activism in the 1960s. He later became to be known as Malcolm X. Little, a street hustler and a previous convict targeted the ghetto and prisons for his followers (Vidino, 2009). He carried the same message of Elijah Mohammed of black supremacy through the Muslim faith. However, his message changed when he took a 1964 pilgrimage to Mecca and started to embrace the ideology of the Muslim faith (Vidino, 2009; George and Wilcox, 1996).
The 1960s brought the transition from a racial emphasis to the truest form of Muslim...