African Muslim Slaves: Obama Visits Former Slave Post in Senegal

Quick points:

  • President Obama visited former African slave post.
  • There are some documented accounts of Muslim slaves, including one Islamic scholar, Omar ibn Said.

U.S. President Barack Obama visited The House of Slaves, a former slave trade post in the largely Muslim country of Senegal. While slave trade is seen as an integral part of American history, it's equally a part of Muslim American history, as many Muslim slaves came from Senegal.

The House of Slaves (or maison d'esclaves) is now an historic museum.

Obama visited Senegal this week, as part of an eight day tour of Africa. According to Voice of America, "Obama praised the country's democratic progress, saying it sets an example for Africa. Senegal was the first stop for Obama and his family on their weeklong trip to Africa that includes South Africa and Tanzania."

Senegal Home to Many Former Muslim Slaves

Senegal was home to many eventual slaves. Interestingly, some of the most famous Muslim slaves hailed from Senegal. Of these, Omar ibn Said, (also referred to as Omeroh, Umeroh, Moro, Morro, Meroh, Moreau, and Monroe), was reportedly from Senegal.

Omar ibn Said was said to be a Muslim scholar who studied the Quran prior to being captured as a slave. He was brought to Charleston in 1807. Early writings from the era show that Omar ibn Said observed Ramadan and was a devout Muslim.Omar ibn Said

Eventually, historic accounts show that he converted to Christianity in 1820, although several dedications to the Prophet Muhammad were found scrawled on ibn Said's copy of the Bible. Other ambiguities surrounding his faith include his own statements from his autobiography, found on page 794 of North American Slave Narratives:

"When I was a Mohammedan I prayed thus . . . But now I pray 'Our Father,' etc., in the words of our Lord Jesus the Messiah."

In other historic accounts, various writings were designated as Arabic translations of the Lords Prayer. Upon further reading, however, the text translates to Surah 110 from the Quran, entitled "The Victory" or "An-Nasr."

Omar ibn Said's original manuscript can be found at the International Museum of Muslim Cultures, in Jackson, Mississippi.

Accounts and documentation of Omar ibn Said's life can be found at the University of North Carolina. For further reading, see:

Autobiography of Omar ibn Said, Slave in North Carolina, 1831 (University of North Carolina)

Further reading on American Muslim and Arab history:

Alixa Naff, Arab American Historian, Dies (ILLUME)



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