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Living as Muslims in the United States is a daily negotiation.

As Muslims, we understand that our life is about having a proper orientation, and while that may seem simple enough, living between multiple worlds is never easy.

That is part of the reason why, this year, the Muslim Student Association at the University of Colorado has decided to focus this week’s Islam Awareness Week events on “Islam in America.”

Muslims have been in the United States since this country’s founding; as recent research has shown, at least 25 percent of enslaved Africans brought to this land were Muslims, like Omar Ibn Said and Abdul Rahman Ibrahima Sori.

Starting in the 19th century, many Arabs began immigrating to the U.S., and it was with the passage of the 1965 immigration act that Muslims from all throughout the world began coming here.

Today, Muslims in the U.S. make up one of the most diverse communities in the world, and this is continuing to change as increasing numbers of African American, Latinas, Asian American and white Americans are converting to Islam.

This history of conversion will be discussed in two of our events this week, first this evening, with the 5:30 p.m. showing of the documentary “New Muslim Cool” — about the Puerto Rican hip-hop artist and Islam convert Hamza Perez — in University Memorial Center, Room 235.

At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, I will explore the nearly 1,400-year history of European/white people converting to Islam in my lecture “Apostasy to Whiteness: A History of Western/White Converts to Islam Between White Supremacy, Antiracism and Antiracialism,” also in UMC 235.

While we are excited for all of our events, it’s Thursday’s lecture — at 6:30 p.m. in UMC 235 — by Imam Zaid Shakir of the Zaytuna College that we would especially like to draw your attention to.

Imam Zaid converted to Islam in 1977 while he was serving in the United States Air Force. With both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from top American universities, he set out to deepen his knowledge of the traditional Islamic sciences, and studied in Muslim countries for seven years, finishing in 2001 as a graduate of Syria’s Abu Noor University.

Since returning to the United States, Imam Zaid has become one of the most influential and respected Muslim scholars living in the Western world. His work has always been centered around ideas of social justice that remember and center spirituality in this struggle. For if we are unjust to ourselves, how can we be agents of social change?

In his forthcoming lecture at CU, “Towards a Balanced Understanding of Islam,” Imam Zaid will address misunderstandings of Islam that non-Muslims and Muslims hold.

While the western media focuses only on negative stories about Islam, he will share with us some of the beauty that this religion has brought to the world.

Boulder should welcome Imam Zaid like it welcomes so many other spiritual luminaries. It will be an opportunity for all of us to learn about what a balanced understanding of Islam is.

Beyond this, Boulder supported and helped found Naropa University, the first accredited Buddhist university in the United States. Imam Zaid is one of the founders of Zaytuna College, in Berkeley, Calif., which will accept its first full class of undergraduate students this fall, in their hope to become the United States’ first accredited Islamic college.

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