‘Muslims in Brooklyn’: New Oral History Project at Historical Society

  • Muslim residents of Brooklyn have spoken — and you can hear their words starting on Dec. 6
  • “Muslims in Brooklyn” features interviews with 50 Muslims who discuss their lives in the borough.

NEW YORK – The Brooklyn Historical Society in the USA will launch its newest oral history project ‘Muslims in Brooklyn’ on December 6 to discuss the lives of 50 Muslims in the borough, Brooklyn Paper reported.

“The recordings highlight the impact that American Muslims have had on Kings county, and will ensure that their memories are preserved for history,” the project’s director said.

Zaheer Ali, the Society’s oral historian spent a year working on the project, recording the stories of aged 24 to 74.

“We thought it would be an important project to show Muslims have a long history in the US and in Brooklyn — Muslims have played an integral role in shaping life in New York and in Brooklyn, and they have also been shaped by life in Brooklyn,” he said.

Ali pounded the pavement to find subjects to interview, drawing on community organizations and newspaper articles to find notable local Muslims, including activist Debbie Almontaser and scholar and activist Su-Ad Abdul Khabeer.

“For our institution, we made a really important statement about the centrality and the necessity of having the history of Muslims included in our archives,” he expressed.

The Historical Society will further host a ‘listening party’ at its Brooklyn Heights branch on Thursday too to launch the oral histories online. It also plans to roll out an accompanying art exhibition, discussion series, and elementary school curriculum next year.

The Muslim historian explains that “Islam isn’t the box that they fit in, but the box that they stand on — it’s an important foundation for many for our narrators, but it’s not the complete summation of their experiences”.

“They talk about childhood, they talk about growing up, they talk about their experiences in school, activism, family life. What you see is that the experiences of Muslims in Brooklyn are like the experiences of many people in Brooklyn. That’s one of the amazing parts of that collection; it establishes spaces for people to connect across perceived differences,” Ali concluded.