Americans living in New York are now learning about the history of Muslims in the city, thanks to religious walk tours organized by Katie Merriman, NPR reported.
Since 2014, Merriman has held free walking tours about once a month to remember centuries of Muslim history in New York City.
Finishing her doctorate in religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she has been writing about the history of Muslims in New York City.
“So I took all of those little scribbles in the margins, I put them together, and lo and behold a map appeared before my eyes in Harlem,” she said.
The history goes back almost 400 years when North African slaves were brought there by Dutch settlers. Stops on the tour don’t follow chronological order nor focus on a single Muslim community.
The tour follows a geographical order and include some surprising landmarks such as the Apollo Theater.
“We’re here to talk at the Apollo, because there’s a large connection between music – especially jazz and Islam,” Merriman says, during the tour.
People who join these tours often have no particular connection to Islam. They’re just curious – like Patty Rout.
“I’m a big walking tour person, because I find it’s a good way to learn and I like things about New York. And it’s something that I really don’t know much about,” Rout said.
The tour has a more personal meaning for Amir Ahmed, a 26-year-old graduate student living in Harlem.
“This is a good way for me to learn about my identity as a Muslim – and as a Black Muslim in the United States, but also as a neighborhood member in this community,” he said.
“There are just a lot of things that you walk by all the time and never really quite know the historical significance.”
Though Merriman is not a Muslim herself, she said that overlooking this gives an incomplete picture of the American story.
“When we talk about who has made this country and who has made this world, we can’t leave people out and claim that we’re the only ones who have done it,” she said.